Buying a car can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but not if you are poorly prepared. Make sure that you're ready when you buy a car -- know the important information that will ensure you get your dream car and not a lemon. By being prepared, you will be ready to negotiate with the dealer and get the most bang for your buck.
Your Trade-in Value
If you have a car you plan to trade in, research its value with a service like Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com), NADA Guides (nadaguides.com) or Edmunds (edmunds.com). This will allow you to negotiate a fair price with the dealer.
Know the car's fuel economy in miles per gallon so that you can compare vehicles and know what to expect at the pumps. This information is available from a special website set up by the Department of Energy (fueleconomy.gov).
Know the features that you are looking for before you get to the dealer's lot. This can help you avoid being sold on added features that you don't want or need.
Out of Town Prices
Call dealerships in neighboring states to find out their prices on the vehicle that interests you. Use these prices to negotiate with your local dealer, or consider travelling to get a better deal.
Visit the manufacturer's website or contact them directly to find out what rebates they are offering. Dealers may not make these rebates known to you, choosing to pocket the difference.
Know how much you can afford to spend and how much you want to spend. Find out what your bank will lend you and decide how much of that you want to spend on a car. This can keep you from spending too much once you begin shopping.
If you're buying a pre-owned car, you should research its history. You can find out if the car has been in reported accidents that may have caused damage through services offered by companies like Carfax (carfax.com), Carproof (carproof.com) or Autocheck (autocheck.com).
Contact you local Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) or use online review sites like DealerRater (dealerrater.com) Angie's List (angieslist.com) to find out about your car dealer's reputation. Be wary of a dealership with a poor record.
The invoice price is the amount paid by the dealer to the manufacturer -- it is usually much lower than the sale price. Find it out from services like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds or NADA Guides so that you know the dealer's bottom line.
Most important, consider what you need in a car -- good fuel economy, reliability, a sporty look? This should strongly influence your choice, because it is a decision you will have to live with.
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images