Full Circle’s Car Buying Guide

Buying a car can be intimidating. From financing to trade-ins to test drives there are so many steps to car buying. So here’s a guide to help you through it. 


Cars are a huge investment. It comes with so many considerations. Most people just look at the cost of the vehicle when creating a budget. However, you have to research how much gas, maintenance and repairs fees, insurance, taxes, and other fees are associated with vehicles purchases. 

Once you have your budget, it’s time to figure out what kind of vehicle and features you want. Power steering, power window, and heated seat are standard. Which shouldn’t increase the cost. Other features like rear cameras, blind-spot detection, and AppleCar Play are premium that increase the price. It also doesn’t hurt to read reviews and watch videos of the vehicles you are considering. 

FC Tip: Manual transmission vehicles typically cost less than automatic but are available in much smaller quantities. Also the bigger the vehicle is the more gas it will use. For example, coupes and sedans have better gas mileage than SUVs, vans, and trucks. 


Unless you have the entire amount for a vehicle plus taxes and fees you are going to need a loan. Companies often have preapproved loans that give a realistic look at what you can afford. Loans are usually split into 72 months or 6-year loans. It’s ideal that you put a down payment of 20% to 10%.  Preapprovals are becoming more popular. It allows the lender to analyze what’s a realistic loan amount without a credit check. Once you have one it’s good for only two weeks. It’s ideal to make the purchase during that time.


Look out for trade-in deals. If you have a vehicle to trade in, figure out the value beforehand. There are a lot of websites that will give you the average value. This helps get the leverage over the deal you are getting. Or in some cases, dealerships will collaborate with other organizations for a trade-in deal.

FC Tip: Right now Vehicles for Change, Toyota, and Mazda have a trade-in deal. Donating your vehicle to Vehicles for Change gives you $500 towards a new vehicle at participating east coast Toyota and Mazda. This offer is in addition to any current promotions running at the dealership. Please visit Vehicles For Change if you have any questions. 

 Locate and Test 

Once the financing is completed and the trade-in deal is set in place, it’s time for the test drive.  Does it fit your entire family? Is there enough space for your cargo? Can you install the car seat? Make sure the vehicle fits your lifestyle. While on the test drive inspect everything on the vehicle. Test the lights, wipers, radio, brakes, tire tread, steering wheel,  windows, doors, seats, etc. Don’t leave any part of the vehicle untouched. 

FC Tip: You do not need to make the decision right after your test drive. You can sleep on it and compare the feel of all the cars you’ve test-driven. If that vehicle is up to your standards don’t be afraid to move on to another car or dealership. 


Once you’ve agreed upon the price and vehicle you need to sign documents. I cannot stress this enough. Read the fine print. Make sure that what you discussed with the salesperson is reflected on the signed papers. Ask questions. Verify everything discussed is in the contract. Once you feel comfortable and you understand your contract you can sign and be the proud owner of a new car. 

If you didn’t know Vehicles for Change has a used car lot called Freedom Wheels. Although it is smaller than normal car lots we put a lot of care and love into the vehicles we do sell. We have everything from Toyotas to BMWs. Be sure to check the website to see our newest arrival. Remember all car purchase proceeds come back to Vehicles for Change which assists families with transportation needs with an affordable vehicle. These sales also fund second chances to those reentering society.