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How To Buy A New Car In California

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As the most populous state, it’s only natural that California also be a goldmine for automobile purchases. However, the Golden State does come with some downsides; California is notorious for having more strict regulations around getting a title and registration. Plus, there are a ton of other things to consider when buying a new car that might have you spinning in circles.

No fear - Aceable has put together a quick overview with tips on research, negotiation, and California’s regulations. Check out our guide for buying a new car in California below!

Know the rules

All dealers must have a National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) report to show you. Be sure to also check to see if your vehicle has a safety recall notice that has not yet been repaired.

New vehicles sold in California should come with a manufacturer’s extended warranty, which states that the manufacturer of the vehicle will cover the cost of specific repairs under the terms of the warranty. The dealer may also offer you an additional contract for a fee, which states that the dealer will repair or pay for repair of certain mechanical problems. If this is the case, consult your insurance agent or credit union for quotes.

If you are not satisfied with the repairs your manufacturer has made on your vehicle, you can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles New Motor Vehicle board by calling (916) 445-1888 or visiting

Time your purchase

While it’s true that you can find more deals and discounts towards the end of the year, also remember that quantities will dwindle, and your choice may be limited. If you have a specific make and model in mind, it might not be best to wait; oftentimes, dealerships will only offer discounts on select cars. If, however, you’re just looking to buy a car, waiting until the end of the year will be your greatest bet for finding advantageous savings and deals. Be sure to look at outgoing models, as dealerships will be eager to get them off the floor to make way for shinier toys.

Historically, the spring has proven to be the worst time to buy a car; dealers know that this is the time when car buyers are looking to buy, so you’ll be hard pressed to find any true deals.

Additionally, TrueCar recommends the following timing protocol for buying a new car:

  • Shop early in the week
  • Shop towards the end of the month
  • Make your offer towards the end of the day

Man with computer Man with computer

Do your research

It should go without saying, but if you’re buying a car, you’d better be prepared to do your research. Not only will this help you find a car that’s perfect for you, but it will also help you get the best deal on your vehicle.

If you have a couple of options in mind, it never hurts to do a test drive to narrow down your choices. Auto malls are great alternatives to driving cars at the dealership, as they’ll allow you to drive cars from multiple brands.

Once you have a good idea of what you want, use online resources to research price point. TrueCar, Edmonds, and Kelley Blue Book are great places to gather data for the various price ranges you’ll be dealing with.

Don’t forget to factor in the amount you’ll have to pay for taxes and fees. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has a handy calculator for finding out the amount you’ll have to pay for registration based on your location. It also doesn't hurt to factor in your insurance costs. Luckily, there are ways to keep the cost of your California car insurance a little lower.

Haggle online

The LA Times recommends skipping the in-person meet, and instead first scoping out your prospects virtually. Email sales reps at five big dealerships with your vehicle specifications, along with the prices you’ve found via research. Ask them if they can beat that price. Take the lowest price you’re offered, then send another round of emails asking if those dealerships can beat that new price.

Could you do all this in person? Sure. Is better to save your time, energy, and sanity, and just do it from the comfort of your home? Absolutely.

*Images sourced in order of appearance: Unsplash**, Unsplash.*

Krista Doyle