A new set of wheels will put a smile on anyone’s face. Here’s some advice for giving a car as a winter holiday present–big bow included.

We’ve all seen the commercial: the husband gives his wife a set of keys and walks her out to a snowy driveway where a shiny new car is parked with a big red ribbon tied around it. She smiles at her man, a tear in her eye, gives him a kiss and their black lab wags his tail. This is not just a fantasy: late December is a great time to spoil a loved-one with a new set of wheels, but it’s a big purchase. Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a car as a Christmas present.

 

Put some thought into it

If you already know what your recipient would like, that makes life easy. If not, think about his or her needs: does a crossover make more sense because it’s a family car? Or maybe your recipient drives a lot and would appreciate a hybrid. Maybe it’s a teenager’s first car and a used vehicle (as opposed to new) is more appropriate. And when it comes to color, which is usually a personal choice, look at what the person has driven in the past, what color clothes he or she wears and what colors they have in the home. The most popular colors are silver, black and white.

 

Don’t buy too early... or too late

Go to the dealer a few days before the day you plan to present the car to ensure the transaction goes smoothly and you leave yourself the option of negotiating over a few days. But keep in mind that you need to find a place to store the car before the big presentation–it isn’t like a piece of jewelry you can stuff into a sock drawer. Ask the dealer the last possible time to pick it up from the lot, or enlist a friend to store the car for you.

 

Do the deal like you would for yourself

Research the car beforehand and know what you’d like to pay for it. Then test drive it and ask all the questions you’d like answered and anything you think could be of concern to your giftee. And do tell the salesperson that it’s a gift – it actually may make negotiations easier. Remind the dealer not to call or send any paperwork home that may give away the surprise.

 

Be ready with logistics

For the sake of ease, it’s simplest to put the car in the recipient’s name. Be ready with his or her full information, and proof of car insurance.

 

Consider weather

If you live in a winter wonderland, think about the logistics of getting the car where you want it on Christmas day. Come up with a backup plan in case the car gets stranded somewhere. (Take photos, for instance, so you can at least show the gift!) And make sure the car can stay wherever it is in case of a snowstorm.

 

Get the Big Red Bow

If you’re gonna do it, do it up right! Dealers usually have them, but they may try to charge you for it. Ask that it be thrown into the deal. If you want something that fits under the tree, wrap up a photo of the car, the keys or floor mats that go into the car and when the giftee asks what they’re for, say, “Your new car!”

author photo

Meg Hemphill is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle writer who covers the good life: style, food, automotive, travel and entertainment. When it comes to cars, it is less about the nuts and bolts and more about the aesthetic, luxury and occasional practicality. A former editor at InStyle, she writes for the Huffington Post and a variety of other publications.

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