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5 Things To Do Before You Buy A Car


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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 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.

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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)


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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."