Tips for buying a car

Posted in Auto

You’re in the market for a car — it’s an exciting time but for many it can be very daunting. According to TrueCar.com the average new car costs $30,508 and for many it’s the second most expensive purchase behind a home. Start by taking the guesswork out of car shopping by following these tips that will hopefully save you time and possibly a few dollars whether you’re purchasing a new or used vehicle.

Do your homework

  • Determine what make and model you’re looking to buy; make a list of must-have features, and those that are more in the category of “nice to have.” Be sure to think not just about what you want and need today, but for the next five years
  • Contact your independent insurance agent for a rate quote and ask if he or she can provide the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Vehicle Safety list
  • Review every interior function of the car you’re considering, and test drive it both in the city and on the highway to get a feel for how it handles in these different conditions. Look under the hood (or bring along a friend if he or she knows more than you about mechanical aspects of cars). Don’t leave any question you have unasked!
  • Get pre-approved to learn what you can comfortably afford. Compare interest rates of different lenders because that rate will factor into your total cost. A good rule of thumb for a car loan is to not exceed 48 monthly payments (a four-year loan) and, if possible, put at least 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment
  • Factor in costs that go with a car purchase, such as insurance, state sales tax,* licensing fees,* dealer fees (*these vary depending where you live)
  • If you’re looking to sell or trade in your current vehicle, know the value — check Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds (both are free) and/or Consumer Reports ($12)
    • Selling the car yourself typically gets you more money, but you have to take time to promote the car and show it
    • Trading in a car will lower the sales tax you’ll pay on a new car

Negotiate the best price

  • Be realistic as you negotiate a price:
    • Review Consumer Reports ‘New Car Price Reports,’ Consumer Reports Bottom Line Pricing, and/or Google the invoice price; make sure to subtract any rebates
    • Start negotiations at two percent over the dealer invoice price
    • Slow-selling models typically receive better deals, while popular models often sell at full sticker price
  • Shop around and get price quotes from different dealers through the online sales team or in person
  • At this point in the process, never talk about your price point, trade-in value or financing — these can be discussed after you agree on a price
  • Ask if they can beat the competitors’ prices
  • Always get the quote in writing
  • Read the fine print, as sometimes dealers add additional fees to make up for special rebates or discounts

General tips

  • If buying a used car, always reference the car history report (AutoCheck and Carfax are among the most popular) to learn as much as you can
  • Often, the best time to purchase a new car at a good value is:
    • Early in the week — at the end of the month or quarter
    • Late summer or early fall for outgoing models
    • At the end of the year, when dealers want to “clear the lot” and make their numbers for the year
  • Allow the salesperson to give you a tour of your new car’s features
  • Bring a copy of your driver’s license and proof of auto insurance. Remember, you can’t drive a car off the lot without insurance!
  • Double check numbers to make sure the VIN of the car you’re buying matches the one you selected on the lot
  • Bring a calculator to verify all the math involved

Be safe

  • Know the blind spots on your new car
  • Always wear a seat belt and make sure all passengers buckle up
  • Never:
    • leave a child unattended in a car
    • use a cell phone to talk, text or access the internet or apps while driving
    • eat while driving
    • drink alcohol and drive
    • drive without car insurance

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