Next to buying a mattress, purchasing a vehicle is probably one of the most perilous shopping experiences I can think of. Car dealerships confuse you with 'MSRP' and 'invoice prices'; distract you with discussions about monthly payments and financing rates; and finally squeeze every dollar out of you by adding documentation fees and registration fees. If you are not prepared, you could end up paying quite a bit more than you should for a new car.
Fortunately, the internet has made it easier to get the information you need to avoid getting bamboozled. Hubs and I are in the process of purchasing a car. Here I'll compile all the tools that we used to educate ourselves before we even stepped foot into a dealership.
Product reviews are probably my favorite thing about the internet (well, maybe next to Pinterest) and considering the amount of money one spends on a vehicle, both in purchasing and maintenance, car reviews are probably the most valuable. So, to help you choose a vehicle check out the following sites for both expert and consumer reviews:
- Edmunds -- A comprehensive auto site with reviews on thousands of vehicles and helpful calculators and tools.
- US News Ranking and Reviews -- Here you can see how cars stack up against the other vehicles in their class.
- Cars -- Great for consumer reviews.
Once you've narrowed down the list of possible vehicles, arm yourself with pricing knowledge. TrueCar is a tremendously valuable site that compiles purchase records of cars both locally and nationally. So, it can actually let you know how much you should pay, as well as what a good or great price for a car really is. In addition to the free car pricing information, TrueCar also gives you a haggle-free, guaranteed price quote on brand new cars and trucks from local dealers in your area.
Inventory. Inventory. Inventory
It's a well-known fact that you have a lot more negotiating leverage when the car you're shopping for is on the lot. So, once you choose model, make, and trim, go to the car manufacturer's website and search for local inventory. Once you've found dealerships in your area that have your desired car, then you can verify that inventory on the dealer's site. You'll have a better chance of negotiating a lower price if they have a substantial inventory of the particular car that you are looking for.
Unexpected fees including destination fees, documentation fees, and registration fees can send the cost of a car skyrocketing very quickly and surprise you if you're not ready for them. Edmunds has created a chart with all the basic car-buying fees. In addition, they show how sales tax on trade-ins and rebates is handled (both differ from state to state). This information should help you estimate the true cost of your purchase so that you're not surprised when you go to the dealer.
I'm sure there a many more tips and tricks -- so if you have any, be sure to leave them in the comments.