The 3 Things You Need to Bring with You When Buying a Car (If You Want to Be Taken Seriously)

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Last updated May 2, 2024

Knowing what to bring with you when buying a car can be one of the most intimidating aspects of the process. You know you’re serious about buying a new car, but you aren’t 100% sure what documents you need to have with you when you step foot in a dealership. That’s a-okay. We’ve all been there before.

What to bring with you when buying a car depends on your situation. Are you trading a car in? Financing your car? Do you have a co-signer? There are certain things you’ll want to have with you when you go to the dealer.

Let’s dive into each of the items you should bring with you when buying a car.

If you’re trading in your car…

what to bring when selling a car

If you have a car to trade in, bring the title (if you have it), and make sure the car is titled in your name. A lot of people don’t realize that you can’t trade in a car that isn’t titled in your name. That means if you’re married you can’t trade in a car titled in your wife’s name without your wife being there. The name on the title and registration must match, if they don’t you can’t trade it in.

Also, don’t forget all sets of keys! Most cars have two sets of keys, unless one was lost.

If the vehicle is paid off, bring all the documents to confirm that the loan has been paid, and bring the current registration and valid insurance card. Oh, and don’t forget your driver’s license.

These are your “must haves” for trading in a car.

What to bring for a down payment…

If you plan on putting money down on your new car, bring your checkbook or debit or credit card.

If you’re going to use your debit card for the down payment, make arrangements with your bank beforehand to allow you to access the amount of money you plan to put down. Most checking accounts have daily spending or withdrawal limits. The last thing you want to do is hand your debit card to the dealer for it to only get rejected when they swipe it. Make arrangements with your bank prior to getting to the dealership to ensure the smoothest process possible.

If you plan to use your credit card for your down payment, find out from the dealership the amount that they will accept that way. Since merchants pay a bank fee to process credit cards (2% or more of the amount charged), dealerships will limit the amount they accept from a credit card. In my 42 year career I saw dealerships that only accepted $1,000 from a credit card to go towards a down payment, to a max of $5,000 at some dealerships.

If you’re financing or leasing, bring with you…

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If you will be financing or leasing your new car, bring the information you’ll need to complete your credit application. This includes:

  • social security number;
  • your personal banking information;
  • checking account number;
  • savings account number;
  • credit card account numbers and issuing bank information;
  • cell phone bill or electric bill (showing your current address); and
  • the name and address of the nearest relative not living with you.

You might also enjoy this article if you haven’t read it already: What Credit Score Do Car Dealers Use?

The more complete the credit application, the quicker it is for the bank to make their determination as far as your credit worthiness is concerned. What does that mean for you? If you want to get in and out of the dealership as quickly and painlessly as possible, bring this information with you and have it handy.

Always bring this with you to a dealership

Here is an added bonus that you should bring with you when buying a car. Bring a good attitude.

I know it might sound cliche, and hell, it is cliche, but after doing what I did for 42 years, I can assure you it goes a long way.

When you arrive at the dealership, let the salesperson know what you hope to accomplish together during your visit. For example, if you’re just there for information gathering, tell them that. If you’re only going for a test drive today, that’s a-okay, let them know. You simply want info on incentives and programs? Great, thanks for letting me know!

Don’t be adversarial, buying a car is truly a collaborative effort. Finding the right car and the right terms is a team effort, and the better you work as a team, the easier and more pleasant it will be.

So there you go. It isn’t as daunting as it may have seemed at first. If you bring these few items with you when you go to buy a new car, you’ll have a more pleasant experience. I guarantee it!


  1. Oswaldo Hernandez

    Great advise

  2. Nan

    This was exactly what we were looking for!! Thank you for sharing this.


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