Buying a Car: What to Know Before You Go

When you drive onto the lot of a car dealership, a salesperson is often ready to swoop in and make a sale before you’ve even exited your vehicle. Knowing exactly what you want in a car, and how much you should pay based on current market conditions, will ensure you get the vehicle you want at the best possible price.

Research models and options

You may already know what make and model you want, or you may be willing to investigate different makes of comparable vehicles, either way, make sure to research models and trim packages. Know what add-on options are available, and their prices, to determine what you really value. If you know ahead of time that custom wheels are not a priority, you will be less prone to adding that option on impulse.

Seek out reviews by consumer advocacy groups, professional organizations in the automotive industry and other buyers. While reviews posted by buyers may have biases, a pattern of similar complaints about a specific model should raise red flags.

Check the manufacturer’s website for current incentives and rebates. Use these figures to calculate how much you will pay for your new car. When you go to negotiate the deal, deal with for the cash price, not the monthly payments. There are many variables in car loans, and you may end up paying more than your realize when interest rates, length of the loan and down payment figures change during negotiations.

There are also websites that offer advice, like this site for .

Know the Fair Purchase Price

The sticker price is the car manufacturer’s suggested price. Unless the model is in high demand, you can negotiate a lower price. With a little Internet research, you can find the dealer’s invoice price, what the dealership actually paid for the car, and negotiate from that point up.

A better figure to know is the Fair Purchase Price of a vehicle. This figure, updated weekly, is a compilation of actual sales figures. It lets you know what everyone else has been paying for a specific model. The figure fluctuates with supply and demand, and it often may be less than the dealer’s invoice because the price includes incentives and rebates. The Fair Purchase Price is available on car pricing websites.

Know the value of your trade-in

Even older, high-mileage vehicles have some value to dealerships. Know in advance the value of your trade-in. It is the job of car salespeople to reap the largest profit they can from a deal, even a profit on your old car at the auction. You can strike a better deal if you know the value of what you have.

Shop around for a dealer

You may be able to save hundreds of dollars by taking a 30-minute drive out of town and investigating dealerships there. Dealers in outlying areas often have lower overhead costs and may be able to offer you a better price on your new car.

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