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5 Things To Do Before You Buy A Car

By Mark Riddix

Buying a car should not feel like taking a trip to the dentist. Many car buyers make their visit to the dealership much more painful than it needs to be. An uninformed consumer is fresh prey to an unscrupulous salesman. You can avoid being taken advantage of by preparing yourself even before you ever set foot in a showroom. Knowledge is power, and this is ESPECIALLY true when buying a car. Here is some advice based on experience for how to prepare yourself before walking into a car dealership:

1. Researching your car online.

Do your homework before visiting the dealership. The Internet is a great resource for your car buying needs. Check out reviews for the make, model, and specifications of the car that you are buying. Look for the average selling price in your area. Sites like Edmunds.com are very useful resources for finding all of this information. Bring a folder containing the information so that you have a reference point to refer to. Too many people go to the dealership lacking the necessary information.

2. Research the dealership.

This is a step that is overlooked by many car buyers. Look up ratings and reviews for the dealership that you are visiting. Visit online forums and sites with dealer rankings. Pay close attention to what past customers have to say about a particular dealership. This way you can stay away from high pressure dealers. There is no worse feeling when buying a car than feeling like you were ripped off when you bought your car.

3. Work out your financing in advance.

If you have cash to pay for your vehicle, then financing is not a concern. For most people this is not the case and they need to use some form of traditional financing. One of the best places to go for financing is to your local credit union. Credit unions are well known for their low interest rates and open financing policy. Compare rates against the ones offered at your credit union. Never wait until the last minute to get your financing in place. If you rely on dealer financing then you are subject to the dealer’s loan terms which can sometimes cost you an arm and a leg.

4. Know your trade-in value.

It’s important to know the value of your trade-in before going to the dealership. Car dealers are notorious for low balling customers when buying their trade-ins. They will use tactics such as increasing the price of the car to the same amount of your trade-in. Your best bet may be to sell your trade-in via a private sale to get the maximum value. Use sites such as Kelley Blue Book as a starting point for selling your trade-in.

5. Do a credit check-up.

Why wait until you get to the dealership to find out your credit score? You should take a look at your own credit before getting there. Too many people let multiple dealers run their credit. Some unethical dealers will actually lie and say that you cannot test drive a car until they run your credit. This is 100% false. Did you know that more than two inquiries on your credit report will actually lower your credit score? Besides, you may catch a credit score error which you can fix for free. So save yourself from any unneeded hassle or embarrassment and run your own credit!

(Photo credit: emilio labrador)

Mark Riddix
Mark Riddix is the founder and president of an independent investment advisory firm that provides personalized investing and asset management consulting. Mark has written financial columns for Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area newspapers and is the author of the book, Your Financial Playbook.

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Comments

  • David Bibby

    Savvy salespeople will try to turn your car buying purchase in to an EMOTIONAL decision rather than a logical, practical decision. They talk to you in terms like “How does it FEEL to be in THIS car!” or “Don’t you just HATE that old car you’re driving.”

    They will always try to steer you towards the “NEWEST” car, knowing full well how much the value drops after you drive it off the lot.

    Best thing I’ve ever learned. Don’t every buy a new car. Buy a car that’s about 2 years old and you’ll pay HALF as much as the owner who bought it new.

    • Mark Riddix

      David,

      I always bought my cars new in the past only to see them depreciate rapidly. I agree that a 3 to 3 year old automobile is the better buy. You get a relatively new car and save a whole lot of money.

  • Chris

    I bought a 2004 Jetta that was in great shape, and was inexpensive to begin with. But then I refinanced with a credit union I found through MoneyAisle.com and lowered my monthly payments even more. So, a lightly used car is definitely the way to go to save yourself some money.

    • http://buylikebuffett.com/ Mark Riddix

      I agree!

  • Kim Chang

    Buying a car is a form of psychological warfare… forewarned is forearmed!

    The dealership wants you to pay more than MSRP with the add ons…they cleverly put an additional price tag on a vehicle with the “options” they have added. For example, three of the biggest rip offs are pinstriping, fabric protection and paint sealants. They charge an additional $200 to $300 for pinstriping that costs the dealer $20 a roll for (and they can do a pinstripe job on at least two cars with a roll of the striping tape), $300+ for fabric protection when the cost of a couple of cans of Scotchguard is $20, and $300+ for paint sealant, whih is nothing more than a $20 bottle of car wax and must be re-applied every 6 months or so or the “warranty” is void.

    Trust me.. they love someone who comes in with the doe in the headlights look.

    They hate educated consumers.

    Also – check insurance prices before you buy. U don’t want to buy a car that will cost $100/month to insure. You can probably get insurance for around $25/month (check 4AutoInsuranceQuote). Oh yeah, and don’t buy a gas guzzler either!

    It isn’t really a lot of work.. an hour of reseacrh can be done on line, saving thousands in the showroom.

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