How Long Does It Take To Buy a Car? [All Steps Explained]


Although buying a car can be exciting, it can also take up a lot of your time. So, how long does it take to buy a car?

It depends on various factors.

As this is not a decision you’d want to rush, we will explain the shopping process and how much time you’ll approximately need to set aside for this venture.

We covered different situations to help you set your expectations depending on whether you’re buying a new car or a used one, and if you’re buying from private sellers or a dealership.

Now let’s get those engines started!

How Long Does It Take To Buy a Car?

Purchasing a car is a process that can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and in some cases, even more, depending on various factors.

You’ll want to start with good research before choosing the car. If you already know the model of car you want, it should make the process shorter.

It’s also important that you have your mind set on the important aspects of your car purchasing decision, but also the time it will take you to drive off in your new machine.

The more you are in line with your desires and budget, and know what you’re looking for, the faster the process of purchasing a car will be.

But don’t try to save time at the expense of making an informed decision. If you don’t have a clear idea about the model of the car you want and you’d like to explore your options, take your time doing so.

DID YOU KNOW? When purchasing a car, you’re most likely to get the best deals and prices if you plan your purchase near the end of the year or quarter, because most sellers are trying to meet their quota around this time and will probably be more willing to make you a good deal.

How Long Does It Take To Buy a New Car?

Buying a new car can be less time-consuming compared to buying a used vehicle, but this is not always the case.

The shopping process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or even months. Several factors influence the time you’ll need for purchasing the car:

  • Knowing Exactly What Car You Want

In case you have the exact model, color, and desired features in mind, you’re halfway there.

Be specific or set a list of features you want and take the salesman’s advice in narrowing down your choices, and evaluate each model of the car carefully while taking them for a test drive.

If the car you choose is available right away, you’ll be all set within hours.

  • Financing Options

The process of buying a car is influenced by the financing options at your disposal. If you already have a car loan approved by your chosen bank, you can get ahead without meeting with a financial advisor at the dealership.

If you decide to go for the dealers’ financing, the approval period may take from a few days up to a few weeks, depending on several factors.

  • The Availability of the Model

Many factors influence the answer to how long does it take to buy a new car, the availability of the model being among the top ones.

Depending on whether the vehicle of your choice is in stock and can be delivered fast, or the dealership needs to contact the manufacturing facility or other dealerships to provide you with the desired model, the time frame may vary significantly.

Also, if you want a custom-made car with special perks and features, this could significantly prolong the needed time to buy a car that can’t be accurately predicted, especially if you want the top of notch car accessories that don’t come with the standard model.

Other factors like the time of the year or the factory location also affect the waiting time for your new car. But, if the car checks all your boxes, we bet it’s worth the wait.

In case you don’t have a car or you’ve already sold your previous model, some of the top car rental companies can help you push through the waiting period.

And once your car reaches its destination, while enjoying it, make sure to consider some of the extended car warranty companies with great reputation for extra peace of mind.

How Long Does It Take To Buy a Used Car?

Searching for an adequate used car can take a little longer. Used cars are a more budget-friendly solution compared to purchasing a new car, but some compromises may be necessary, as you may have to settle for an available model rather than waiting for the perfect one that may never come.

Consider a few models or research the offer at different dealerships to make sure you choose the best available option that suits your needs.

If during the process of buying a used car you found a couple of models you might choose from, make sure to test drive all of them, preferably on the same day, so your impressions are fresh and comparable.

The test drive usually takes about half an hour, so plan your schedule accordingly.

Bear in mind that used vehicles usually require more frequent maintenance that’s often pricey, so once you choose the car you want, make sure to have it examined to confirm there are no serious damages that may cause you trouble down the road.

So, how long does it take to buy a used car? Count on this check-up to take up an extra hour or so in the total time estimation.

Once you’ve made up your mind, it’s time for the money talk. In case you haven’t chosen your financing option yet, the dealerships can usually provide you with a financial solution.

In case your credit score isn’t at its best, you may want to try some of the car dealerships that have financing options for bad credit.

How Long Does It Take To Buy a Car at a Dealership

The time you’ll need for purchasing the car at the dealership can vary significantly depending on your preparation. If you already know what car you want or have a set of criteria it has to meet, the purchase should be shorter.

After the dealer offers you the available options, take your time to look at them and take them for a test drive before making the final choice.

Although the time this process will take depends on the number of models you’re choosing from, it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours.

While choosing the car, feel free to ask any additional questions or even call up your mechanic if it’s a used car, to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.

While figuring out how long does it take to buy a car at a dealership, don’t forget the price negotiating part, unless you want to go for the first price you get, which is not a good idea because there’s usually space for negotiation.

If you’re trading in a car, count in a few extra hours needed to evaluate your car, or maybe even days, depending on the course of the shopping process.

