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Establish your mindset: A lot of the reason for either success or failure when buying a car has to do with your mindset: Successful car buyers have the attitude that "I can win this game. I can learn enough about the cars that are available, educate myself about the workings of the car business, understand how financing works, and take control of the process so that I can save myself money." Those who are unsuccessful at buying a car usually don't take the time to get prepared, and as a result leave themselves at the mercy of car dealers and salespeople for their information. Talk about leaving the fox in charge of the hen house!

Choose the method you want to use to buy the car: No longer do you have to simply accept what a dealer offers or be forced to spend days or weeks running from one dealership to another comparing prices and deals (and frequently getting frustrated in the process.) The Internet has definitely started to revolutionize the car business--opening new options for the consumer.

choosing a car
Choose the type of vehicle: Match your needs first, then your wants. It sounds elementary, but many car buyers do it the other way around and end up with a vehicle that they like on the one hand (it is what they wanted) and hate on the other hand (it doesn't fit their needs). Make a list of features that you absolutely must have (needs), and then make a list of features that you would like to have if they fit into your budget (wants). You need to do this long before you ever set foot in a car dealership showroom. Trying to decide which features are important to you while in the dealership (with a salesperson and the new car smell urging you along) will only cost you money and cause you grief.

Differentiating between needs and wants:

Examples of Needs

Examples of Wants

4 Doors Blue car with tan interior (or any specific color)
Station wagon or Minivan Sport wheels
Automatic Transmission 6 disc CD Player
Air Conditioning Upgraded interior
Luggage rack Sunroofs/moonroofs (unless you are really tall!)
Child safety seats Spoilers/ground effects
Towing package (if you are planning to tow a boat, trailer, etc.) Engine with more horsepower than you need.
Rear defroster/heated mirrors Electronic gauge package

Develop your own list of items that are "gotta haves" and those that will go on a "wish list"--meaning that if the numbers (the price) fit, you may want to add them. Carve your list in stone and refer to it when shopping for a car. Then you won't find yourself in the position that so many do: with a nosebleed car payment due to "extras" that become boring a few days after taking delivery of the car.

Make a choice between new cars and used cars: Don't just assume that either a new car or a used car is the right choice. Take a second to match your situation and desires with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

NEW CARS--Advantages

USED CARS--Disadvantages

Warranty: Full factory warranty Warranty: May only have balance of factory warranty or no warranty at all
No potential abuse Where has it been? How has it been used?
Factory support Limited or no factory support
Lower financing rate In general, higher financing rate
Full range of leasing options Limited or no leasing options
Lemon Law coverage Limited or no Lemon Law coverage

NEW CARS--Disadvantages

USED CARS--Advantages

Higher price Lower price
You take the hit for depreciation Initial depreciation has already been taken
Little price variation More price variation (you can always go one year older on a similar car and pay less)

If you are considering a used car, see our
Used Car area.

Seek advice: The number one mistake that car buyers make is assuming that, when it comes to buying a car, they "know it all." Perhaps it has to do with machismo or ego, but many will ignore good advice because they are too set in their ways to accept it. As they say, "it's your money" and "a fool and his money are...." Take advantage of the information on this Web Site--there's a lot of it--but don't make the mistake of believing you can figure it all out by what you read here (or on any other Web Site). We know the car business extensively and have developed these pages to help, but we don't believe that you can get everything you need to know from a single source.

Prepare your finances: If you are planning to finance the car, now is the time to begin to get things in order, not after you have committed to buy. Start by running a complete credit check to eliminate the possibility that there might be errors present that could harm--or stop--the financing. You can get a free copy of your credit report from Consumer Info by clicking here. Then, you can begin the process of arranging for financing for the car. Waiting until you go to the dealer to do this can cost you a great deal of money since you have nothing to compare their financing against. See our section on financing for more information.

Get your insurance in line. After your car payment, your insurance costs will probably rank second in total outlay. Overspending on insurance is as deadly as overspending on the car, or on the financing. See our insurance pages for hints on saving money and a way to get competitive quotes online. With one simple application, will get you insurance quotes from top-notch insurance companies.

If you have a trade in, determine how to dispose of it: Trading in your vehicle at the dealer where you buy your car may not be the best thing to do. It could actually cost you tons of money. See our trade in page for more information. Whether you decide to trade it or sell it on your own, prepare your car!

Get familiar with the kinds of advertising you will encounter. Automobile advertising is definitely a special breed. Being unfamiliar with it can cost you money and lots of time chasing unattainable deals.

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