The Student’s Guide To Shopping For A Used Car On A Budget

By: San Antonio Used Cars   |   08 Aug 2023
student driver at a car and traffic cone

Happy back to school, San Antonio! We’re excited for all of the students who are about to embark on another year of learning at San Antonio College, the University of Texas in San Antonio, and so many of our fantastic high schools across the city.

While you’re busy getting your responsibilities and finances in order, we know that purchasing a car is another big consideration for many young drivers. Buying a car on a budget can feel like a daunting task, but with the right tips (and San Antonio’s best selection of used cars, crossovers, SUVs, and trucks), you can navigate the world of used car shopping and find a reliable set of wheels that won’t break the bank. 

In this guide, we'll walk you through some valuable tips that will help you make an informed decision and drive away with a great deal.

  1. Set a Realistic Budget

Before you start browsing through inventory, assess your finances and determine how much you can comfortably spend on a used car. Remember to factor in not only the purchase price but also ongoing costs like insurance, fuel, maintenance, and potential repairs. It can be helpful to work backwards with a finance expert to determine what you can realistically afford and then shop for cars within that budget.

  1. Consider Your Credit Score

Speaking of budget, as a newer driver, you might need to consider how your credit will impact your ability to get a car loan. Don’t worry: the experts at our Buying Centers will be there to help every step of the way, but it’s good to get a credit report ahead of time to help prepare your budget. Check out Annual Credit Report, the only source for free credit reports authorized by Federal Law.

  1. Research, Research, Research

Knowledge is your best friend when shopping for a used car. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel about the vehicles you decide to test drive and ultimately purchase. Besides checking out the San Antonio Used Cars blog and articles from our dealerships for excellent advice about different makes and models, you can also look at websites like Edmunds Car Reviews, Kelley Blue Book, JD Power, and Car and Driver to help with in-depth research.

  1. Work With A Dealership

There are some good deals to be had when you shop privately, but the lack of transparency, haggling, no-show appointments, potential maintenance issues, and even safety concerns (not to mention having to work with the bank yourself to secure a loan) can cause more headache than it’s worth.

Working with a trusted dealership (like our network of Cavender Dealerships) ensures you’ll get a guaranteed trustworthy vehicle, help with your auto financing, and a car-shopping experience to remember. Not to mention that as part of our Cavender Confidence Promise, we practice 100% price transparency here at San Antonio Used, so you’ll never need to worry about finding a better price elsewhere.

  1. Look Into Fuel Efficiency

As a student, fuel efficiency can save you a substantial amount of money over time. Look for cars with good gas mileage, especially if you'll be commuting frequently or taking road trips. Hybrid vehicles are also an excellent option and can be a good investment to save money in the long run.

  1. Insurance Costs

It’s smart to research insurance costs for the cars you're considering. Some models, even used ones, can come with higher insurance premiums due to factors like safety ratings, repair costs, and theft rates. You’ll want to factor this into your overall budget and, ultimately, which cars you want to purchase.

  1. Create Your “Must Have” And “Nice To Have” Lists

Premium stereo? Towing power? Trunk space? Moonroof? It can be helpful to list what you truly need from your car and what belongs on your nice-to-have list. Depending on your budget, you might need to make compromises - and that’s OK! This might be one of your first cars, but it’s certainly not your last.

Things to put on your “must” list often include non-negotiables for your lifestyle, including fuel economy, AWD if you spend a lot of time outdoors, or a more compact vehicle if you live in the downtown area. Our sales team will go to every length to ensure you get as many of your nice-to-haves as possible, along with checking off the items on your “need” list.

  1. Try To Avoid Impulse Buys

We get it: shopping for a car is very exciting! It can be tempting to make an impulsive purchase, but we often recommend looking at a few other vehicles, writing a pros and cons list, or taking a night to think it over. We’ll make sure we don’t sell out something you’re particularly keen on, but taking a day to think over your big purchase can help with buyer's remorse. We want you to drive away feeling 100% confident in your decision!

Find Your Next Budget-Friendly Car At San Antonio Used Cars

Used car shopping on a budget as a student requires patience, research, and careful consideration. By setting a realistic budget, doing thorough research, and working closely with your local dealership, you can find a reliable and affordable used car that meets your needs without draining your wallet. Remember, a well-informed decision today can lead to stress-free journeys in the future!

If you want to get back-to-school ready with a new ride, browse our full inventory of used vehicles available through San Antonio Used Cars! Once you’ve found something you like, we’ll connect you with a local Cavender dealership near you to set up a test drive.

Contact Us

Leave us a voicemail
or send us a message

Give us a call at (210) 245-6446 or click here to send us a message!

17811 San Pedro Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78232