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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Securing preapproval before you head to the dealership could help you get a better deal and help you get the car you want faster.
  • Compare vehicles and get competitive price offers before you commit at the dealership. 
  • Bring a buddy to be a second set of eyes and ears so you don’t get lost in the facts and figures of the car-buying process.

Itching to jump into a new ride? Before you make a dash for the nearest dealer, slow your approach and watch out for any hurdles that may lie ahead. Here are just a few that could trip you up.

Shopping for a Car Before Finding a Loan

Many dealerships like to advertise their financing specials almost as much as the cars themselves, and there’s a reason for that. Some dealers make their monthly payments sound very attractive while letting the total cost of the car balloon. If you want the actual price of the car to be the subject of negotiation, you’ll need to come with a loan in hand. Try to secure a preapproved auto loan from your financial institution before you head to the dealership. You might even get a lower rate than what the dealership offers.

Buying on the First Visit

Car salespeople don’t want to miss their opportunity to make a sale. So it’s in their best interest to make a sale the same day a customer walks on the lot. But, it’s in your best interest to go elsewhere before you commit to a vehicle. Sometimes, the simple act of going elsewhere can lead to your original dealer coming back to you with a better offer.

Consider including an online car-buying site like Navy Federal’s Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar®,* in your car search. You can compare and shop for your next car, get up-front price offers, and with some dealers, trade in your current car—all from the comfort of home.

Skipping the Test Drive

If you’re desperate to drive away with a car, it can be tempting to skip the test drive. After all, don’t you already know the features you’re getting? On the contrary, the test drive is when you really get to know your future car. For example, you can confirm whether there’s enough head- and leg-room, see if the visibility is good and feel if the suspension makes for a comfortable ride. And, if you need a little more time to make a decision, you can arrange an at-home test drive through TrueCar or a local dealership.

While many dealers offer these services, not all do. Be sure to check ahead of time. Remember that it’s much easier to take a drive and walk away from the deal than to make the purchase and try to return the car later.

Having a Time Constraint

Nobody wants to go car shopping under the stress of limited time. To avoid unnecessary anxiety, start car shopping before you need to do so. If you have a car on its last legs, start your search now instead of when your old car breaks down for the last time. Or, if you’re likely to move away soon, go car shopping when you still have a month or two before moving day.

Going It Alone

It takes a village to…buy a car? Not quite, but it’s wise to bring someone along for the ride. A lot of facts and figures get thrown at you throughout the car-buying process. Even if you’ve bought a car before, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of add-ons or miss numbers that don’t add up. By bringing along a partner or friend, you have a second set of eyes and ears to help you.

We’ll Help You Reach the Finish Line

Navy Federal Credit Union is your hassle-free partner in car buying. With our Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar®, you can get up-front price offers on local inventory and enjoy additional military incentives.

*TrueCar operates the Navy Federal Car Buying Service. Navy Federal is not responsible for any purchase, lease or service provided by or through the Navy Federal Car Buying Service.


This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.