When you need a car, you might be tempted to buy the first vehicle you see. But even if you’re happy with the purchase immediately after the fact, you may come to regret your decision in the months and years that follow. Buying a car is a big decision. Make it a smart decision, too.

Decide What You Need in a Car

First, think about your priorities. Sure, you might want the LaFerrari Aperta, but with a seven-figure price tag, it’s probably not a possibility. Focus on what really matters to you. Do you want an eco-friendly car? Do you need a dependable truck that will let you haul supplies every day? Are you looking for a spacious car that will fit your entire family and protect them during a crash? Or do you need a small car that won’t use much fuel? Look for a car that matches your lifestyle.

You also need determine a realistic budget. This should include your down payment. If you need a car loan, this also needs to include the amount you can pay each month. If this is your first car, be sure to consider other expenses like gas, auto insurance and maintenance.

Decide How to Buy the Car

Another important decision involves how and where you want to buy you car.

Car dealers offer several advantages, including a wide selection, the ability to trade in your old vehicle, and financing options. At a major dealer, you can get a new car. You can also shop for a certified pre-owned car, which generally means that the car is only a couple of years old or so, has passed an inspection and may still be under warranty. If you’re looking for an older, less expensive car, you can head to a used car dealer.

You can also opt for a private transaction, which means you’re buying directly from the current owner. You can get a good deal this way, but you need to look out for scams. Always arrange to meet in public places, and bring a friend with you for added safety.

Make Sure the Car is a Good Deal

Before settling on a car, you need to make sure the car isn’t a rip-off. Read reviews for the model. Look for maintenance issues and recalls. If you’re buying a used car, get a car history. Have a third-party mechanic inspect the vehicle, and look for signs of flood damage. In California, the seller must provide you with a valid smog inspection certification along with the title and the bill of sale.

Don’t Forget about Legal Requirements

You need to register your car with the California DMV. In order to do this, you will also need to provide proof of insurance.

If you need help, contact Dashers for an auto insurance quote and for help with your title transfer and other DMV services.