Unless you really like spending time in car dealerships haggling over the details of a car purchase, try to minimize the hassle by using your computer or mobile device to accomplish the legwork before settling down to the details.
If you have a particular vehicle in mind, check Consumer Reports for ratings, reviews and updated car news, There also are sources such as AutoSMART that make it easy to shop and compare both new and used vehicles online.
Compare dealer prices by emailing an internet sales representative and get quotes. Be sure to include taxes and fees, since they can add appreciably to the vehicle cost. If you want particular features, alert the dealer so the question of add-ons doesn’t come up in the final analysis.
Get your loan pre-approved. Know up front what interest you are likely to pay on a loan and be certain how much you have to offer for your new car. If you are considering financing through the dealer, compare first with the other options you have.
Establish the value of your current vehicle. Kelley Blue Book, Craigslist and other sources can give you an idea of the value. Knowing will help you if the plan is to sell the old car to help finance the new vehicle or deal for a trade-in.
Check out current promotions. Your local dealerships may be offering special deals. Look into them in detail to see what the offer means to you personally. The offers most often hold out decreased interest or a “cash back” option as the incentive.
Take the test drive. It’s like the first meeting between prospective couples. Online photos are nice, but don’t always tell the whole story. Take the test over a route that is similar to the one you expect to travel most, such as the drive to work. How does the car handle? Are you comfortable with turns? Does acceleration meet freeway needs? Are you comfortable with the vehicle in stop-and-go situations? If you have reservations, now if the time to express them.
Test out features such as fuel economy, cargo space, seat comfort, safety, information and entertainment provisions. How easy will it be to install a child’s safety seat? Can more hefty family get in and out easily and have room to sit comfortably? A short test drive may not answer all these questions.
Take your time making the final decision. If you think you need more information, rent a similar vehicle and use it for a few days. The prospects of a long-term relationship with a vehicle make it worth the extra effort.