Depending on the type of person you are, buying a car can be a pain-in-the-butt or one of the most rewarding purchases you have ever done. Some people are bargain-hunters: always looking for the most bang for their buck; similarly, some people are hagglers: always looking to talk the sales person down to the lowest price humanly possible At the very extremes of the car buyer spectrum are the cheap skates and the big-spenders- both of whom put more emphasis on value rather than quality.
Whichever category you may fall under, below are five simple steps to finding the car that is right for you.
1. Decide What You Want
The first step and most important steps, is determining the brand, model, year of the car, and whether you want a new or used one. You need to know how much you want to pay and how much you can afford to pay.
Most people finance their cars, either via a lease or by taking out an auto loan; therefore, how much car you can afford will likely be influenced by your credit score. Beyond just whether or not you qualify for the loan or lease, think about whether or not the price is worth it and whether or not you are putting yourself in a position to damage your credit by overextending yourself. Find a price point where the payments will be manageable. While a comfortable ride is nice, no ride is not. If you extend too far, you’ll not only be without a car, but you will have damaged your credit.
2. Do Some Research Before You Step In The Door
One of the best things a car buyer can do is learn the invoice cost of the car you are thinking about buying. If you do not have a car in mind before going to the dealership, feel free to browse before ever even talking about a possible purchase. The invoice cost is the actual price the dealer paid for the vehicle. This is much easier to do for new cars- as the price tends to be consistent- but, for used cars the price can fluctuate due to a number of reasons.
For new car buyers, the best source for invoice cost inquiries is the Consumer Reports New Car Price Service. Knowing the invoice cost will give you an upper-hand when negotiating the price of the car- since the cost is always priced much higher (the sticker price.) A good tip to keep in mind is the difference between the invoice cost and the sticker price is the room you have to negotiate.
3. Practice Your Negotiating Skills
Once you know what kind of car you want and what your negotiating range is, it is now time to brush up on your negotiation tactics and start using them. There are numerous websites which can teach you the basics of negotiation. In the end, it is all about having the upper-hand, showing no weakness, not caving in and getting what you want. Car dealers are very used to negotiating, so don’t be shy. When negotiating, always bargain up from the invoice price, rather than down from the sticker price.
4. Watch Out For The “Special” Features
Once you’ve bargained the car to your ideal price range, and the car is nearly in your possession, the salesperson will almost always try to sell you on extra features. Sometimes, they may be features you actually want: tinted windows, cd player; however, sometimes they aren’t needed. In the end, if you didn’t plan on these features in the first place, then you don’t need them. This is the sales person’s final attempt to get what money they can out of you.
5. Always Think About The Future
In the end, you want a car that will last as long as you need it to. But, another thing to keep in mind when buying a new car, is the trade-in price. So, if you ever get tired of your car, or just want a new one, you can use the value of your new car towards an even newer car!