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How to Make Car Buying a Breeze
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Ian D. (He/Him)
Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor
Posted March 9, 2021
Getting a new car can be fun, but the process of finding the right one and deciding between loan options can feel overwhelming. By taking some easy steps up front, you can make the rest of the experience run smoothly. Here are some quick actions you can take to make car buying a breeze.
Review your credit
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Before applying for any loan or line of credit, it’s always a good idea to do a brief review of your credit. It’s quick, helps prepare you for any questions regarding items listed, and it doesn’t affect your credit score! Visit for free access your credit report. Undergraduate students of a four-year accredited college or university who are approved for an auto loan at MSU Federal Credit Union will receive our lowest interest rates, regardless of their credit score. This includes students with no established credit history and those who have received an undergraduate degree from a four-year accredited college or university within the past 12 months.
Get preapproved
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Before you start the search for the perfect car, it’s helpful to contact the Credit Union to discuss loan options and get preapproved. You can walk through budget and credit details to decide what would work the best for you. By getting preapproved, you’ll know what price range you’re shopping within, the interest rate you can expect for your loan, and you’ll be able to anticipate your monthly payments.

Financial 4.0 has a convenient feature where you can use the purchase price of your vehicle, your loan interest rate, and the length of the loan to calculate your monthly payments (see link in the sources section).
Research reliability
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If you’re planning to buy a used vehicle and have some makes and models in mind, it’s worth researching how those vehicles hold up over time. Some cars are reliable for a long time, even at high mileage. Others start to experience maintenance and repair issues after several years or certain mileage thresholds. Either way, it’s good to know what to anticipate.
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Shopping is the fun part! When you find the car you like, you can simply fill out a Ready Loan Check from the Credit Union for up to your preapproved loan amount and submit the check as payment. When the check clears, your loan will be set up.

Be sure you verify the vehicle condition before finalizing a purchase. Dealerships generally perform necessary vehicle maintenance or repairs on used cars before listing them for sale. They may also offer warranties or satisfaction guarantees. If you’re buying from a private seller, it might be a good idea to have an auto mechanic do a checkup to ensure everything is in order.
General tips
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Advertised vehicle prices may be deceptive. These prices sometimes reflect the simplest model with the fewest features. Listed prices may also include discounts that not everyone is eligible for.

Don’t give in to pressure. Dealerships want everyone that walks through the door to walk out with a new set of keys. Be sure that the vehicle and price are right before making a decision. There will always be other options if a specific car doesn’t fit your needs, so avoid making an impulsive decision based on fear of missing out.

Always make sure you test drive a vehicle before completing payment. Try driving it without any music on so you can hear any audible faults or issues with the vehicle. This can often be the factor that helps decide which vehicle is right for you.

Research vehicle history and value. You can check Kelley Blue Book or call the Credit Union to ensure you’re getting a good price for the vehicle in its current condition and at the current mileage. You can also check Carfax for a detailed maintenance and repair history.

Lastly, check the condition of the tires. If you’re buying a used car, the state of the tires may be a negotiating point. If you can tell the tires will need to be replaced soon, this may be a bargaining piece to get a slightly lower price.
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