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Car Buying "Homework"

Buying a car is too expensive an activity to enter with either bad information (and there's lots of it out there) or not enough information. When a single "misstep" could cost you thousands of dollars, spending a few hours (and maybe a few dollars) doing your "homework" can be one of the most profitable investments you can make.

Model Research:
When you have narrowed your research down to a type of vehicle, in all likelihood you will still have dozens of choices. As an example, let's say your needs and wants dictate a sport utility vehicle. If it is a new sport utility vehicle that your are interested in, your choices will include over 40 different models...domestic and import, compact, mid-size and full-size, ranging in price from the mid-teens to over $50,000!

Daunting, isn't it? So how do you choose? By getting your hands on as much information as possible, that's how! Just because a vehicle is available for sale doesn't mean that it is a good vehicle (or good for you)! Lots of cars and trucks have had short life spans on the market simply because they were, pure and simple, bad vehicles. Multi-billion dollar manufacturers can make mistakes, just like individuals can. Don't get caught falling in love with a vehicle that no one likes after they have bought it. So where do you start?

Sources of information

Internet Comparisons. The internet has a wealth of information available. Use your favorite search engine, or take advantage of online resources like Edmunds.com,or CarsDirect to aid you in your reseach.

Input from current owners.
Ask friends, family, neighbors or even strangers about their experiences with the car they own. Sometimes this is one of the most valuable sources of information since these people have been living with their vehicles on a day-to-day basis.. NOTE: If it appears that someone has an axe to grind, for whatever reason, eliminate their input. Because of their bias, their opinions are usually worthless.

From the Manufacturers. Obviously, this is the most biased information you will get, but it can help to narrow your search, especially when you are comparing similar vehicles from the same manufacturer family (for example, a Ford Taurus and a Mercury Sable). You will also be able to begin to focus your search on available powertrains, configurations and optional equipment.

From Dealers. Probably the least desirable source of information for obvious reasons. Not only will you have to enter the showroom and possibly contend with a sales pitch, you run the risk of getting only part of the story. (You may, however, want to visit dealerships during hours that they are closed. Walking the new car lot will often give you information on general specifications, optional equipment and the like).

Consumer Reports You gotta have it. Trying to pick a car without knowing comparative safety, service and reliability records is automotive suicide. In association with amazon.com, buy it here. It's a small price to pay to have tons of authoritative information.

Magazines. Some of the most up-to-date information can be found in the automotive press. Here you will often get unbiased opinions of various vehicles, as well as comparisons between similar models.

Guidebooks. There are a number of good car buying guidebooks that will give you good background information and help you in your preparation. Take advantage of the research the authors have done. You'll find a storehouse of information that is available for a bargain price.

Next Section: Comparisons

Checklist

Prepare
Online Sources
"Homework"
Guide Books

Compare
Buying Methods
Financing
Insurance

Prices
Price Quotes
Pricing Terms
No-Haggle Dealers

Financing

Warranties

Delivery

Ownership

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Be prepared and
compare prices
before
visiting dealerships. Examples:
Edmunds.com
CarsDirect