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Transportation: Getting the Best Deal on a Car

new car

image by RBerteig

This is a continuation of my previous post, When to Buy a New Car.

The television, radio and newspapers are full of dealership ads screaming about how much everybody needs a new car and how affordable they are, even if you have “bad credit, slow credit or no credit.”  For used cars, there are “buy here, pay here” lots everywhere.  Needless to say, for virtually every American out there who needs a set of wheels, you can get one.  But how can you actually get a good deal on that next vehicle?  How can you buy what you need without paying too much?  Here are my top three tips:

  1. Do your homework.  In “the olden days” (in other words, before the internet, HA!) this was pretty tough.  Nowadays, finding out what a car’s estimated value is and where to find what you’re looking for is as simple as a few minutes on websites such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, eBay motors, and even Craig’s List.  Don’t just go roaming around some weekend looking at car lots.  You’ll pay too much and are very likely to make a bad decision.  Decide what you want in your next vehicle, starting with the budget you can afford to pay.  Then work your way down the features: auto/manual, power/manual door locks/windows, fuel economy, two-/four-wheel drive, front-/rear-wheel drive, etc., etc.  Once you’ve done some research on these options, the shopping won’t be so overwhelming and you can make a better choice.
  2. Don’t rely on a dealer.  Is a car easier to find at a dealership?  Yes.  Will you pay more for it?  Yes.  When possible, I recommend buying your car from an individual rather than a dealer.  It will save you some money, the current owner will know more about the car, and he/she is usually more willing to negotiate on just about anything because they want rid of that ride.  A dealership has to make money.  That’s not evil; that’s just a fact.  The dealer also won’t know much about the car’s history and usually won’t be willing to give you the contact information for the previous owner so you can call and get those details.  While it may be harder to find the perfect car if you’re not looking at dealerships, check out local classifieds, eBay motors, Craig’s List and other local outlets where you can see what is out there before you give up and go to a car lot.
  3. Be ready to negotiate.  When I bought my last vehicle, after discussing the money for a while and getting close the final number, I literally walked out to my car, then back in with a stack of $100 bills.  Laying them on the man’s desk, I told him here was my offer.  That’s SERIOUS.  He had no question I meant business when he saw that stack of cash.  Was it maybe a little over the top – sure…but it was fun!  But notice I discussed the money with the man for a while first.  I negotiated.  You should be ready to talk numbers honestly, intelligently and ready to act if you can come to an agreement (or close).  You should also be ready to walk away if the seller won’t come within your budget.  That being said, if you don’t do your homework (item 1), you can’t do any part of this step very well.

Well, that’s about it.  Considering it is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life next to a house, and a purchase you’ll make more than once, don’t you think you should spend some time to get it right?  I know the answer is yes.  What about you?  What are some tips you’d offer for getting the best deal on your next ride?

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