Purchasing a new car is one of the biggest financial decisions most people make in their day-to-day lives. It’s not something we do often, but it does have an impact on our quality of life and financial health.

Understanding what will happen at the dealership before you walk through the door for the first time can help alleviate some of the natural anxiety you may feel about making a large purchase.


When you arrive at the dealership, you’ll most likely be greeted by a salesperson. They’ll ask you a few questions about what you are looking for. If you are sure what you want, that’s great. If you haven’t narrowed down your options, that’s fine too. The salesperson’s job is to help you get the car you want and need.

The salesperson will want to understand what your timeline is, whether you are just out shopping around a bit or ready to buy right away.

They will ask you about the options you’d like on your future vehicle and what you’ve driven in the past. They’ll also talk to you a bit about how you are planning to use the car you are shopping for.

Test Drive

After you decide on a model that seems like it will suit your needs, the salesperson will take you on a short tour of the car. They’ll explain the vehicle’s features and point out the attributes about the car that you indicated you were most interested in.

Depending on the dealership and salesperson, they may take you on a test drive with them driving first and then have you drive the car a bit with them. If you are familiar with the vehicle and indicate that you’d like to test drive it alone, that may be allowed, as well.

Write up

If the test drive goes well, the salesperson will confirm with you that this is the vehicle you’d like to purchase if you can come to an agreeable price arrangement. You’ll make decisions about the exact model, trim level, colors, and features you prefer and the salesperson will check to see what the dealership has in stock that most closely matches your preferences.

You’ll answer some general questions about which payment options you prefer, including finance terms and down payment amounts. The salesperson will then show you the total cost (including taxes and fees) to own the vehicle.

It’s likely that the first number won’t include any discounts, so now is a great time to bring the price down a bit. For advice on how to make a smooth transaction at this point in the car buying process, see Negotiating Without Haggling.

After settling on a price, the salesperson may ask for a credit card to secure your offer. This helps the managers know that you are serious about buying the vehicle, and it increases the chances that they will approve the deal.

Once you get this far in the process, the hardest part is over.

Finance office

The salesperson will introduce you to their finance manager. This person specializes in documenting car deals and is an expert in the many ways one can obtain financing for both new and used vehicles.

Some car buyers get flustered when they enter the finance office. This is the part where you sign a lot of paperwork, and it can seem like you don’t have time to read and understand all of the fine print.

Don’t be shy about asking questions. The deal isn’t done yet, and you have the right to take time to understand all of the terms and conditions of your financing, the warranty, and any extras you want.

While you are in the finance office, you’ll talk about paint and leather protection packages, maintenance package options, and extended warranties. Be sure to understand the extras you decide to buy. These additional services and packages often come with great perks, but you can’t use them if you don’t know about them.

You’ll also fill out a credit application during your time in the finance office. The manager will ask for a deposit to seal the deal.

Before you sign the paperwork and put down a deposit, backing out of the deal doesn’t cost you anything. It’s important to be sure about your purchase before you sign the documents making you the owner of the car. If you are unsure, don’t put down a deposit.

After signing the documents, you’ll complete the paperwork for registration and insurance and take ownership of the vehicle. Either a delivery specialist or your salesperson will help you set up your phone with the car’s Bluetooth system, walk you through a navigation tutorial, and go through the vehicle’s features so you understand how to use them.

Buying a new car doesn’t have to be a treacherous experience. For many people, it’s a lot of fun. Driving away in a brand new, shiny, perfect-for-you car is the ultimate goal. Reaching it is a great reward.

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