• How to buy a car?

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  • It's been many years since I bought a new car. Of course these days one uses the internet and does all kinds of research beforehand. Can anyone point me to a guide about the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to go through the routine? I should not have to re-invent the wheel. Is there a 5 step process to get the best deal (in the US)? What has worked for you in the last year? Anything NEW to beware of?

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    Question by kevin kelly

How to Get the Best Deal on a Car www.buzzmachinestudios.com/samples/cardeal.jpg

Using the techniques described at the URL above I saved over $5,000 off the dealer sticker price when I purchased my brand new Honda Pilot.

Answer by jdt

I bought my most recent new car in 2005, so this advice might be a bit dated, but I don't imagine car dealers have changed much in the intervening years.

A friend of mine HIGHLY recommended the guide from http://www.fightingchance.com/

The web site is full of hyperbole, but the guide, which costs $40, is absolutely no nonsense. I used the techniques in the guide to (a) find a very hard-to-find car, (b) wait out the sales guys to get a great price for that car, and (c) get the car for less than the invoice price, despite most dealers wanting to charge me full retail because they knew the car was in short supply.

Any description of this guide's usefulness will sound like fluff, hyperbole, spam, or whatever, so I won't bother. I bought a $20,000 car for $163 under the invoice price and $800 less than my local dealer's best offer (after I waited them out for a month).

The guide also saved me a bunch of time and hassle by pointing out how to go through the car buying process efficiently. You might be able to cobble together all of this information by doing many hours of web searches, but at $40, I found the guide to be WELL worth the time and money I saved.

Answer by jonesey95

Edmunds Confessions of a Car Salesman is an excellent primer. It led me research my vehicle options online, do some looking around, and then email the fleet managers or internet sales department of 7 dealers in the area. It was so much more enjoyable than dealing with sales people.

I specified the vehicle and options I was looking for and a list of color priorities. It was a short list and I knew from online inventories there were several local matches. I made it clear that a purchase decision would be made by a certain date (4 days from the email). Out of the 7 dealers, 5 responded although one responded with no price and just an invitation to "test drive" their dealership. A sixth dealer did not give a price but had a website to make them an offer. I took the lowest bid, subtracted $200-300 (can't recall now) and submitted it to their site. They accepted and a day later I bought the vehicle.

Answer by robj

Rob Gruhl gave a short 5min lecture at Ignite Seattle 2007 on "How to buy a car and not get screwed" as he is one of the few people who actually enjoys this "last example of bare knuckle boxing negotiation left on the planet":

How to buy a car and not get screwed (YouTube)

Short, encouraging, a little sweary. Mere humans can also do this!

Answer by fatlimey

Your best answer is probably not buying a new car, unless you are emotionally set on it. Instead buy a near-new used car - one year old, for example - which you can often get an extremely good value for.

If you do a little research on new car prices and car sale prices, you'll see that what you may have heard really is true - the second you buy a new car and drive it off the lot, its value drops immensely. The flip-side of that is that if you're buying, an almost-new car can cost anywhere from 20-50% less than the best price you'd get on it new.

An example: I bought my current 2002 Toyota Corolla in 2003 for roughly $10,000 + tax when new Corollas were selling for $18-20,000; I was worried I would get a lemon but it is still going strong ten years and nearly 100,000 miles later. (My ex is still driving the Prism I bought 6 years before that, before our divorce, using the same approach.)

You want to avoid a car being resold rapidly because it had serious mechanical problems, so specifically look for sources where cars are routinely resold after a short time. Look for "fleet" cars - rentals or business-owned cars - which are often resold after one year. (They will have more mileage than usual that first year, but they are also likely to have had more regular maintenance.) Also look for used cars being sold by new car dealerships. When they take a trade-in as part of a new car sale, they will usually keep the ones which are newest and in best condition for themselves, as they're the easiest to resell, and will sell the rest to used-car brokers. The markup to you will likely be similar either way, and the new car dealers may have a bit more concern for their reputation. Buying directly from the owner may get you a better value without a dealer markup, but you have no warranty at all, and while it might be a gem, you need to consider that they also might be trying to unload a car that's been giving them trouble.

Whether shopping for a new or used car, don't get yourself set on a single brand or model you want, if at all possible. If you instead have a list of the 2 or 3 models that would suit you best, you have vastly more choices and a better negotiating position - if the dealer is asking too much for that Lexus you want, let them know you're going across the street to the Infiniti dealership and vice versa. (When I was shopping for my car back in 2003, I had a list of 3 or 4 models and years I was considering, but in the end got exactly what I had wanted.)

Buying a used car also gets into the same world of power plays as buying a new car, but in my experience you're generally in a better negotiating position there. Always be ready to walk away from the deal; never get set on one car, and remember there are always other deals out there. I generally don't like most negotiating or bargaining, but I have grown to grudgingly enjoy this kind of dealing.

This was much longer than I'd planned to write, but I wanted to clearly get across these few key concepts: Buy used; buy near-new; buy a car that's being resold for legitimate reasons; lean towards buying from a dealer, but consider owner-sold; shop for a list of models, not a single one; be prepared to bargain hard.

