Taking the Stress Out of Buying a Car

Buying a car is a major purchase, and can be a daunting task if you aren’t prepared. Before purchasing a vehicle or even going out to look at a dealership, you should think about what you need in a vehicle, as well as what you can afford to spend.


At different times of the year, car dealerships will roll out new car models on their showroom floors, creating a need to sell older models, and can mean deep discounts for those vehicles. Keep this in mind when deciding whether you want a new or older model.


Also, thinking about whether you are interested in a new or pre-owned (used) car can help you narrow down a list of potential dealers. Consider your options and don’t be afraid to travel to an out-of-town dealership to look for the perfect vehicle.


Once you have an idea of the type of car you are looking for, start your research. Visit car research websites, such as www.ConsumerReports.org, or check annual car reviews at the library. Many such reviews will offer evaluations and comparisons of the models in your price range that best meet your needs and wants. Check sources such as the Kelley Blue Book or its website, www.kbb.com, and call several dealers for quotes.


Next, look at alternative financing and insurance plans. Many dealerships provide these in-house, but you may find a better deal through a third party. Car loans are available through banks, credit unions, finance companies and dealerships.


When you speak to the dealership of your choosing, be sure to ask questions. New car dealers are legally bound to provide performance data for stopping distance, passing ability, acceleration and tires. Some used-car dealers offer warranties, but many sell their cars “as-is,” meaning there are no warranties or guarantees. When buying a used car, ask if you may take it to a mechanic to be inspected. Ask if the car received routine maintenance or has had any major repairs. The dealer should be able to provide you with the name and address of the former owner and with copies of work orders for repairs and maintenance.


Finally, once you’ve made your decision and are getting ready to sign the papers for your new car, review the contracts closely before you sign. Make sure the terms are as represented and that any trade-in is reflected correctly. Ask for written clarification of any unclear clauses and cross out items you didn’t request, such as an extended warranty.

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