Whether you’re buying a new vehicle or one that’s just new-to-you, there’s no doubt that it’s an exciting purchase. But that purchase can come with a lot of considerations—after all, you can’t just walk in and pick the first one that catches your eye. Fortunately, there are experts to help you out. Adam Lee, chairman of the board at Lee Auto Malls, knows a little about vehicles—his company’s been chosen as Maine’s Used Car Dealer of the Year for the last four years by DealerRater. Follow these tips, and you’ll be smelling that “new car” scent in no time.

Determine your budget: Don’t just think about the total cost, said Lee. Also consider how much you can afford to spend monthly—if you’re not paying in cash, you’ll likely be making some sort of monthly payment. Having a budget in mind also helps the sales staff help you: “I think customers have this sense that someone may try to take advantage of them,” said Lee, “but the average salesperson really just wants to find a car that fits the customer’s budget.”

Do your research: You don’t have to know exactly what you want, but it helps to have an idea. Many dealers display their inventory online—Lee’s is at creditnow.com, for example. “My assumption is that most customers’ goal is to get into a dealership, find a car they like, buy it, and get out without spending their whole day there,” said Lee. Determining your wants beforehand can speed things along.

You’re the boss: Understand the customer is in charge, said Lee. There is no hurry. Take your time. Look the car over closely—if it’s a used car, it may have a dent or a scratch. Check things like the tires, and then take it for a drive. “If you have any concerns at all,” said Lee, “tell the salesperson and the manager that you need to take it to another dealership or independent mechanic that you trust.”

Paying for the vehicle: If you’re not paying cash, you’ll likely need some sort of financing. Many dealers offer financing options—Lee Auto Malls and Lee Credit Now work with many different banks to secure loans for their customers. They can even work with customers with credit trouble: “If somebody has had problems with credit in the past,” Lee said, “we also work with a finance company that is more than willing to take a risk and go out on a limb to help them.”

Get a tour: Many newer vehicles are technologically advanced. Ask your salesperson to walk you through them—pairing your phone with your new vehicle, for example, or operating the GPS. After that, prepare to enjoy the open road.

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