Car Buying Made Easy

Car for Sale

Recently I got to thinking about some of the things to consider when you are in the market for buying a new car. Honestly, for some of us older car guys, we would still have every car we ever owned. Of course, most people can’t hang on to their daily drivers forever. Sooner or later it becomes clear that you need to put together a plan for purchasing a new car.

Okay, maybe you would like to go out and buy that exotic sports car you’ve always dreamed about. But reality keeps telling you to stick with something that fits your lifestyle. Buying a car should not be about current trends, after all, it’s got to fit your needs and serve your purpose.

In many cases, buying a pre-owned car may be a good alternative. Basically, you can get a lot more features for a lot less money compared to the higher price of a new car. It’s true, new car values depreciate much more rapidly during the first few years, so the actual savings of this rapid depreciation is passed along to the second owner. Of course, there’s nothing like the feeling you get when you buy a new car. After all, with a new car, you get to choose the exact model, color and options. And that’s always fun.

Car for SaleAt this point in the process you will need to figure out exactly how much money you think you can afford to spend on car payments. A conservative approach would be 10% of your income per month going towards your monthly car payment. That’s about $100 per month for every $1,000 of income. For example, with an income of $3,000 per month, you would not want your car payments to exceed $300 per month. Of course, all of this depends on the actual purchase price of the car, your down payment along with the interest rate and length of the loan. The ideal situation is to stay within the monthly limits that you set for your own situation. That’s the key.

It’s important to choose the right vehicle. And that can be a bit overwhelming. Once you begin to focus on a specific make and model, your next step would be to compare pricing, specifications and options of other similar cars in the same class.

Keep in mind that the true cost of ownership is something that needs to be looked at over a period of years into the future. Of course, a lot of people are tuned into the yearly cost of fuel, which is printed on the window stickers of new cars. However, other yearly costs such as, depreciation, maintenance and insurance must not be overlooked. Although one car may have a lower purchase price, the cost of ownership may actually be higher over a number of years due to steeper depreciation, maintenance and fuel costs. The best advice is to always estimate the true cost of ownership over the long term.

Always plan ahead and do your homework before you go out to the car showrooms. Basically, you will need a worksheet divided into four squares. Write the Sticker Price of the vehicle plus fees such as, Title, Tags, Registration and Sales Tax in the Upper Right Square, the price of your Trade In will go in the Lower Right Square, your Down Payment in the Lower Left Square and the amount of your estimated Monthly Payment goes in the remaining Upper Left Square. Remember, these are your numbers based on your own research. It’s best to keep this worksheet to yourself and not share it with the salespeople at the dealership.

Your worksheet will become a work in progress, so keep it up-to-date as the buying process continues. And the best advice is to leave your worksheet at home when you go out car shopping. That way, you’ll be able to remain objective when you compare your numbers against those being offered by the dealership.

Next on your agenda would be to go online and begin to gather information. Along with visiting the manufacturer websites, you should also study the information available at the following sites; www.NADAGuides.com and www.Edmunds.com

You should only visit the car showrooms and take a test drive after you have done your homework. That way, you’ll be sure that the car you are interested in is clearly within your price range. The test drive will basically give you a glimpse of what it will be like to own that car for a number of years. So whatever you do, stay focused and do not allow the salesperson or anyone else to distract your thought process during the test drive.

Because you have already done your homework, negotiating your lowest price now becomes the easy part. Simply answer the salesperson’s questions and watch what happens next. Another worksheet, also divided into four squares begins to be drawn up. Only this time the salesperson gets to manipulate the numbers based on your answers to their questions. You’ll know rather quickly whether or not their numbers are anywhere close to the numbers you have back home on your own worksheet. At this point, do not sign anything! Just ask for a copy of their worksheet, take it home and objectively compare their numbers against your numbers. You should return to the dealership only when you know for sure that you’ve got a good deal.

Now it’s time to get ready to sign the paperwork. Be advised, this is the point in the process where unexpected additional costs may come into play. You shouldn’t be surprised when the salesperson or finance manager starts presenting costly additional items such as car alarms, fabric and paint protection along with extended service contracts. At this point you would be smart to only consider the peace of mind offered by purchasing an extended warranty. The choice is yours. Don’t feel pressured into signing off on any of these additional items.

Do not sign anything until you are sure the numbers on the deal match the numbers on the contract. Carefully review the contract and make sure there are no additional unexplained fees or charges. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and ask questions. Once you sign the papers, the deal will be complete.

Before you take delivery, most dealerships will wash the car and provide the first tank of gas. Keep in mind that you will have one final chance to inspect your new car before you take possession. It’s a good idea to walk around the car and look for scratches in the paint and that it’s free of any dents and dings. Make sure any optional items you paid for, such as floor mats are included.

Smile and take a deep breath. You’re ready to drive home in your new car!  Frank Canna has been in the detailing business for almost 25 years and is the owner of Mirror Finish Detailing, Williamstown, NJ. He can be reached at canna@verizon.net Twitter; @MirrorFinish

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4 Thoughts to “Car Buying Made Easy”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  2. Having been one of the top sales people for Mazda and SAAB in the Columbus market for nearly six years, I can tell you Frank is offering sound advice.The dealership and the sales person will make money on you. The customers who get the best deal are the ones that due their homework and leave their emotions at home.

  3. Brian Armstrong

    I know what you mean, it often feels like the car industry is behind the times (especially dealers).

  4. Johnweb

    Frank is right, especially about doing your homework. I would also check out http://www.truecar.com where you can do your homework and even buy the car without having to go through the whole dealer song and dance.

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