Money

3 smart ways I avoided buyer's remorse when buying a car

That's me, right after the dealer handed over the keys.
That's me, right after the dealer handed over the keys.

This past weekend, my partner and I bought a new car after months of research, saving, and going back and forth about whether our 2001 Honda Civic, bought off Craigslist for $1900, really needed to be replaced. When our little clunker failed to start not one but two times last week, we knew for sure it did.

Still, the process was nerve-racking. Money tends to make me anxious, and throwing down large sums of it makes me even more anxious. I really wanted to avoid buyer's remorse on a purchase that would be pretty hard to return.

This is how I prepared to be excited instead of stressed about my new car:

We took a trip to a dealership six weeks ago for practice

We knew we were going to have to get a new car this year, so in early March we went to the Honda dealership to brush up on our negotiating skills.

Don't underestimate how stressful car dealerships can be and how good sales people are at making you feel like walking away from their offer would be a huge mistake. My partner and I knew we weren't there to purchase a car that day, and communicated with each other that under no circumstances would we try to go back on that promise.

We still felt the pressure, but our preparation helped us withstand it.

We did our homework while we were still driving our old car

We read "Consumer Reports," we talked to our friends with cars and we researched price guides for all of the makes and models we were interested in — way before we needed to buy. Why? We knew that if we waited until we were desperate to buy a car before doing our due diligence, we'd make a hasty decision for the wrong reasons.

The Chevrolet Bolt EV is introduced as the Car of the Year during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 9, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is introduced as the Car of the Year during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 9, 2017.

In my personal experience, impulsive purchases always lead to buyer's remorse.

We waited until we actually needed a new car

We were very careful not to convince ourselves we "needed" a new car just because we were tired of our 16-year-old whip. We live in New York City, which is why we spent less than $2,000 on our first car: to test out the pros and cons of having a car in a big, bustling metropolis.

Would we really use it to get out of town on the weekends and to visit our parents? Or would it be a huge pain in the butt, collecting parking tickets and causing us stress?

For us, it turned out to be the former. Buying a new car now is a financial decision we prioritized above other line items in our budget like travel.

That's why we felt comfortable making the investment when the time came.

Don't miss: My No. 1 tip for negotiating the price of a car: Don't mention money