Like most things these days, buying a car is meant to be an experience. You’re so excited take a test drive, fall in love with a car, and then go off in your perfect new vehicle that you forget buying a new car is actually a complicated process. This checklist will help you keep track of everything you should do before heading to the dealership and what to bring with you, so all you have to worry about is finding your perfect car.

Before going to the dealership:

Do your research. There’s such a wide variety of options when it comes to cars. It’s important to have some idea of what you’re looking for before you start. This will help you get a better sense of the options in your price range.

Call your insurance agent. You don’t want any surprises, especially when it comes to insurance. Before you go in to purchase a new vehicle, you need to know how much it will cost to insure it. You’ll also need to check how soon after buying a new car you need to have it officially updated on the insurance. This varies from carrier to carrier.


Check your credit report for accuracy. Not only is it important to check your credit score before making a big purchase, you also want to make sure there are no mistakes in your credit report. Catching and fixing mistakes can make your entire purchase process much easier.

If you’re trading in your old car, make sure to clean it out. You don’t want to lose anything valuable. Make sure to check in all glove compartments and between and underneath the seats. You never know what might be hiding there.

Make sure to bring the following documents:

A valid driver’s license. You shouldn’t be driving without this anyway, but dealerships definitely will not let you do a test drive or purchase a car without one.

Proof of insurance. Especially with the new $50 fine for not being able to provide proof of insurance at a traffic stop, you should always have this with you.

Financing information. Make sure to bring all information related to your outside loan if you’re not financing through the dealership. If you are financing through the dealership, you might want to bring these items as well (especially if you don’t have a strong credit rating):

  • Your two most recent pay stubs. These ensure the dealership that you’re employed and able to pay.
  • Proof of residency. A recent utility bill is good for this.
  • A list of references.


Your checkbook. Even if you’re planning on financing the entire cost, it’s still a good idea to bring the checkbook just in case. You never know what might come up.

Notes from your research.


If you’re trading in your old car, you’ll also need to bring the following:

Certificate of title.

All of your car keys.

The owner’s manual.

If you have a loan on your current car, you should also bring your account number and a pay stub.