The process of buying a car is the same, whether it's your first time or your 20th. What may be different is your credit situation. Lenders like to see buyers with long credit histories and prior experience in paying off car loans. However, that doesn't mean you can't get financed as a first-time buyer. Here are a few tips that can help you get a great car financing deal, even your first time.

Put 20 percent or more down
As a first-time car buyer you might not qualify for the "zero dollars down" offers that often appear in advertisements. However, if you put more money down, you may be more likely to qualify for financing because the finance company will be assuming less risk — the more money they have in their pocket, the less likely they will lose money if you default on a loan.

Whether or not you're a first-time buyer, you're also taking on less risk yourself if you put more money down. If you end up having to sell your car — or if your car is totaled and needs to be replaced — a small down payment may mean you owe more money on your car than it is worth.

Shop around
Even if you're a first-time buyer, many finance companies will want your business. You can use this to your advantage by shopping around and having companies compete for your loan. The lower the interest rate you can get on your loan, the less you'll end up paying for your car.

You can compare sample interest rates online (via Autoblog), but you'll have to deal with banks and dealerships directly to get actual quotes. Once you have one or more quotes, shop around and ask if any company can beat the lowest rate you have.

Get a co-signer
A co-signer is someone who takes on the responsibility of paying off your car loan if you fail your obligation. As such, it is typically someone such as a parent or close relative. Co-signers can be a great way for new car buyers to get financed since they can piggyback on the good credit of their co-signer.

Look for special offers
Finance companies, from car dealers to banks and credit unions, are always looking for new ways to drum up business, so you're likely to find a number of special deals when you look for financing. While you might not qualify for the deals reserved for those with excellent credit, you might be offered a deal for new or first-time car buyers. Be aware, however, that lenders aren't in the business of giving away free money. If you accept a financing deal on the front end, make sure the terms of your loan don't take all that money back.

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