Buying a car, whether new or used, should be an exciting experience. Most people buy new wheels every 5 years or so. But for those of us who keep cars a decade or longer, getting a new one only happens a handful of times in our lifetime.
Because cars are the second largest purchase we make, most of us put a lot of time and effort into researching and narrowing down our choices. And that’s great. My wife and I just bought a new car, and I must have put in over 40 hours of research, test drives and deliberation.
But what should you do after driving off in your new car? I have a few suggestions that will make your life easier and extend the life of your vehicle.
The first thing you need to do is shop around for the best car insurance rate. You’re required to have insurance before you drive off the dealer’s lot, which is fine, but you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Call at least three insurance companies and get quotes for your exact situation. If you have more than one vehicle, your best deal will come when you bundle them together. Let them know about your car’s safety features including airbags, running lights and whether it has an anti-theft system. They’ll ask you how many miles you drive each year, so have a number ready.
When you’ve found your best deal, don’t forget to take your old car off your policy if you sold it or traded it in.
Next, get in and play around with all the buttons and knobs. Don’t do this while driving. I know it’s tempting to play around with stuff as you’re driving home for the first time, but safety comes first. Read through the owner’s manual and become familiar with any safety features. Anything you may be tempted to fidget with while driving, do it now.
Speaking of safety, head over to SaferCar.gov and check for any recalls that have been issued for your model. Better yet, register for their recall notification system. You’ll receive an email as soon as a recall is issued. There are 600 vehicle recalls each year on average, so this system gives you an easy way to stay informed.
If your credit is good enough to qualify you for these historic interest rates, give yourself a pat on the back. I don’t think car loans will ever be this cheap again in our lifetimes. I just took out a 5-year loan at 1.99%. That’s cheap money! Take your time paying it off. Any extra money you have each month should go towards other goals, such as saving for retirement.
Finally, now is a great time to develop good maintenance habits. This is the biggest reason I decided to buy new, which I wrote about last week. New cars offer a blank maintenance slate. You know the maintenance history because you’ll be the one doing it. With used cars, who knows if the previous owner or owners stuck with the schedule. Nothing will extend the life of your car more.