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Our Buying a New Car Experts

Jean Jennings

Jean Jennings

President, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Automobile magazine...

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Mike Quincy

Mike Quincy

Auto-content specialist for Consumer Reports

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Philip Reed

Philip Reed

Senior consumer-advice editor for Edmunds.com

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Top 5 Things to Do

Buying a new car isn’t like buying a new ironing board. There are thousands of new vehicles, dozens of local dealers and plenty of scams. Luckily, help is on the way. Here are the top five tips for buying a new car.

1. Know your needs.

Buy a car that is suited to your lifestyle. If you have a long daily commute, think about gas mileage. If you do lots of off-road driving, four-wheel drive may be important. Ask yourself logical questions and don’t let hype pollute your opinions. How much storage space do you need? How important is safety? Once you know what kind of car you need, head to a dealer for a test drive. Save the purchase for a later date.

2. Bring the car lot to you.

The web can be your greatest ally in your car search and cut down your research time by days. Start your automotive search by looking through car-buying guides on the internet before you even think about stepping on a lot. Check out your vehicle’s market value, resale price, reliability, safety information and even get price quotes from the comfort of your home.

3. Know your credit score.

If you need financing to buy a new car, don’t trust a salesperson on the lot to give you the best deal. Instead, see what kind of car loans banks and credit unions will offer. When you apply for a loan with these lenders, they’ll often give you a free credit score to boot. Your credit score determines what kind of interest rate (APR) you pay on your loan, and that interest rate is usually the difference between a bad deal and a good deal.

4. Study negotiation techniques.

Car-sales representatives are notoriously slick negotiators. If you want to get a solid deal when you buy a new car, you’ll have to be impervious to mind tricks, flattery and begging. Be comfortable with the details of your future car and prepared to haggle over every fee. An informed approach will ensure there are no surprises when you sign the dotted line. Also, never negotiate down from the sticker value, but rather, up from the lowest possible market value.

5. Read the fine print.

In the final moments of a sales negotiation in the car-buying process, some dealers will add never-before-mentioned fees to your “out-the-door” price and try to convince you to buy expensive extras, warranties and service packages you may not want. Fight every fee and make sure you leave the dealership paying no more than you planned. Remember, there are plenty of other car sellers in town who are happy to take your business.

Posted: 3/26/08