If you consider that the dealer hasn’t made a fair price, you may need to move on and sell your car somewhere else, which can further prolong the process.

In the process of buying a car from a dealer, after choosing the car, you need to discuss the financing options if you’re not a cash buyer or have your funding taken care of elsewhere.

Once that’s out of the way, there’s more paperwork. To make this part as short as possible, make sure to bring all the necessary documentation, including the car registration and papers for your trade-in car.

Key Takeaways

The process of purchasing a car can last from a few hours to a few weeks, or even longer.
Researching and choosing the car takes up the most of your shopping process.
Regardless of whether you’re buying a new car or a used vehicle, make sure to test drive it and inspect it for any damages.
Once you find the right car, you’ll need to get your car loan approved if you don’t have another financial option, get insurance, and take care of the car registration.

Time Needed to Buy a Car

Knowing how much time it will take to research, find, and decide on a car can help make the shopping process as stress-free as possible.

That’s why we’ll explain the approximate duration of every step of the process:

  • Research: 1 Day-1 Week

As this step must be done properly, don’t be surprised if it takes longer than all of the other steps combined.

To make your process of buying a car a success, make sure to thoroughly research what is important to you in a car, list and rank your criteria, and start searching for the model that would be perfect for you.

Although this can take up from a few days to a couple of weeks, the clearer the criteria, the less time you’ll need to find a match.

At this stage, you should also set your budget and gain an insight into what’s the best you can buy for the money.

Also, you should decide whether you’re buying a new or used car and whether you’d prefer a private seller or a dealership. The process of buying a car from a private seller will probably result in a lower price, but you won’t get certain benefits available at the dealership, so make a wise choice.

  • Shopping: 1–3 Days

When choosing a car, make sure to research different offers, price ranges, and options available with different sellers.

In the process of buying a car from a dealership, you should look around a few lots and negotiate the price if possible to see where you can have the best deal, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Also, set some extra time aside if you’re trading in a car. The dealer needs to evaluate the car and offer you a price that you consider fair, or you could end up selling your car elsewhere.

If you find something that should be fixed and the dealer or private seller offers to take care of that, that’s a delay of anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days you’ll have to count on in the process of buying a used car.

  • Paperwork: 30 Minutes-1 Hour

Once the choosing phase is done and the car you want passes the test drive with flying colors, you can start signing papers.

This is usually over in under an hour, but depending on how you plan to pay for a car, it can take longer. If you’re applying for a car loan, the approval process can take up to a few days.

Note that some lenders offer preapproval for a car loan, which can speed things up.

  • Insurance: 30 Minutes-1 Hour

When it’s time to buy a car, you’ll also need car insurance for your new vehicle. Make sure to do your research and pick a reputable car insurance company and a policy that will give you the most peace of mind.

Depending on your situation and the state you’re in, you may have different insurance grace periods from the moment you buy another car or trade-in your car.

Nevertheless, inform your car insurance company about the change as soon as possible.

  • Wait for Your Car to Be Ready: 1 Hour-1 Day

When the process of buying a car from a dealer is finished, before you drive away in your new car, they will probably want to clean it, which shouldn’t take long. Also, the salesperson will give you detailed instructions on the technology and perks of the model in no longer than half an hour.

Registration plates can require a longer wait, so if you have to get a new license plate, count that as a few more days in the process of buying a car from a dealership.

If you’re purchasing a new car from a factory or want a custom-made one, the waiting period can be significantly longer.

Wrap Up

Purchasing a car is a process that requires some time for each of the steps in order for you to make an informed decision.

After reading this article, you’ll be all set for different scenarios and know what to expect when shopping for a car, but also what factors can influence the shopping process.

The important thing is not to rush it and to make sure you made a good choice that will give you peace of mind and make you enjoy every ride in your new car.


Is it a good time to buy a new car?

It depends. As the prices of new cars hit an all-time high in October 2021, and they continued to rise, this is a tough call.

The best way to decide is based on your financial situation and whether the need for a new car is justified at a particular moment.


Is buying a new car a good investment?

As a good investment is supposed to bring you more money while rising in value, buying a new car doesn’t fit these criteria.

New cars depreciate in value quickly, but on the other hand, they require less maintenance and usually provide more comfort.

How long does it take to build credit to buy a car?

Building a credit score can last for months. Approximately six months of regular payments will establish an acceptable credit score, but it can take even longer for an excellent one.

Now that you’ve learned how long does it take to buy a car, maybe it’s a good idea to start your research before you finish building a credit score.


I’m an entrepreneur by profession and an artist by passion. I do business to pay the bills and make music to bring the thrills. Thanks to a bachelor in Business Administration, I'm well-versed in all things business. Owning a construction company certainly helps, too, but it also brings out my love for building and home protection.

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