As you might've noticed, I haven't posted anything in the past few weeks…that's because I was recently involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, being in a accident is just another reality of living in our modern world. So, what's a girl (who doesn't know anything about cars) to do when she finds out that her car has been "totaled"? 

Well, if you're like me then you'll go through what slightly resembles the seven stages of grief and then you'll decide to step up and find yourself a new car! 

Because I was 100% not at fault for the accident, I received a settlement figure for what the insurance company thought my car was worth. Everyone will start with a general amount of money that they can spend. Once you've got that it's best to consider what style or make of car you want. After that it's all research, most of which can be done online.

If you're looking for a used car, try websites like CarMax which can transfer cars from all over the state (and country). Their website is regularly updated and offers straightforward filters so you can narrow down your search. 

Online research can help you familiarize yourself with different makes and models of both new and used cars. Sites like Edmunds, AutoTrader, and TRUECar are great for learning about a car's details, mpg, warranty, and safety rating. Customer reviews can also give insight into potential pros and cons of different vehicles. Kelley Blue Book will help you understand what a car is worth in your region.

I made a list of cars (new and used) within my budget and then set out on a metaphorical online warpath to find out which dealerships in my area had them available to test drive. Make sure to record the stock number/ID of each car and bring it with you to the dealership. You can make an appointment or drop in, whatever is most convenient for you. 

There's a stereotype that car salesmen are these Machiavellian creatures. I found most to be quite polite and mostly informative. That being said, you should always play your cards close to your vest. It's okay to give salesmen info like the range in which you hope to spend but they don't need to know specifics. Go in confident and make your trips short, don't feel like you need to stay longer than it takes to test drive a few cars. 

Once I test drove the car I'd researched and decided it would be a smart purchase, I headed to TrueCar, a company that believes "that car buying should be transparent." What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you get to find out what others paid for the car that you're considering. I went online and looked at the range that people were paying in my area for the exact car that I wanted. Then I was directed to dealers in my area which offered "guaranteed savings [for] TrueCar customers." I found the absolute lowest price available for the car I wanted and then I emailed every single Internet Sales Manager at the dealerships in my area asking if they could "match that price." Within 24 hours I had several managers who said they could. Some may try to add on extras or tell you that they can't offer the exact price you saw online but stick to your guns! Your most important asset is that you can just walk away so don't be afraid to tell them you have other dealerships offering a lower price. After being put on hold for a period of time, restating that I "wanted to buy from "______" dealership but not unless they could match the lowest price" a few times- my terms were met! I made my way back to the dealership and purchased the car. Remember to always account for taxes and fees in addition to the price of the vehicle, a process you can do here. After that, expect about an hour or more (hopefully not more than 2) of paperwork. 

It can be stressful and a bit intimidating but once you complete the process of buying a car you can be sure that you have the confidence to do it again when necessary. Don't forget to pay it forward and help friends and family with whatever tips you've learned!