How long does it take to buy a car?


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Written by
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Licensed Auto Insurance Agent
UPDATED: 2021-04-20T17:38:19.729Z
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man buying a car at the dealership

Buying a car is a big investment that takes time. The research to find the right car typically takes longer than actually purchasing the car. You need to decide which car you want and compare prices at different dealerships and sellers.

How long does it take to buy a car? If you’re sure of the car you want, you can buy a car in a day in some cases. But it may take a few days or a few weeks depending on the research and shopping process. Remember, it’s not a decision you want to rush!

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How long will it take to buy a car?

You should expect to spend a few days choosing the car you want to buy and actually signing your name to make the sale final. Remember to take your time with the process and don’t rush it. You’ll likely own this car for a number of years and drive it every day, so it’s important that you’re happy with your decision.

If you have your heart set on a certain make and model of car, the research portion of the car buying process likely won’t take you as long. Realistically, researching what car you want can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Once you research and decide what car you want, you’ll need to go to the dealership and test drive a few options and negotiate prices. The shopping part of buying a car can take one to two days. When you find your car, the paperwork to complete the sale doesn’t take long — usually 30 minutes to one hour. If you’re trading in a car, this can add an hour to a few hours onto the process for the dealership to evaluate your car and make you an offer.

Of course, you’ll also need to purchase car insurance for your new car. This can take 30 minutes to a few hours. You’ll want to make sure you find a reputable car insurance company that can offer you a good price. You can also use an agent to help you with this process or see which companies other drivers recommend.

How long does it take to buy a used car?

Buying a used car can take a little bit longer than buying a new car. If you’re looking for a used car, it can be harder to find exactly what you want and often times, you may need to sacrifice something you wanted in a car because you can’t find it. For example, you may not be able to find a used car in the color you want.

When buying a used car, you’ll need to evaluate the car and make sure it doesn’t have anything major wrong with it. If you do notice something wrong, the dealership or private seller may offer to fix the issue, which could add a few days to the process.

How long does it take to buy a car from a dealership?

Once you’ve decided what car you want, it can take 1 to 2 days to buy a car from a dealership. An important thing to consider is whether you want to buy a car from a dealership or a private seller. While a dealership often has more fees than a private seller, a dealership offers benefits like a warranty option and more.

Timeline of buying a car

When wondering how long it takes to buy a car, it can help by seeing a breakdown of the process and how long each step can take. This can also help you make sure you set aside enough time for buying a car.

1. Research: 1 day - 1 week

Research when buying a car is one of the most important steps, and it takes the longest (in most cases). You’ll need to research options for the make and model of cars you want to look at, evaluate them and ultimately choose the best one.

Before you even start researching, you need to decide what features are most important to you in a car. Do you need a car with 4WD? Or maybe you want a car with the best safety features? Make a list of things you need in a car and a list of features you want but could do without. This will help you narrow down what make and model you’re going to consider.

There are other things you should consider as you research cars including:

  • Price: what is your budget and what cars are in your budget?
  • Do you want a used car or a new car?
  • Do you want to lease a car, finance a car or pay for a car in full?
  • Do you want to buy a car from a dealership or a private seller?

When choosing your car, it’s also important to consider the cost of car insurance. Some car makes and models are more expensive to insure than others.

2. Shopping: 1 - 3 days

During the shopping process, you’ll want to visit a few dealerships to see what they have on the lot and to compare prices. Check for different sales and promotions at different dealerships.

According to Bankrate, the best times to buy a car are late in the year (October, November and December), late in the month (the 26th, 27th and 28th day) and early in the week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). Dealerships have sales quotas. Shopping late in the year or month may help you get a better deal from a salesperson looking to meet the quota.

You’ll also want to test drive some options and shop around. The length of the shopping process depends on how big the dealership is, how many options of cars you have to pick from, if you know what car you want, if you need to check with multiple dealerships and if the car you want is available.

When shopping around, consider checking more than one dealership to see what options they have on the lot and which one will offer you the best price. You can negotiate the prices at each one to see which one will give you the best deal. If you’re buying a used car, dealerships usually don’t offer any promotions or sales on used cars and the prices are usually pretty firm. The same goes for private sellers. Private sellers are typically pretty firm on the sticker price of their used cars.

If you’re trading in a car, the dealership will need to evaluate your car and determine its trade-in value. This can add an hour to a few hours to the process.

3. Paperwork: 30 minutes - 1 hour

While this part can be the most nerve-wracking, it’s also the quickest part of the car buying process. In some cases, you may have one initial meeting with a finance representative at the dealership to evaluate your situation. In this meeting, you’ll discuss whether you’re going to finance or lease a car, if you want to purchase gap insurance and if you want to purchase an extended warranty.

If you’re financing, the representative will evaluate your credit history and apply for a loan. Getting approved for a car loan may take some time. Some lenders may offer preapproval for a car loan that’s instant. However, in other cases, it could take up to a few days to be approved. Your interest rate and ability to get approved for a car loan depends on your credit history.

Once you’re approved for a loan, the dealership will invite you back in to sign your name and make it final! To satisfy the lender, you’ll need to have an insurance for the new car, including collision and comprehensive insurance.

4. Insurance: 30 minutes - 1 hour

Most of the time, you’ll need insurance for your new car before you can drive it off the lot, though you may have an insurance grace period depending on your state and situation. You can choose to buy insurance directly from an insurance company, buy through an online seller or go through an agent. If you’re looking for an insurance agent, you can use Clearsurance to find an insurance agent in your area.

Before you purchase a policy, be sure to do your research. At this point in the car buying process, you’re probably tired of research, but it’s important to find a trustworthy company to insure your new ride. To start, use Clearsurance’s car insurance calculator to find the highest rated car insurance companies based on your needs.

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5. Wait for your car to be ready: 1 hour - 1 day

At this point, you’ve reached the end of the process and all you need to do is wait for the dealership to get your car ready. The dealership will likely clean the car before giving it to you.

If you had a car previously registered in your name, you may be able to transfer your license plates over to the new car. If not, the registration process may take a little longer as new plates will need to be made. In some states, you may have a certain number of days to get your car registered. If that’s the case for you, you won’t need to wait for your car registration right away at the dealership.

When your car is ready for pickup, your salesperson will likely go over all features and technology in your car to make sure you know how to use everything and are aware of all the features it has. This can take about a half hour and then the car is yours!

Based on these estimates, it can take a few days to more than a week to buy a car. If you already know what you want and don’t need to do much research to find the car you want to buy, you may be able to buy a car in one day, but you likely won’t get to take the car home that same day.

When buying a car, be aware that there is a potential for auto-related fraud to happen at the dealership. Make sure you go to a reputable dealership and ask questions if anything seems off to you. Being aware can help you avoid scams.

Buying a new car can be overwhelming and you’ll feel relieved once it’s over. But these steps are essential for finding the best car and car insurance for you!

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