A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Car

  • April 19th, 2018

By Alexandria Cashmer

With the school year coming to a close, thousands of UA students will be leaving Tuscaloosa to begin their summers. No matter what your plans are for summer 2018, you will likely need a mode of transportation. Some students already have their own cars, will borrow one from their parents or will use public transportation. Others will be in the market to buy their first car.

At a recent event, members of the Capstone International Center invited experts from the UA School of Law and local insurance companies to discuss the basics of car buying. Here’s what they shared.

Tips on Buying Your First Car


  • Turn to car magazines to find out basic information on cars. Using magazines can help you find a wide variety of cars and compare them to each other all in one place.
  • Look at big-name car dealerships. These dealerships tend to specialize in one specific brand of car and, therefore, can give more specific information on each vehicle.
  • Lease a car if it is new and pricey and you aren’t planning on keeping the car for many years. Taking this route is similar to renting an apartment. It’s also cheaper per month than buying a car and taking out a loan.
  • Get a vehicle-history report. When looking at a used car, ask the dealership to give you a copy of its vehicle-history report, which various companies generate. By having this, you will learn more specific details about the car, including its actual value, where it is from and if it has been in any accidents.


  • Don’t trust a dealership if they say they can’t run the vehicle-history report for you. Find a different dealership.
  • Don’t buy a used car if there is an “as is” sticker on the window. This means there is no warranty on the car. Look for a window sticker stating the kind of warranty the car has.
  • Avoid cars with gap insurance, which is add-on insurance to cover the gap in the amount you owe on the car and the car’s actual cash value should an accident occur.

More Hints

  • Make sure you have the car’s title and that it is has been properly transferred to you.
  • You must have insurance if you are driving a car. By law, you are required to have liability insurance. In the event that you cause an accident, this insurance will help pay for the other person’s damage. Comprehensive insurance is not required but is highly recommended. This insurance will cover the damage costs for both the other driver and yourself in the event of an accident. Check the insurance guidelines for your respective state to find out what coverage amount is required.

Remember, driving a car can be stressful, but buying one doesn’t have to be.

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.