First thing is first, you want to determine what you can afford so, you will need to work out a budget. There are many online calculators to help you in this process. They take the amount of the vehicle, the term of the loan payment, and the percentage rate to calculate your monthly payment. You do not want you use any more than 20% of your take home income (after taxes) when financing a vehicle. The calculators can also calculate in factors such as trade in value or cash down.
Do take into consideration how much your car insurance is going to cost you. Most lenders will require that you carry full coverage during the term of your vehicle. Do shop around buy calling different insurance providers for comparable cost. Insurance companies will need the vehicle identification number, the make and model, and the year. They will also ask you several personal questions to help determine the cost of coverage. Your age, any traffic tickets and or accidents, and sometimes your credit will be factor in.
Car maintenance is also something you may want to look into. The age of the car or the fact that it is foreign made can become a costly expense. Most foreign made cars can only be maintenance through designated dealerships and the cost for a part can be a lot higher. This is because they are sometimes ordered over seas.
Once you have decided on a car and how much you can afford check into many different lenders. You will find that there are competitive rates. Local credit unions can offer you sometimes a better rate but, if you have been banking with your own bank for many years they could give you more personal one on one service than anywhere else plus, give you a good going comparable rate for financing your vehicle. Car dealerships also offer financing and can look into several lending institutions within their network at one time to help you with this process. This is usually done at the dealership at the time of purchase.
When you are pre-approved take your time and do comparison shopping. You will be amazed at what you will find if you just take the time to do a little research.