5 Things to Consider When Car Shopping

Buying a new car is a process that can be fraught with indecision. It is, after all, a very large purchase for most people (generally costing several thousand dollars and often requiring the buyer to take out a loan) and there are so many options to choose from. You have to set a budget, choose a brand, consider size, shape, and economy, and read consumer revues (to compare cost, safety, and overall value). It is a process that could take weeks or months, although salesmen will almost certainly try to rope you into buying before you leave the lot. And between the sticker price, additional fees and extras, and the interest on a loan, you will shell out a hefty sum before you’re done. But since you’re probably going into it with some idea of the vehicle you’re looking for (brand, size, amenities, etc.), here are just a few things you may want to consider before you settle on a car.

1. New vs. used. Although you may have the money (or credit) to get a new vehicle, the fact that it loses value the minute you leave the lot could be a little off-putting. On the other hand, used vehicles come with a lower price tag, but who knows what kind of damage the previous owners caused (that will come back to haunt you). A good compromise is to purchase a certified pre- owned vehicle. Often they have had only one previous owner, they tend to be just 1-2 years old, they generally have low mileage, they have undergone a full dealer inspection and repairs, and they come with at least a partial (if not a full) warranty. In short, you’ll get most of the benefits of a new car without the attendant cost.

2. Dealers vs. private parties. When you buy from a dealer, you know that you’re going to get a car that runs (virtually problem free for at least a year) because if you don’t, lemon laws dictate that the dealer must replace your vehicle. This works for both new and used cars (with some disclaimers that vary by state). When you buy from a private party, you won’t have the same protection. So just make sure that you bring along a mechanically-minded friend to check out the engine and let you know if you’re going to make a killing or lose your shirt by buying from a private party.

3. AAA discount. Most people don’t realize that there are a lot of dealers that offer a discount to members of the American Automobile Association. Often it is a set percentage over cost, so there is no haggling involved (which is a relief to many buyers). And you’re bound to walk away with a decent savings on your new or used car.

4. Eco-friendly. Although these environmentally-conscious automobiles will cost you a lot initially (between higher-priced vehicles and expensive garage equipment that has to be installed for charging), you can actually save a lot over time. You’ll cut back on your cost at the pump, you can apply for government rebates (at both the federal and state level), and you’ll also be doing your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Sticking to a budget. This can be a difficult thing to manage, especially when the dealer is telling you how you’ll save money by purchasing this or that extra now, but by selecting a car that is priced well under what you intend to spend, you can still get the add-ons you want without blowing your budget.

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