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Car Buying

5 Tips for Buying a Car as a Holiday Gift

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2014

Can you really give a car as a surprise holiday gift? Absolutely -- and many people do it every year. Before you go out in search of a new car to surprise a loved one, though, you'll want to check our list of tips first, because buying a car as a holiday gift isn't always as simple as signing on the dotted line and ordering a huge bow for the roof.

1. Make Sure It's the Right Car

Imagine buying a new car as a surprise for a family member, only to find out that you've selected the wrong vehicle. Worse, imagine surprising someone with a car only to discover that it doesn't meet their needs: too big, inefficient or difficult to see out of, for example. To avoid these issues, we suggest talking to the person receiving the surprise to verify that it's exactly what they want, rather than springing it on them completely unexpectedly.

2. Do You Need to Finance?

If the car is for a significant other and you need to finance it, a surprise might be out of the question -- especially if you'll both need to be listed on loan documents and paper work. Don't be dismayed, though: Explain your situation to the dealer, and they may help you carry out your surprise, insisting only that you come in shortly after the surprise to finalize all the paper work.

3. Consider Registration and Titling

Similar to our point with financing, you'll want to consider exactly how you want to register and title a surprise vehicle. If you're buying a car for a family member, you'll probably want that car registered in their name, but if it's a surprise, they won't be present to sign the papers. Once again, you might have to work with the dealer to solve this issue so that you can deliver the surprise before all the paper work is completed.

4. Tell the Dealer It's a Surprise

If you're buying a car as a surprise, it's important to let the dealer know that you're doing it. One reason is obvious: so they don't call your home to follow up on your purchase, potentially alerting a significant other to the car's existence. You'll also want to work with the dealer because it's likely that they've done a surprise car deal before, so they might have additional expertise on the subject. Specifically, the dealer may be willing to hold the car until the surprise date, work with you on registration or financing issues, or even order a huge bow for the big moment.

5. Order It Far in Advance

If you're ordering a car to meet the needs and desires of your loved one, rather than buying one off the dealership's lot, you'll want to do it far in advance. Like any item, cars can get delayed, and you'll want to be sure that you have a lot of breathing room between the date of your surprise and your car's projected delivery date in case something goes awry.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
5 Tips for Buying a Car as a Holiday Gift - Autotrader