Buying a car takes quite a bit of planning, so it’s understandably common to wonder how much time it’ll take before you can drive off the lot in your new vehicle. The answer first depends on your context of “buying a car,” then on different factors relating to that context.
How Long Will the Entire Car-Buying Process Take?
If you’re curious about how much time the entire car-buying process will take from the beginning stages of research all the way until you’ve completed the transactional paperwork, that’s difficult to quantify. It fully depends on how little or how much you know about the car you want, your budget and the price you’re willing to pay. People who have a general sense of these areas can potentially knock out the car-buying process in a period ranging from days to weeks. However, if you have given minimal thought to the type of car you should buy and don’t know exactly what you can afford, this process can take several weeks or months.
Regardless of where you fall within this spectrum, it’s important to be thorough with your research and planning — a car is a significant purchase, and returning it is typically not an option. Be sure to put a great deal of effort into these steps so you can be as certain as possible about the fairness of the deal you ultimately accept and the reliability of the car you decide to purchase:
- Research the car that’s right for you
- Decide on a new or used model
- Visit several sellers and dealers
- Ask questions, then inspect and test-drive any options you consider
- Negotiate a fair deal for the car you choose
- Secure financing and insurance
How Long Will Completing the Vehicle Transaction Take?
If you’re wondering how long finalizing the transaction will take to complete after you’ve decided on a car, it can range from just a couple to several hours, possibly even as many as seven or eight — it typically depends on how prepared you are when going into this homestretch. In order to minimize the time frame as much as possible, complete these details before you sit down with the salesperson:
- Gather all your car’s important documentation
- Secure third-party financing and insurance
- Negotiate your deal
- Accept a trade-in offer
Although being proactive about these components should help reduce the time you spend making your final dealership visit, our best advice is to manage your expectations and plan to be there awhile, even if you only need to fill out paperwork. After all, that paperwork still includes quite a bit of legal documentation that needs to be filled out in order to complete title transfers, registration and payment. Block off a generous amount of time to make these finalizations as stress free as possible for both you and the salesperson.