A vehicle history report from services such as AutoCheck, Carfax or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is worth the money and could help tip the scales in favor of one car over another. Pro tip: Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA.gov) website to see if the vehicle you're considering is under an active safety recall.
Run your credit report and get your credit score. The score tells you your credit tier, which will affect your annual percentage rate. Even if you have bad credit, you can still buy a vehicle that's right for you and your wallet. Next, get preapproved for a loan at your local bank, credit union or online lender. By going in with financing already arranged, you can determine if the dealer can beat your interest rate. This strategy also keeps the negotiations more focused since you will only be looking at the total price of the vehicle (also called the "out the door" price), not a monthly payment.
There's a big safety benefit to buying the newest car you can afford. When you buy a new car, you're ensuring you're getting a car that's up to the most recent safety standards in both crash testing and in safety technology. A new car compared to a used car from even five years ago can have big safety advantages with things like more airbags, a more rigid construction, and more advanced technology like a backup camera which is now mandatory on every new car sold in the U.S.