Answer by clifton

It's no use getting a great deal on a car that's not right for you. Best first step: Consumer Reports website. For $19, you can access new and used car buying guides, detailed car reviews, repair histories and ratings, lists of best cars for the money, historical ratings/reviews for used cars, and plenty more. For $14 extra, you can even get a detailed price report for a specific new car: you know the dealer's actual purchase price before you start, recommended options, comparisons of trim packages, alternative car suggestions, and negotiation advice.

Consumer Reports is non-profit, non-biased and accepts no advertising. Remember when the SUV rollover safety scandal broke? That was them. They've been sued multiple times by car companies for unfavorable reviews...and the car companies lose.

Plus, that $19 bought you a year's worth of Consumer Reports access. Their website is actually a Cool Tool in itself—I always start there before any major purchase, and there are helpful ratings of everyday items, too (Dishwasher detergent, peanut butter, chocolate...). For appliances, they also have graphs of repair history by brand (so you can see whether Hoovers or Dirt Devils tend to be more trouble free, for example). The website includes consumer reviews as well, which can be crucial (for instance, a highly rated dishwasher had low consumer reviews: it worked beautifully for about 2 years, then would burn out its motor). There's a car repair cost estimator, recall notifications for any type of product, money and health advice...really, it's the best nineteen bucks I've ever spent. Much of the site is accessible without a subscription, so you can get an idea of what's available. http://www.consumerreports.org

Answer by mamayama

My advice is for new car buyers, which I recognize won't help everybody. But my most recent purchase was new and I think I did OK; I got $7500 off list for a $40,000 car.

Some tips:

  1. Be sure of what you want--before pricing comes into the picture. It goes without saying that you need to research your car choice to make sure it meets your needs or desires. But do so before trying to find the right price. Use manufacturers' and 3rd-party websites as a guideline (e.g. so that you don't end up with something you can't afford), but don't get concerned over whether you can get the $35,000 car for $32,000 or whatever. Ultimately, you want a make, model, trim and, if possible, specific options.

  2. Once you've got your car specced as you like it, it's time to find the best price you can. First, see what the "actual retail price" is using the manufacturer's website. Keep track of what you did. I used an Excel spreadsheet, but a pen and paper work just fine. The key here is you need to have a line-item price for everything so you can compare apples to apples.

  3. Find help. You'd be surprised how many auto discounts are out there. I found discounts from my employer at the time (which had several manufacturers as clients), from AAA and Costco. You should also check your bank/credit card, AARP or any other large organizations to see if they have deals. Again, you need to map out every deal using the Excel spreadsheet or pen-and-paper system you have in place. That way, you can see where the savings are. I found that my employer's deal was the best, but Costco was a close second.

  4. Bring your paperwork to the dealer. It will allow you to cross-check anything he says ("that sunroof usually costs $5000, but I'm giving it to you for $2500..."). It also will make him nervous. Car dealers HATE prepared customers.

  5. Keep pen and paper handy. The dealer will keep mentioning pricing, trade-in allowance, downpayments and finance terms. Write each one down on your own pad so you can keep track. It doesn't take Rainman to see that he's dropping your price by $2000 and decreasing the value of your trade by $3000.

  6. Be patient. Let it take a while. The more time you can give and the greater impression you can give that you really don't care, the better.

One bonus tip: as soon as you get to the showroom, refuse to talk to anyone until someone pops the trunk on the car you want. Then measure the inside dimensions with a tape measure. Don't explain why. I did this years ago when I needed to see whether a new car could fit my kids' stroller and it utterly floored them.

Good luck.

Answer by plannerben

I use The Autoline. (http://www.the-autoline.com/). For $200 they will find the car you want and call you back with the best no haggle price they can find. I've used them three times now and am very happy with them. Each time they have arranged to have the dealer deliver the car to my house, so I never have to set foot in the dealership or hassle with the guy who pressures you to buy useless "clear coat" and other pure profit add-ons.

Answer by mark frauenfelder

Have to agree with Clifton. Would you buy a house that was guaranteed to lose 10-20% of it's appraisal value the moment you signed the closing papers? Yet that's what happens to a new car the minute you drive it off the lot.

I found Don't Get Taken Every Time by Remar Sutton (http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Get-Taken-Every-Time/dp/0143038885) to be an invaluable reference.

In the book, he not only gives you useful buying tips, but takes you inside the way the dealerships operate, the tricks they use to run up prices, even the mindsets that the various salespeople are likely to have. He also discusses the importance of using the right kind of financing, a crucial topic for anyone not paying cash for their car.

I read an earlier version of his book, but the link is to the updated one. I'll be picking that up when it's time to replace my wife's car.

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Answer by loin

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Answer by irfan

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Answer by irfan

It really depends whether you are searching for a used one or a brand new one. There is no difficulty in buying a new one of course if you have enough money. Although, finding used vehicles is a bit troublesome job and I think internet is the best way of doing so. There are plenty of places where you can actually find them, Automotix is one such decent place too which you can consider while looking for used cars at competitive price. alt text

Answer by macaviles
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