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Advice on buying  a new or used vehicle.

Circumstance required that I purchase a couple of vehicles in a relatively short period of time.  While I already was familiar with the basics, I learned a lot by perusing the internet.  There are some people who've devoted entire sites to the finer points of purchasing vehicles - I will not try to duplicate their efforts.  Instead I'll just give a few, brief hints, and some links to the more useful sights I've encountered.

Advice:

1. Pre-arrange your loan somewhere other than a car dealership.  Bank, credit union, savings & loan, it doesn't matter - just as long as you know in advance how much you're approved for. When a car dealer knows your credit history (especially if it's weak), he has a TREMENDOUS advantage in the bargaining process. (You know you're in the wrong situation if you hear the salesman ask: "So, how much would you like to pay (or can you afford) each month?")  When you, the customer, walk in to a dealership and tell the salesman that you've got your own financing, and you won't be making a trade, the whole deal has been reduced to just one thing - the right price for the vehicle you want.   Ask your bank if they'll do a sight draft for your loan.  A sight draft works like a check - at the time of purchase you just fill in the information - dealer's name, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and loan amount.  Voila !  Done! For the dealer, it's a cash deal!

2.  Research the specifications for the vehicles you're interested in.  Not only are specifications available on the net, but so are consumer reviews, owner's reports, and road tests.  Narrow your choices down to just one or two vehicles. So far, all your shopping has been done in the virtual showroom, but now you can go to a dealer and kick some tires.

3.  Find out how much the vehicle that you want costs.  What the dealer paid, the factory invoice price and Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Also, find out how much the vehicle is actually selling for (all this info can be found on the web). This information is IMPORTANT. Only when you know what the dealer paid and what a "fair" profit for that vehicle is, are you in a position to deal.

4. Consider special ordering your vehicle.  If the dealers in your area don't have the vehicle that you want (and you're willing to wait), ask them to order it for you.  I used to think that this would be more expensive than buying one out of existing stock, but it's not.  In reality, special orders cost the dealer LESS (because of lower interest and inventory costs) and thus they should be willing to negotiate a fair price and pass their savings on to you. One warning though - you must know EXACTLY what you want, as they usually will not allow you to make changes once the order has been forwarded to the factory.

Some Useful Links:

car buying tips This web site has a complete tutorial covering everything you need to know when buying or leasing a car.
CARPRICES Complete pricing and specifications for new and used vehicles.
Dealer Holdback for Cars and Trucks Find out what the dealers REALLY pay for their cars.
CarPrice Complete pricing and specifications for new and used vehicles.
Kelley Blue Book On line vehicle pricing from the experts.
The Car Connection More assorted info.