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12 Days of Car Buying: Tips for Buying Your New Car this Holiday Season

SDCCU | 12/09/2015 08:25 a.m.
The conventional wisdom is that the holidays can be a great time for buying a new car as dealers are looking to sell as much inventory as possible before the New Year. However, great deals can mean busy dealerships and a lengthy car buying process. Try following these 12 steps to save time, money and ensure you make the right choice.

1. Check Your Credit Report

Before you do anything else, check your credit report for any incorrect or outdated items. If there’s any erroneous information that’s bringing down your score, it could negatively affect the terms of your auto loan. You’ll want to contact the credit reporting company as soon as possible to have any such errors removed. Keep in mind, this process can take more than 30 days. Go to for a free copy of your credit report.

2. Use a Car Payment Calculator

Using a car payment calculator is a great way to estimate how much you can afford. Using a high and low estimate for your auto loan rate, determine how much of a down payment you’ll need to afford the monthly payments. Be sure to consider other costs such as vehicle registration, maintenance and insurance coverage, which can vary considerably based on your selection.

3. Narrow Down Your Choice of Car and Read Car Reviews

A quick search online will yield dozens of car reviews, each with similar criteria, which mostly include fuel economy, horsepower, 5-year cost of ownership and safety rating. Narrow down the years, makes and models that suit your needs and fit your budget. Many unbiased sites such as can help consumers make informed fuel economy decisions. Also, searching for videos of actual buyers reviewing their new car can provide a unique insight not always found on websites dedicated to car reviews.

4. Find the Best Auto Loan Rates

Auto loan rates are currently at historic lows, so it’s a great time to secure a low-rate auto loan. SDCCU consistently offers some of the best auto loan rates throughout Southern California. Other factors you should consider when choosing your lender include how easy they make the application process and the level of service you’ll receive during the life of the loan. Choosing a lender with many points of contact and local decision-makers can make it much easier to resolve any issues that may come up.

5. Get Pre-approved for a Car Loan

Getting pre-approved for a loan is a great way to save time and make your car buying experience run much more smoothly. And now with AdvanceCheck™, pre-approval comes with a check that a buyer can take directly to the dealer for a hassle-free experience.

6. Know When is the Best Time to Buy a Car

End of the year sales often bring the biggest discounts for purchasing a car. Selection can become limited as dealers clear their inventory, so be prepared with a second or third choice if your first pick is not available. Being flexible in this area can lead to considerable savings – with some good timing and a little luck.

7. Take a Thorough Test Drive

Dealer insiders claim that most people end up with a different car after the test drive phase. This is one of the most important aspects to determining what’s right for you. Ask yourself the questions that an online review can’t answer, like how you personally feel in the car. Is the interior a good fit for your needs? How does the vehicle perform on the road? Everyone has different handling preferences, so make sure you visit a dealer and take a thorough test drive of any vehicle you’re thinking of buying.

8. Find/Locate Your New Car

Once you know what you want, track it down! Take advantage of resources like our FREE Online Auto Buying Service powered by TRUECar¹. It provides you with upfront dealer pricing for new and used vehicles and you’ll receive Guaranteed Savings Certificates before you leave home. The service is FREE and there is never an obligation to buy.

9. Negotiate the Best Price

For a more personalized car buying experience, use SDCCU’s FREE Auto Express Concierge Service². An Auto Buying Specialist will listen to your request for the new car you want, locate the right match, negotiate the best price for it and deliver it to your nearest SDCCU branch.

10. Sell or Trade In? Know What Your Current Vehicle is Worth

Whether you choose to privately sell your current vehicle or trade it in at the dealership, both options have pros and cons. Trade-ins will almost certainly yield less money but this saves a lot of hassle. Selling your vehicle privately can get you more money but the process of fielding calls of potential buyers, negotiating a fair price, dealing with paperwork and many more steps can be daunting to some. Before doing either, make sure your car is clean and presentable and thoroughly research its value so you know what it’s worth.

11. Sign the Paperwork

Now that you’ve selected your ideal car, it’s time for paperwork. This can take hours in some cases, but if you’re prepared, you can speed up this process. It’s a good idea to have payment ready, which SDCCU makes easy with AdvanceCheck. Also, have your driver license, the title and loan information of your current vehicle (if you’re still making payments and plan to trade it in) and proof of insurance ready.

12. Enjoy Your New Car – and Take Good Care of it!

Now that you’re driving away in your new car, set some maintenance dates on your calendar! Taking good care of your car is key to keeping maintenance costs low and retaining its resale value. Based on your best estimate of how many miles you drive in a given month, mark your calendar for dates that you should change your oil, rotate your tires, replace your brake pads and any other servicing that the vehicle manufacturer recommends. Enjoy your new car!

Ready to start holiday car shopping? Save time and apply online before you go!

Apply online

Subject to approval.
¹TrueCar is not affiliated with SDCCU. Guaranteed Savings not available in all states. In these states, a Target Price is shown, which is a market-based example of what you can reasonably expect to pay for your vehicle as configured. Your configured vehicle may not be available or in-stock at the Certified Dealer.
²Auto sale and brokerage services provided by SD Auto Sales/Leasing. SD Auto Sales/Leasing is affiliated with SDCCU.


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