If you're shopping for your first car, here are a few tips from Kelley Blue Book on what to buy, how to buy it and where to buy it.
No. 10: Establish a realistic budget
"This figure is generally based on what you can afford per month. The ideal is to pay cash, but in most instances when considering a new (or just newer) car, the nature of the transaction price often requires the leverage of financing."
No. 9: Know what you can spend monthly
"If you're financing, figure $25/month for every thousand dollars that you borrow for 48 months, and $20/month on 60-month financing. It follows that every $10K borrowed is $250/month for four years, and $200/month for five."
No. 8: Establish your transportation needs
"Given the cost of fuel, insurance and -- in many cities -- monthly parking, don't buy what you don't need. And perhaps consider renting what you need, only when you need it."
No. 7: Identify and prioritize your wants
"The first-time purchase doesn't need to be your be-all/end-all acquisition, but you should still pay attention to your want list, as this isn't a process you need to repeat every 18 months. Better to stretch a bit for those things in a car that satisfy you, than to be hit over the head -- and pocketbook -- with buyer's remorse before you've emptied the first tank of gas."
No. 6: Do your research (it's never been easier)
"There is, at this point, an amazing amount of both information and perspective on new cars and their late-model alternatives. There are listings devoted to cars for teenagers, cars for students and cars for first-time buyers. Expert reviews, owner reviews and consumer guides should all be referenced."
No. 5: Locate a convenient dealer
"When weighing a couple of choices -- let's say Mazda3, Scion XB and Honda Civic -- compare dealer locations and, if all other things are equal, showroom environments. We tend to stay away from dealerships where two-thirds of the sales staff is sitting or standing at the front entrance."
No. 4: Take a test drive
"With all of the online sources available for your basic research, we believe the importance of the test drive has been marginalized. Virtually nothing is more important in your decision process than how you feel behind the wheel."
No. 3: Determine the proper purchase price
"Once you've decided what you like -- and have already established what you can afford -- it's time to arrive at a purchase price. This, too, has been made easier by online sites such as this one. KBB.com has its Fair Purchase Price, which gives you an accurate idea of what people have paid in your area for the car you have an interest in. A credit union should also be able to provide you with perspective, and may have a contact on the showroom floor."
No. 2: Secure financing, or know your options
"Better to talk with your credit union, bank or insurance provider (many have the capability and desire to finance your purchase), and line up your financing in advance. You can always go with the dealer option if it's competitive -- but never approach it as if the dealer is the only money game in town."
No. 1: Enjoy the process
"We know, the above advice makes buying a car seem like an ordeal, but even those with no interest or passion in a car or truck can -- if the process is given half a chance -- be stimulated by the sheer variety of options available, and the genuine creativity that goes in to today's automotive menu."