When buying a car you can be either Sally Simple or Susan Smartie. Sally Simple will go to a dealership and find the car she wants and ask the price. Sally will believe the marked price, on either a new or used car, or what the salesman has to say. Now Susan Smartie goes to shop for a car after researching the type of car, the options she does and does not want and knows what the pricing should be. When buying a vehicle you will want to be Susan Smartie and not Sally Simple. Here are tips on how to be the smart one armed with facts and figures when you go shopping for a vehicle.
First you need to decide on what type of vehicle you need. Do you need an SUV, truck or 2 or 4 door sedan? This is the first thing you will need to know so that you can research the different styles of the type of vehicle you want to purchase. For example if you want to buy a 4 door sedan you will be able to research and compare the different types out there for you. You will learn that a Honda Civic and VW Jetta both fit your car type but come with different options. You may even make a list of what options you want on a car. Concentrate on cars that then have the options you want and stop thinking about the ones that are out of the running because they do not fit your criteria.
After you know what type of vehicle you want the best way to start researching is on the Internet. For new cars there are many sites out there that can give you the specs of the car, tell you what options are available and what those options should cost. They will even show you what color options are available for the exterior and interior of the car you are interested in. MSN has an Auto section that breaks down the pricing for the options, extras, and everything to give you a total price. This total tells you not only what sticker price or manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) is but also what the dealer's costs are. What you want to do is to memorize this information or print out the costs and keep them with you as you go to the dealerships.
With this information you can go to a dealership and easily barter to bring down the sticker price. If the salesman states that a certain option cost $500 but you know they real cost is $250, let him know. He will find out right away that you know your facts and they should be a lot more honest about the price that you can get the vehicle for. Remember the dealership will need to make some money so it is unlikely you will be able to get the price down to the dealer's cost but you should be able to get it to a $1000 or $2000 above it and that should be a decent savings from the sticker price.
Do not let the research stop at the price, even if that is the most important thing. You should also research the different model types (one car can have 3 or 4 types available), options, safety tests, repair records and dependability. You might also check what previously owned vehicles of your chosen type are selling for just to know what the depreciation will be like.
Get out your library card; it is time to drive to the library. If you do not have access to the Internet, than begin your research at your local library. Once you get there you might find they have free Internet services and you can do the above researching. Even if you have done Internet research the library can still be helpful. Most libraries have a magazine section that will help you. Consumer Reports give annual reviews of what cars they find to be the best. This can be especially helpful for seeing what the repairs rating is. Ideally you want to purchase a car that does not have a history of needing costly repairs. Other magazines have test drives that last for months so they can really give you a feel for how a car will run not only on the day you buy it but 6 months later.
You might be thinking but I'm not buying a new car, how does the information above help me? Well you can use both the Internet and library to research a used car as well. On the Internet you can look up such sites as Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book which will tell you what used cars are worth for retail, trade-in or through private parties. They also give information on new cars so you can get a sense of what depreciation has occurred.
Even when buying a used car you will want to go into it with research. You definitely want to know what the going rate is for the particular vehicle you are interested in so you are not taken in and pay too much. If buying from a private party be sure to ask questions and get the maintenance records for the car. The first and best question to ask a person is why they are selling their vehicle. You certainly do not want to buy one that the person says they are tired of it hounding them with repair bills.
Now that you have your research done for your new or used car it is time to go out and see how the vehicle feels. You will want to definitely test drive the car you plan to purchase. Just because the outside looks good and the inside looks comfy does not mean that it is. Make sure that the inside is comfortable to sit in. If the back seat is to be used by adults or kids make sure there is enough leg roomfor them.
Take the car out on the road. Try to be able to drive the car in different conditions if possible. This might take a couple of trips to the dealership. If you are buying a used car this may not be possible so make the most of your first test drive. Take the car out on side roads, the freeway, stop and go traffic, hilly streets, wet conditions and dry conditions. If you are able to do some or all of this you will get a real feel for the car and if it handles like you want it to.
Buying a new or previously used vehicle is a big decision. It is probably the second most expensive purchase you will make, your home being the first. So this is not a situation to go into without the proper information. If you are well prepared you will not feel as pressured either at the dealership or buying from a private party into making a rushed decision. Remember to be Susan Smartie and not Sally Simple.