Everyone loves that new car smell, but no one loves the process of getting there (i.e. buying a car). The sheer number of options available on the market, coupled with the fear of getting ripped off, as well as the pressure car salesmen put on the consumer to make a quick decision, all add up to a stressful and unpleasant experience. That’s why it’s important to remember that ultimately the decision is up to you.

Don’t get bullied into choosing something that you don’t really want just so some guy on the lot can make his monthly sales quota. Here are some tips to help you get started:


Be strategic about when you shop: When you shop matters. Shopping on a weekday when the dealership is less busy can help ensure you get the salesman’s full attention. Likewise, shopping at the end of a month or quarter, when sales quotas need to be met, can give you the upper hand during negotiations. Also, don’t hesitate to take advantage of year-end savings and winter discounts. Springtime is generally considered the least advantageous time to buy.
Use the internet: The days of doing everything in person are over – that includes shopping for a car. Although you’ll still need to go to the dealership to make your final negotiations and purchase, you can do most of your research online at sites like CarQuotes.com and CarBuyingTips.com.
Check recall by VIN (Vehicle Identification Number): If you’re buying a used car you’ll want to look up the vehicle’s VIN in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database to determine if the car was recalled and, if so, that the necessary repairs were made. Nothing will make you feel more ripped off than finding out, too late, that your car is faulty in some way.
Don’t be fooled by a low monthly payment: Many dealers will offer to lower your monthly payment making you think you’re getting a good deal. Consumer Reports offers the following advice for handling this situation: “Using the monthly payment as the focus, the salesperson can lump the new-vehicle price, trade-in value, and financing or leasing terms together, giving him or her too much latitude to give you a ‘good price’ in one area while making up for it in another. Instead, insist on negotiating one thing at a time. Settle on the vehicle’s price first, then discuss a trade-in, financing, or leasing separately, as necessary.”
Skip the extras: Add-ons such as rust-proofing, fabric protection, paint protectant, and VIN etching can all be purchased elsewhere, or done yourself, for far cheaper. Extended warranties also wind up costing more than their value if you buy a reliable vehicle or plan on keeping the vehicle for less than five years
Avoid buying the “hot” new model: It might break your heart, but if you want to get a deal, it’s not a good idea to buy the most popular trending car out there. The reason – the vehicle’s hype increases demand, allowing the dealer to charge what they want.
Take the test drive: It might seem like common sense but one mistake people often make is not taking the car out for a test drive before deciding to buy it. It might look good in person, as well as on paper, but a vehicle’s looks don’t provide any information about how it drives. Just as meeting a person face-to-face (as opposed to on the web) can quickly inform you of many details about who they are, getting behind the wheel and taking a car out for a spin will quickly let you know if the car is a possible fit.
Keep an open mind: Getting your heart set on a particular model before you’ve even started looking can blind you to a better choice or lead you to getting ripped off. By broadening your research and keeping an open mind you might end up finding the perfect vehicle you didn’t even know existed.
Walk out: The most powerful weapon in your arsenal is your ability to walk out of the dealership without making a purchase. About 80% of potential customers leave without buying something – a fact that salesmen are well aware of. If you feel uncomfortable at any time with how negotiations are going, or if the salesperson tries to raise a price that was negotiated over the phone or via the internet, don’t hesitate to leave.
Take your time: No one plans a wedding or a vacation in just a few days. Yet many people are quick to invest a large chunk of change in a vehicle with little to no time for shopping around and research. Putting on the brakes can not only save you money, but you’ll feel better about your decision knowing you did everything you could to make an informed one.
Now that you’ve armed yourself with these tips, you can feel like you’re securely in the driver’s seat before you even leave the sales lot.

Happy car hunting!