You’re cruising down the road enjoying your day when all of a sudden you hear that dreaded sound: it’s the transmission again, and you’re stuck on the side of the road. The tow truck brings you in to the local mechanic and this time he’s got bad news. Your car’s repairs now cost more than the vehicle is worth. The good news is that now you get to shop for a new car! The bad news is that now you have to pay for a new car too. Buying a new car is stressful, but with the right tips and tricks in mind, you can go into your car-buying experience confident that you won’t break the bank.

Consider shopping used

We’ll let you in on a little secret: new cars are often way pricier than they’re worth. That new car smell, the brand-new label, the security that it’s never been driven before – all that inflates the cost more than its realistic value to you as transportation. That’s why used cars can often be one of the best financial decisions you’ll make. They often come at a fraction of the cost for a car just a couple of years older than the newest model.

Another benefit is that used cars don’t lose their value as quickly. While new cars depreciate in value quickly, used cars have a much slower rate. That means that if, for whatever reason, you need to sell your car after buying it, you’re likely to get much more of your money back. Just be sure you get a mechanic to look the car over before you buy to be on the safe side.

Buy local

Local car dealers who live and work in your community might be able to cut you a deal that you wouldn’t get if you drove too far out of town. Plus, smaller town dealerships often don’t inflate their prices the way that some flashy big-city dealers do. A Volkswagen dealership near Atlanta but in the outskirts might have a much better prince range for its lineup of cars than a dealership that’s in the heart of the city, for instance.

Plus, local dealers know that they are accountable to the community. If they rip someone off, everyone in town will know to avoid them, and they will quickly go out of business. That keeps them honest.

Make a budget – and stick to it

Budgeting is one of the wisest moves you can make in life in general, but it’s especially important when you’re making big purchases like a car or a mortgage. Before you head into the dealership, prepare yourself by assessing your finances. Look over your average monthly income and see what your gross pay is – that’s the amount you make after taxes. One rule of thumb you might hear often is that you shouldn’t spend more than 15% of your monthly income on car expenses. That includes car payments as well as car insurance, gas, and maintenance.

A car salesperson may try to push you past your budget by suggesting a model with high-end luxury features. However, you should be sure that you’re resolute in sticking to your budget. Tell the salesperson that you’re willing to pay $X and not a penny over. It’s also important to be wary of closing costs and fees, too, as those can push you overbudget if you’re not careful.

Secure external financing

Plenty of dealerships offer flashy deals on in-house financing with nothing due at signing and a low initial APR. However, these can often be a trick; once you’re signed up, you find that after 6 months they double your payment and shoot your interest rate through the roof.

Before you head into the dealership, it’s smart to secure financing with your bank or local Georgia credit union. They are much more likely to give you a better deal, and be more honest with you about interest rates and monthly payments. Plus, by knowing what you’re getting yourself into and making sure you make your monthly payments on time, you can help boost your credit score with an auto loan.

Along with houses, cars are some of the biggest purchases that people make. It can be daunting, and you can feel like it’s too easy to go over budget. However, if you’re careful, you consider used, and you finance well with your bank or credit union, a new car is totally achievable.