Tips and Resources

Couple Car Shopping

Tips for Buying a New Car

  • Narrow down the model you want. Do your research on the Internet, go to dealerships and test drive, and talk to others who have the same kind of car.  Decide on one model before you try to buy and stick with it if at all possible.
  • Once you've decided what you want to buy, go to a valuation site like and look up the invoice price on the car and the current incentives.  Armed with the invoice price and MSRP of the model you want, you're ready to deal.
  • Choose a dealer. Perhaps you've heard something good about a dealer or you've purchased from a particular dealer before...these are good choices. Feel free to call the Better Business Bureau and check out a dealer. You can use their automated line in most cases and get up-to-date reports on the dealer's record of doing business.
  • Visit the dealership of your choice and choose a vehicle. Get what you want. Only rarely is there a need to settle for something less than you want.
  • After you test drive the car you want, tell your salesperson that you know what the car costs the dealership and that you are willing to pay a fair profit, but that you don't want to go back and forth. What's a fair profit? On a vehicle that is plentiful, 3% over invoice is fair for the dealer. If it is a hard to get vehicle, the market may indeed bear full sticker price. From here, you should deduct any applicable factory rebates. Usually these become comparable to the customer.
  • If you have a trade-in, go to Kelley Blue Book ( and get its value before heading to the dealership. Be careful not to put your vehicle in good condition if it is, in fact, not. (Use Kelley's quiz to help determine the condition.) Rarely will a trade-in bring excellent book value.
  • Let the dealer appraise your vehicle and make you an offer. Be sure to tell him or her all the good things about your regular oil changes, extended service policies, etc. Have your vehicle clean when you go in. It will bring more money.
  • Once you've agreed to the price of the new vehicle and the trade-in value – if applicable – you'll go to the finance department. You will be offered various products. Credit life insurance and credit disability insurance rates are set by the state. Therefore, they are not negotiable. However, extended service policies are.
  • If you don't want the dealer to look at your credit file, don't give up your social security number. On the other hand, a dealer cannot quote you an accurate payment without looking at your credit.
  • Read everything you sign. Make sure the figures that are on the contract are what you agreed to. Look at all the numbers. Any added items to the contract will show in a prominent place. Make sure the interest rate is acceptable to you. Once you've signed everything, you are an owner, so be sure of what you are signing.
  • Don't get pressured. If you feel uncomfortable, politely leave and go to another dealer.

Buying a car can actually be a pleasant experience. Arm yourself with facts before you go in and you can feel more confident about the process! 

Excerpted with permission from Jerry Reynolds-The Car Pro.