Written by Anne-Marie Hays | Last Updated February 24th, 2020Anne-Marie Hays is a Content Management Intern with Best Company. She enjoys comedy, hates crowds, and loves that you are reading this bio.
To help our readers navigate the rough waters of buying a car, we asked for advice from Cars.com Editor-in-Chief and consumer auto expert, Jenni Newman. She answered our questions and gave sage advice about the car-buying process.
How did you get into the auto industry?
While I have fond memories of cruising the dealer lots with my dad on the weekends, I can’t say that I’m a gearhead. Instead, I found my passion for cars at Cars.com when I joined the editorial department in 2008. Today, I love helping people find the right car for them and their lifestyle.
What would you say to anyone who is scared to shop for a car because they feel out of their element?
It’s natural to feel nervous when shopping for a car. After all, a car can be the second largest purchase of your life. The good news is there are a lot of great tools to help shoppers navigate all the choices — from the vehicles they’re interested in, to the dealers they want to work with on that purchase.
For instance, if you don’t know which specific car you’re interested in, use Cars.com’s Matchmaker tool to help you start your search. It asks you about your lifestyle and then helps to create a list of cars that might interest you. From there, Cars.com has expert articles created by the editorial team whose members test-drive cars and share what works and what doesn’t in each of the vehicles.
Once you’ve winnowed your list of potential cars, Cars.com can not only help you find a good deal on a car, but it can help you find a salesperson you’ll feel comfortable working with thanks to our Salesperson Connect tool, which allows you to read salesperson profiles and find the right person for you.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice about your first or second car purchase, what would it be?
The first time I bought a car on my own I had no idea what I was doing. I bought a Saturn mainly because I didn’t want to haggle over the price. The 1997 Saturn SL served me well, but I didn’t love it. Had I been a more informed shopper, I could have felt more confident about buying a car and would have ended up with something I loved rather than just liked.
I read that you have two sons. What make and model would you recommend for new drivers?
When it comes to first-time drivers like my 16-year-old son, parents want to think carefully about the car they drive. Many families will give their new drivers an older used car, but it can be missing critical pieces of safety equipment. If you’re thinking of buying a car for your teen driver, consider getting a new subcompact or compact car that’s loaded with safety features such as automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning. These systems work together to sense a slowed or stopped car in front of your car and can brake the car if you don’t do it in time. That’s critical safety technology for a newer driver.
Buying a car can be stressful. Do you have any tips to cut down on that stress?
1. Do your research. Both on the car you want to buy and on the dealership you want to work with.
2. Test-drive before you buy. When trying to decide which car you want to drive, test-drive the leading contenders the same day — ideally, back-to-back. This will help you discern
3. Bring your stroller or car seat or hockey gear. If you’re concerned that your car seat, stroller, or giant hockey bag won’t fit in your new car, bring them with you to the dealership and put them into the car your considering.
4. Use tools like Cars.com’s app to make sure that you’re getting the best deal on your new car.
Do you have any tips for people who hate to test drive? What can they do to make the process more helpful and less stressful?
After you’ve narrowed your list of cars to two or three, it’s time to test drive. To streamline the process, create a checklist of important features to evaluate such as visibility, driver’s seat comfort, acceleration, handling, ride comfort and noise, backseat roominess, cargo space, interior quality, and multimedia functionality. Also compare the standard and optional safety technology, the EPA fuel-economy ratings, and price.
Make sure to test drive the contenders over the same day. Even if you can’t drive the cars over the same roads, you’ll still get a sense of the differences between the cars.
When it comes to dealership auto financing, what are the rates and terms like? When should someone say no?
Automakers and dealerships want you to finance your car purchase through them, but it’s a good idea to come prepared with a pre-approved loan from a bank or credit union. Often, the dealer will meet or beat the interest rate on the pre-approved loan. And if they don’t meet the loan’s terms, you’re prepared to go through with the purchase.
One thing that shoppers need to be careful of is using their monthly car payment budget as a guide for what they can afford. This mindset could mean that you get a much more expensive car than you need — and often with a longer loan such as 72 months. Instead, shop for a car based on the out-the-door price. That’s the price of the car plus any fees and taxes. This will help you budget accordingly.
Thanks to Jenni Newman for this helpful advice! For more of Newman’s insight through blog and video content, check out cars.com/jennidriven. Her relatable perspective and advice can guide you in the hunt for a new car or new-to-you car.