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How Long Does it Take to Buy a New Car?

If you’re considering buying a new or used car, then you’ve likely asked yourself, “How long does it take to buy a new car?”

Research shows that the average time to move through the entire buying process can take anywhere between 3.5 hours to as long as 14 hours when buying a car from a dealership. While the paperwork realistically only takes between 30 minutes to an hour, the process can become quite drawn out. Before you know it, you have spent the better part of your day at the dealership before finally being handed the keys to your new ride. 

So, why does the whole process take so long?

How Long Does It Take to Buy a New Car: What the Car Buying Process Looks Like

This process will look different depending on where you are purchasing your car from, whether you are buying new or used, and what your financial situation looks like, amongst many other factors. The first step to cutting down the car buying process is to properly educate yourself on what to expect from the moment you walk into the shop until the moment you drive off the lot. 


Whether you are considering a new or used car, you’ll likely spend hours, if not days, shopping for your ideal vehicle. You might search the newspaper classified for a private purchase or consider heading to your local junkyard as they often have used cars for sale. If you choose to go with a dealer purchase, do your research ahead of time to avoid any unnecessary/unwanted interactions with the sales team who may try to upsell you.

If you don’t know what you are looking for but still prefer to visit a dealership to start gathering information, make sure to make that clear to the sales team right from the start. If you don’t, they may start to feed you too much information, leaving you feeling overwhelmed by the entire process. 


The paperwork may seem like the most intimidating part of the process, but it’s also one of the shortest parts. However, if you don’t come prepared with either a cash-in-hand offer or a third-party financing option already set up, this 30-minute process may be extended as the dealership runs your credit and works out a possible financing plan for you.  


Much like the paperwork portion of the process, if you do not already have your insurance lined up and ready to go, then the time it takes to finalize your purchase may take a few additional hours or even a few days. You cannot drive either a new or used car without valid insurance. 

As the buyer, you are responsible for lining up the insurance, and it can be done during the purchase once you know the make model and other pertinent information. However, if you start the process in advance, then insuring your car during the purchasing process is that much easier. 

Prepping the Car 

Once you’ve signed your name on the dotted line and provided proof of insurance, your new car needs to be adequately prepared for the final sale. In most cases, this process only takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete, as a tech or porter gives your car a good cleaning inside and out before handing you the keys. However, if your particular vehicle isn’t on the lot, then it may take a few additional days before you receive the keys. 

Cut the Car Buying Process Down with These 5 Steps 

When asking, “how long does it take to buy a new car,” whether new or used, you can cut down the total processes by taking these five necessary steps:

1. Set Your Car-Buying Budget

Before you even start shopping for a vehicle, you want to sit down and look at your finances. Buying a car is a long-term commitment for most individuals, and it requires setting a car-buying budget and sticking to it. Otherwise, you run the risk of living above your financial means, which can cause problems down the road. 

2. Get Your Finances in Order Ahead of Time

Once you know what your budget is, you want to research your financing options ahead of time. Unless you’ve been really saving your pennies, you’ll need to have a financing plan ready to go; otherwise, you’ll end up spending hours in the dealership while they run your credit and determine what they believe is a suitable finance plan for you. 

It’s also worth noting that while getting financing through your dealership may seem convenient, it may not net you the best deal. Do your research and weigh all your options.  

3. Know Which Car You Want, Plus Any Extras 

Knowing what car you want is excellent. However, most people don’t consider all the “extras” that come along with it. Cars often come with various “package” options that aren’t discussed until the time of sale, and then there is the cost of making extra keys and the sales taxes and other taxes required. You need to take all of this into consideration when setting your budget and securing your financing to help you avoid any unnecessary overspending and price haggling during the final sale. 

4. Have All the Necessary Documents on Hand

Being prepared means more than doing your research. If you want to really speed up the purchasing process, you’ll want to make sure you have all the right documents on hand, including:

  • Your license
  • Proof of car insurance
  • Title and registration for your trade-in (if applicable)
  • Rebate eligibility documents (if applicable)
  • Down payment

5. Don’t Fall for the Extended Test Drive Offer

Finally, when it comes time to test drive the car, don’t fall for the “extended” test drive offer. Many dealerships allow consumers to take a car home and test drive it for 24 hours (sometimes more). This only prolongs the buying processes, and it’s unnecessary. A typical 30-minute test drive is suitable for determining whether or not a car is right for you. 

Buying New or Used: Make Sure You are Fully Educated

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to buy a new or a used car; the best way to speed up the buying process is to take your time and do your research. Start by answering the question, “how long does it take to buy a new car,” and go from there.

Whichever road you choose, make sure you are fully educated before you sign on the dotted lines.