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Tips for Purchasing your Next Car

Does the purchase of a car seem like more hassle than fun? For many of us, time-crunched and wishing to hang on to our money, it does. Unfortunately, we can't expect a car to operate forever, so there comes a time when most of us are forced to buy a new or used car. Find out what you can qualify for now.

Estimates state that a new car loses 30% of its value in the very first year

The good news is that there are things you can do to lessen your sticker shock. Follow these tips and you will save money while acquiring a vehicle you like.

Decide what kind of car you want

Here's where the Internet really becomes valuable. You can find out much of what you need to know online, before you ever set foot out of your house. By doing some research first, you can shop for a car armed with knowledge and ammunition you never could have collected before this great resource came along.

Determine the options, color, make and model of the various cars that fit your needs. Many car-buying experts suggest that you buy a late-model used car instead of a brand new car. You can usually get a good warranty and your used car will not depreciate as drastically or quickly as a new car would. Estimates state that a new car loses 30% of its value in the very first year.

Learn everything you can about what you should pay

Discover the price you can expect to pay for the car you are interested in. This will help you decide whether to buy used or new.

If you are purchasing a used car, the following websites can help you determine a fair price: This is only a sample of the websites you might want to explore. If you prefer, you can purchase a Kelly Blue Book or NADA guide at a bookstore. Libraries also carry free information.

Check out the availability of the car you are interested in

Visit various dealers' websites in your buying area to determine if they have your particular car in their lots, and, if they do have the car you're interested in, find out how much they are asking for it.

Read the want ads in the newspaper. Circle those cars that might suit your needs.

Shop around on the Internet before visiting a dealer or seller in person. Compare prices, models and special deals (like rebates and 0 percent financing).

Collect all this information and make notes. Now you can figure out how far you're willing to negotiate with the seller. Determine your cutoff amount.

Don't forget the cost of insurance and gasoline

Check out the cost of your preferred new car's gasoline use. How many miles per gallon does it use? Some cars run better with supreme instead of regular gas, so find out what kind of gas your car will require.

Additionally, call several insurance companies and get quotes on how much the insurance will cost you. You might change your mind about the make and model you want after hearing these quotes.

Do you live in a weather-volatile state? If you get ice and snow, it would be wise to check out how various cars perform in these conditions before making a decision.

When purchasing a used car, ask these questions:

Does the car come with a warranty? What does it cover? How long does it last? Is your used car being advertised as "certified?" What does the seller mean by this? What does it include?

Will you save money by paying cash for the car, or would it be better to finance it?

If you plan to trade-in your old car

Generally speaking, you can get more money when you sell your car yourself. However, there are certain advantages to trading-in your car at a dealership as part of the purchase of your new car. It is simpler, for one thing. You don't have to take out ads in the newspaper or on the Internet, meet with prospective buyers or hassle with the price. In some areas, you pay less in sales tax if you trade-in your car while buying a new one.

Don't forget to carefully determine the value of your used car. The same books listed above for pricing out the cost of buying a car can also be used for determining a good estimate of the value of the car you want to sell.

You might be able to increase your trade-in value by visiting several dealers and asking each one what they will give you. If the dealer realizes that his sale depends on how much he gives you for your trade-in, it might make a difference. This is called competitive bidding.

Your credit score and financing a car

It really pays to know your credit report and score before shopping for a new car. A score of 680 or higher can get you a car loan at a competitive rate of 6 percent or lower, while those stuck with "Bad Credit Car Loans" can be made to pay 20 percent or more in interest.

If your credit is poor, but you have some time before you must buy a car, work to improve your credit score before you begin shopping.

In one very common scam, the reps at a dealer will leave the room to check your credit. When they return, they hold a sheet of paper proclaiming you a poor credit risk with a low credit score. This may or may not be the truth. Many times a dealer will try to make you believe your credit score is low so they can charge you a higher interest rate. If you know your credit score before going in, you can foil such scams. If you intend to pay cash, of course, your credit score doesn't matter.

Negotiate the price

These days, car buyers can often negotiate everything, except the test drive, via email before they go to the dealer's showroom. Most car dealers have sales people who work just with Internet customers. You can talk to them by telephone, too, if you prefer.

If you have done the important research before shopping, you will know what the general fair price should be, how much the dealer should come down and what you will agree to pay.

As with getting the best price for your trade-in, you can acquire competitive bidding on the price of the car you want. Once you have the lowest price in hand, call the other dealers you've been negotiating with, and ask if they will beat it.

Once you and the seller have agreed on a price, don't become lazy. The seller might try to sneak extras into your contract. If you don't want an extended warranty, make sure you are not charged for one. The same goes for other extras. If there are fees added into the contract that were not discussed, bring them up. You can often succeed in getting some fees eliminated.

Is safety important to you?

Although some of us are going to want that tiny, fast sports car no matter what, safety is something to consider when thinking about buying a car. Check out the following areas:

Seat belts - You won't have to worry that your car is without seat belts, unless you buy a used car where they have been removed for some reason. Just make sure that all the belts are in good shape, and that there are rear seat belts as well as forward seat belts. Are they adjustable? This makes them more comfortable, and some belts have a feature that prevents them from tightening too much and hurting your chest area in a crash.

Antilock brakes - These are a good thing to have, but many people don't know how to use them. They work somewhat opposite of what many older drivers were taught. Continuous hard pressure is needed to activate them. If you buy a car with antilock brakes, be sure you and the other people driving the car know how to use them.

The strength of the car body - It is unfortunate that the safest cars are also some of the most expensive. Check out how the body is structured to protect you in a crash. The bumpers should be able to absorb a lot of the force in a crash, and the best cars have steel in the side panels. You can check out crash rating tests at various websites, including This website has a lot of other information that can be helpful when you are ready to purchase a car.

Air bags - Although these can definitely save lives, you must be careful about them. They are very dangerous for small children and babies, and you should never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a car that has an air bag. Children under the age of 12 should also ride in the backseat and, of course, be buckled in. Air bags can protect you in most situations, however, and are good things if the car you are purchasing is new enough to have them.

For more information about car safety, check out (The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Car buying does not have to be a nightmare

If you take the time to prepare beforehand by using the tips in this article, you should have a far more enjoyable experience and end up with a car you will enjoy each time you drive it. Knowing you got a good deal will sweeten every mile.

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