Buying a car can be daunting. There are so many options: make, model, price range, must-have features, things you can compromise on, and of course, getting the best deal. Whether you’re looking to buy new or used, we have some tips for you on budgeting and making a smart purchase.

Choose wisely.

Choose the make and model based on what you need. Do you need plenty of space for family vacations and comfortably seating all your kids? Are you looking for reliability and safety features? Are you set on a sleek sporty look, and willing to compromise roominess for your passengers? We know Chicago winters can be tough, so if you’re like us, you might be interested in a car that’ll take you safely through the snow. Think about why you need a new car and what features are most important to you. Make a list and start researching based on your must-haves. If you’re loyal to a brand or have had good luck with a certain model, consider purchasing something similar or from the same company. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations and go online to research. Sites like Edmunds and CarFax are great places to start.

Set a budget.

Ask yourself, realistically, what kind of car payment can you make every month without getting behind? When you have that figured out, start putting that amount in your savings account for a few months or even a year or more if you can. That way when it’s time to make your down payment on the purchase, you have a nice nest egg saved up, and you’ll already be comfortable with the monthly payments as part of your budget. Consider other ways to save up for the down payment, too. The more you’re able to put down, the less you’ll pay in interest down the line.

Make a big down payment.

Another way to save money is to sell or trade in your current car. Use sites like Kelly Blue Book to estimate the value of the vehicle you’re selling. If you’re up for selling your car on your own, you can ask around to family and friends to see if they, or anyone they know, are in the market for a used car. You can also sell on Facebook’s marketplace feature, eBay, or Craigslist. Or, trade your car in at the used car lot or dealership you’re purchasing your new car from. Then you can put this money straight towards the down payment.

Look for sales.

If you’re buying a new car from a dealership, considering purchasing in the fall. That’s when the next year’s models are released, and sales people will be looking to sell the current year’s vehicles to make room for the new ones coming in. Holiday sales are big and can also be a great way to get a good deal.

Shop around for the best loan.

Consider refinancing your car after you purchase. You might get a financial kickback or credit for financing through the dealership, but sometimes you can re-finance after a certain number of payments to a loan with a lower interest rate. Compare and contrast the options to see how to save the most money.

Cut down on interest.

Pay more than the monthly payment when you can. Even putting just a little extra cash towards the principle each month will get you closer to ownership and will shave off a little bit of interest.

Make a deal.

Don’t forget to haggle. It might be intimidating, and can feel awkward, but asking for what you want and comparing prices among sales lots and dealerships can give you leverage to get the best deal. Sometimes, in order to get a vehicle sold and make the commission, a sales person will be willing to negotiate.

Keep saving.

Once you pay off your vehicle, continue taking that amount out of your income and move it to your savings. Then, you’ll already be on track to save up for a down payment on your next car down the road!

Be safe, and happy driving!