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Old 01-08-2009, 02:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default 10 Steps to Buying a New Car

Step 1: Starting out

These steps will help you to locate the specific car you want, and at a price that is fair to both you and the dealer. By now, you should have done plenty of research to determine which is the best car to suit your needs. And, you should have a good idea of what to pay for the car you want. Now you need to narrow the research even more. You will soon be finding the exact car you want to buy — with the options you have chosen — and then you will be determining a target price to pay. If you have done your homework, this will be a fairly easy process with no unexpected surprises.

Buying a car is a big investment, but it can be exciting and rewarding, especially if you feel like you got the right car at a fair price.

Step 2: Using incentives and rebates

Today's new car market is crowded and competitive. Many new cars are offered for sale with attractive incentives to make you choose a particular model. In some cases, the cars with the best incentives are those that aren't selling very well on their own.

An incentive is anything that gives you an added reason to buy a particular car. Often, however, it comes in the form of a cash rebate or low-interest financing. A car might be selling for $22,000 but the manufacturer is offering $3,000 in customer cash for a final price of $19,000. In another example, a $22,000 car financed for five years at six percent would have a monthly payment of about $550. But with zero-percent financing, the payment is roughly $480. That's a huge savings to you.

Check the Web site for the latest incentives and rebates available for the car you want to buy. You can also watch for TV and newspaper promotions but, remember, the incentives don't apply to all models and are not offered in all regions of the country. Furthermore, your credit must be very good to get the low-interest financing. And finally, keep in mind that there are some hidden incentives paid directly to dealers to push certain cars. tracks this so-called "dealer cash" as well, and posts the information in the incentives and rebates section of our Web site.

Research what incentives, if any, are offered for the car you want to buy. Print out this information and keep it in your car-buying folder as you move to the next step.

Step 3: Pricing the car

Car salesmen will usually point to a car's "sticker price" as the amount you have to pay. However, the price the dealership is willing to sell a car for is often well below the sticker price. How do you know what to pay? has created a valuable tool for car buyers called True Market Value (TMV®) pricing. Based on actual sales figures, TMV is the average price buyers are paying (also known as the "transaction price") for a certain type of car in your area. The TMV figures, found on, are adjusted for many factors including options, geographic region and color.

To calculate TMV, begin by looking up the car you want to buy on Follow the prompts to arrive at a final TMV price with options for the exact car you are buying. Keep in mind that this price includes the destination charge, which is levied by all manufacturers. (However, the invoice price might vary in certain regions where advertising costs and other fees are included. Edmunds recommends paying the fees listed on the invoice, but questioning any advertising fees that appear on the purchase contract.)

Now it's time to factor in the incentives and rebates you researched and printed in the previous step. Take the final TMV price and deduct the amount of the cash rebate. In other words, you create your best deal based on TMV, and then lower it by whatever the rebate is. If you are going to use low-interest financing, calculate your final buying price, then use our payment calculator to find your monthly payment.

Print these figures — the TMV, the incentives and the monthly payment — and carry them with you for reference as you continue the car-buying process.

Step 4: Finding the exact car you want to buy

You should now have a very specific idea of the car you want to buy. This means you know the make, model, trim level, options and color. The more flexible you can be about these specifics, the wider the range of the cars you'll find available for sale. Ultimately, the ability to consider several versions of the same model can give you additional bargaining power. For example, a shopper might be very firm about the make, model and trim level, but could accept a variety of options and colors. If you're a shopper who definitely wants hard-to-find options and a specific color, it will be more difficult to make a great deal. Why? You have no leverage as a negotiator. You have to pay the dealer's price or try to locate another identical vehicle. Obviously, if you do find the exact car you're looking for, there's no need to volunteer this information to the dealership.

In any case, locate the exact car you want by sending e-mails to the Internet managers of dealers in your area. On, you can simultaneously solicit quotes from multiple dealers. In many cases, you will have to follow up with a phone call. Say something like: "I'm looking for a 2003 Matsura Accell. I'm not too fussy about the color but I don't want black or white. I want ABS and side airbags. What do you have on your lot?" Often the salesperson will have to check his inventory and call you back. After a few phone calls you will have a good idea of how widely available the car is. If there are several dealerships offering the same car, you will be in a better position to make a good deal.

As you make phone calls and exchange e-mails, take careful notes. You should record information about each car you locate, including the color, options, and the dealership name. This will save time as you continue through the shopping process.

Step 5: Test driving the car salesman

As you call dealerships to locate the exact car you want to buy, you can also test drive the car salesman. In other words, you can determine if this is a person you want to do business with. It's a good idea to consider this issue ahead of time, before you get to the deal-making phase of the process.

The first way to evaluate a good salesperson is to ask yourself if you feel comfortable dealing with them. Are they impatient and pushy? Or are they relaxed and open? If you asked them about a specific car's availability, did they respond to your needs? Or did they try to steer you toward another car simply because they have too many of that model in stock? Do they return your phone calls? Do they answer your questions in a straightforward manner? Or are they evasive and confusing?

By considering these issues you should have a sense of whether or not you want to buy from this salesperson. If you feel comfortable with the individual when researching by phone, and if the dealership does indeed have the car you're interested in, set up a time to test drive the car, preferably when the dealership will not be very busy, such as a weekday morning. Before heading to the car lot, review all your notes and make sure you bring your car-buying folder. This might include your checkbook, registration and proof of insurance. Keep in mind that you're bringing these items so you'll be ready to buy a car if you get a fair deal. Don't feel obligated to purchase a car simply because you have all the necessary paperwork with you or because you test drove the car.
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