Top Five Tips for Buying a New Car

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Find a great car at the right price with these top five new car buying tips.

If you're in the market to buy a new car but aren't familiar with the new car buying process, these five tips should assist you in finding a great car at the right price.

Tip 1:  Be prepared

When it comes to buying a new car, there's a lot you should do before you visit your local dealer.  To begin, determine the car that's right for you and your lifestyle.  Today's car buyers have a variety of options — from compacts and convertibles to crossovers and SUVs — so finding a vehicle that best fits your budget, your lifestyle, your needs and your personality has never been easier.  Pay attention to factors such as the number of people you'll need to accommodate, the type of driving you'll do, the optional equipment that interests you most and your overall budget. The Internet is a great shopping tool to research body styles, interior room, color choices, optional equipment information, towing and hauling capacities, new car test drives and expert reviews.  Use this information to develop a list of your top new car prospects.  Once you decide on that perfect ride, it's time to crunch the numbers.

Tip 2:  Know the price

By now, you should have some idea of your budget and the total new car price you can afford to spend.  Keep in mind that even though the sticker price, or the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), is your initial starting point, there's a high likelihood you'll pay less than sticker due to discounts such as manufacturer-backed incentives and rebates or special savings programs offered by your local dealer.  Check new car prices online, do your math and focus on a final, out-the-door number by factoring in things such as destination charges (levied by the manufacturer), as well as any applicable state fees that vary depending on where you live.  If you plan to finance your car, input the final sales price into a payment calculator to determine what your monthly car payments will be.

Tip 3:  Take a test drive

Now is the time to test drive the top new car prospects on your list.  You can visit local dealers for test drives there or you can ask family and friends with the same or similar cars to take theirs for a spin.  Don't forget to check local rental car agencies also, since they may have one or more of the vehicles on your list available for rent.  During the test drive process, get in and around your new car prospect and examine it closely to be sure you're pleased with the features you find most important.  Drive on city streets and highways to get a broader perspective of its handling. Pay attention to characteristics such as comfort, acceleration, noise, braking and steering. 

Tip 4:  Submit a purchase request

Now that you've determined the make, model and trim level of the new car you want, it's time to find it.  Begin by submitting a new car purchase request online to multiple dealers in your area.  Dealers will check their inventory to determine if they have the vehicle you're interested in buying and they will email you or call you with a price quote, depending on your contact preference.  You may find that multiple dealers have your car in stock, which puts you in a better position to negotiate a good deal.  Be sure to take detailed notes and keep track of the information you receive from each dealer.  Even though they might not have your exact vehicle in stock, they may be able to locate it elsewhere.  Keep in mind the more flexible you are about features such as colors and optional equipment, the easier the process will be.   

Tip 5:  Close the deal

Once you find your car and choose the dealer from which you'll purchase it, it's time to review the sales contract closely.  Make sure the numbers you were quoted match the numbers in the contract.  Take your time reviewing the documentation and be sure to ask questions if something appears incorrect, if there are additional charges beyond what you were quoted, or if there are extra costs for unexpected add-ons such as security systems or custom wheels.  When it comes time to take possession of the vehicle, do a final walk around to ensure the paint, wheels and windows are free of damage.  If you notice any problems, be sure to obtain — in writing — a commitment of repairs from the dealer before you drive off the lot.

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