The Smartest Way to Buy a Car

Apr 22 2021

Whether you’re shopping for your first car, dream car or something in between, there are some steps you can take to simplify the process – including meeting with your banker before you even take your first test drive.

The smartest way to buy a car

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Buying a New or Used Car? Do This First

Do This First Whether you’re looking to buy a new or used car, SUV, mini-van, truck or sports car, many people think of talking with their bank as the final step in the car-buying process. But there are 4 big advantages to meeting with your banker first before shopping for a vehicle:

 1. Review Your Budget

We’ll look at your income and expenses to help you figure out a loan payment that fits into your monthly budget. Your monthly payment – and the amount you’re able to put down when you buy the vehicle – will help determine how much vehicle you can afford.

 2. Consider Your Options

Once you’ve researched the type of vehicle you’d like to buy (including the model and wish-list features), consider the value of various options in both new and used cars. Your banker can help evaluate the value of the cars you’re considering. Keep in mind that newer cars often come with longer repayment terms, which could lower your monthly payments.

 3. Evaluate Trade-in Value

If you have a vehicle to trade in, it helps to know what it’s worth. A Bell Bank banker can help to estimate an approximate trade-in value for your vehicle.

 4. Apply for Pre-Approval

Getting pre-approved for a car loan can simplify the buying process. Pre-approval includes completing an application and a review of your credit. Once you’re approved, you can shop with confidence, knowing what you can afford and that you’ve already qualified for a loan.

(Learn what you need to know about credit scores, credit cards and avoiding credit conundrums here.)


Note: Get an Insurance Quote

Make sure you shop around for car insurance, as a loan requires you to have proof of insurance. No matter the type of vehicle you want to buy, Bell Insurance can make sure you get the coverage you need at the best rate.

To find out what your new car insurance might cost – or if you could save money on the coverage you already have – get a free, no-obligation insurance quote from Bell Insurance.

  • Get a quote
  • Call expert
Bell Insurance Services, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bell Bank. Products and services offered through Bell Insurance are: Not FDIC Insured | No Bank Guarantee | May Lose Value | Not a Deposit | Not Insured by Any Federal Government Agency.

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How to Get Approved for a Car Loan

When you’re ready to apply for a vehicle loan, you’ll need to gather some important documents, including:

  • Driver's license, passport, military ID or state ID
  • U.S. Social Security number
  • U.S. citizenship or resident alien status

Once you have all of the documents you need, the application process can take as little as 10 minutes. The time it takes to get approved for a car loan depends on several factors and can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.

As part of processing your application, we will check your credit report and use that information to evaluate your loan application. (If your credit is frozen, please make sure to unfreeze your credit at least one day before applying for your vehicle loan. You can learn about freezing and “thawing” your credit here.)

Our personal bankers can tell you all about today's competitive auto loan rates. (Available in designated states and counties near Bell Bank full-service locations.) Just call, stop by or apply online to get started!

How Much Car Can I Afford?

If you’re wondering how to figure out what price range you should stick to when shopping for a vehicle, this easy car loan calculator can help!

Based on the highest monthly payment you can afford, it estimates the most expensive car you can buy, factoring in taxes and documentation fees along with your down payment trade-in value (if any), loan term and interest rate.

CalculatorCalculate my car payment.

How Much Is My Trade-In Worth?

If you have a vehicle you’re planning to trade in to help lower the cost of your new car, the personal bankers at Bell can easily help you figure out your vehicle’s value. Otherwise, you can look up the value of your trade-in – and the car you’re thinking of buying – yourself on the Consumer Reports website.


 If you’re thinking about buying a new car, contact us before you go on your first test drive.

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