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FTC Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Cars.com. All thoughts are 100%  my own.

I’ve owned two cars in my lifetime.

The first one was a 1995 Dodge Caravan. My parents helped me buy it after I FINALLY got my driver’s license in college. I remember my friend Zyra and I being so excited when we finally had transportation that wasn’t a city bus. That winter, we drove to the mall to do some shopping only to find out that it had snowed while we were in the mall. Driving home in the snow was terrible, lol! I ended up calling my mom to come rescue us, lol.

Ironically, I was also driving with Zyra in the car when the engine kinda blew up. Well, it was really just smoking, but in our minds, the car was blowing up. We jumped out – in the middle of the road, I ran away from it, lol. Some men stopped and helped us push the van over into a parking lot. I called my parents to pick us up. My stepfather tried to get the car working again, but it was a lost cause.

I didn’t get a new car again until I graduated a year or two later. It was a 2001 Crysler Voyager and it was perfect. I was working as a live-in nanny at the time, so it was cool to have enough space for two kids and all of their outing stuff. It also came in handy when I got pregnant an decided I wanted to move back to Arkansas (from Virginia) to be closer to my family. I was able to fit most of my belongings in the van and make the 975-mile journey.

I’ve had that van for over 8 years now. It has served me well. It has been with me through countless trips to see my friends, a trip halfway across the country, and through three moves. It gets us to playdates, therapy sessions, doctor’s visits, many trips to McDonald’s, fun blogger events, and a lot of extracurricular activities.

However, I’d be lying if I said I’m not ready for something new. Something that doesn’t guzzle gas quite as much. Something with a CD player instead of a tape deck (I love The Lion King soundtrack, but I’m kind of tired of that being our only option other than the radio, lol). Maybe something with a DVD payer for road trips.

It’s time to start shopping for a new car.

I’ve gone to a few car lots around town, but always feel like they are trying to get over on me. Maybe that’s because I really just don’t know much about cars.

Fortunately, there is Cars.com. They have an entire section of their website dedicated to doing research. You can look up cars you are interested, read up on their specifications, read honest consumer reviews, find side-by-side comparisons for when you are torn between multiple options, and even get estimates on payments and financing. They even have our backs as parents with car seat safety checks where they test out the car seat latch systems for various makes and models.

This helps someone like me to make a smart choice when buying a new car. If you’re trying to sell or trade your car (which is what I hope to do), they even have info on that.

So go check it out if you are looking to buy, sell, or trade a car.

Also, here are a few basic tips about buying a car:

Do Your Research

Don’t go into buying a new car blindly. Do your research on the make and model of any car you are interested in. Look at reviews from people who have actually owned those cars. Pay careful attention to not just the good things, but the things that can go wrong. If possible, speak to people who have owned those cars and ask for their honest opinion on whether they would recommend them to someone else.

Take a Friend

When you go to look at a car you are interested in, try to take someone you trust with you. Preferably someone who knows about cars and can advise you on making a purchasing decision.

Shop Around

Don’t make the mistake of buying the very first car that you see. Shop around. See what other car dealerships have to offer before you tie yourself down to a major decision. Don’t let a sense of urgency lead to you rushing into an important (and costly) decision.

Negotiate

Don’t be afraid to negotiate – especially if you have a specific budget in mind. Often, car dealerships are willing to work with you – whether that involves having lower payments, a lower final cost, or adding in special benefits like free annual oil changes.

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan

Just as you should shop around for a car, don’t be afraid to check out multiple sources for quotes on loans so that you can get the best loan possible. Many car dealerships offer in-house financing, but you may be better off getting financing elsewhere.

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