In The Driver’s Seat: Be Smart When You Buy A Car

October 9, 2012  |  


Buying a car can be frustrating  and confusing. The best plan of attack is to be prepared by doing your research.

“Know the price at which your models are sold for using NADA Blue Book, Kelly Blue Book, and Edmunds values. For used vehicles, research the prices on AutoTrader,” advises Glenn Sosa, author of SOLD: Don’t Go Poor and Miserable Being Sold Happiness. “Don’t trust Craigslist prices of autodealers as those tend to be over-inflated but prices of private (non auto dealer) sales on Craigslist tend to be very good (but be careful, unscrupulous dealers will sometimes list their cars as private sales.”

And, of course, the Web is a good resource. “Use the Internet to identify who carries the models wanted,” Sosa tells us, recommending and JD Power & Associates.

“Some membership clubs also have car buying services. The largest include Costco, AAA and credit union organizations,” says Elizabeth VanStory, president and CEO of  TireVan.

Adds Gordon Blau, editor at, “Also check the various car magazine sites, such as Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Automobile, Auto Week, and others, for expert, in-depth analysis.”

Resources for Women

While it probably doesn’t happen as much anymore, some dealers still don’t take women buyers as seriously. And there are some resources just for women, says VanStory, like Ask Patty and Women Certified.  “Things I would look for are testimonials from women on their website and, to the extent you can tell if it’s a woman or man, reviews on Yelp,” she says.

The Price is Never The Price

Time to bargain—even for new cars. “Make sure to get competing quotes from at least three to four dealers in your area, to get a feel for what a good price is at that time,” says Mike Rabkin, president of From Car to Finish. And skip the salesperson if possible “Managers are rarely compensated on commission, and just want to hit a monthly quota to get their bonus,” says Rabkin.

Used Car Tips

If you are looking to buy a used car, choose a dealer that someone you know has worked with. “Online reviews of dealers aren’t the same as hearing it from someone close to you, especially when you’re making one of the most important purchase decisions of your life,” says Max Katsarelas  marketing manager of Mojo Motors, a used car website. When you bargain, says Katsarelas, “Never show that you’re in love with the car and that you’re willing to walk away if you think the price is unfair.” The price on the car is just the “starting point,” says Blau.

And don’t negotiate on the monthly payments. “This is a common ploy of car dealers. Rather than negotiating the actual cost of the vehicle, they’ll ask you what monthly payment you’re comfortable with,” Blau says. This isn’t actually lowering the cost of the car, just spreading the monthly payments over a longer period.

Questions to Ask–Yourself
Before buying a car, ask yourself a few questions, says Blau.

  • “Is this the right car for me?” Be sure you understand your needs, and ideally identify more than one vehicle that satisfies them.
  • “Can I afford this car?” There’s nothing worse than going through all the work of researching and negotiating for a car, only to find out that the monthly payment is too high for your budget.
  • “Can you do better?”

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