Shopping for a new car is exciting. Actually buying a car of your own choosing, however, can be more of an ordeal.
Once luxury options have become standard and companies are now marketing hybrid and electric cars at multiple price points, from the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt to the upscale Tesla Roadster. If you want a modern car, you can get it at any price.
Cars are also boasting sophisticated technology, ranging from voice-controlled texting and automatic pedestrian detection to in-car web surfing and real-time tracking tools for parents of teen drivers.
None of these things come cheap, which is why experts recommend doing some of the following to save as much money as possible on your next new car purchase:
Research the true market value. The sticker price of a car is almost always different from its invoice price.
- Go online. Get an idea of how much the different vehicles you are considering buying should cost. Some websites list market values that are based on actual sales numbers rather than projected sales prices.
- Be discount-minded. One rule of thumb is to avoid paying more than the implied market value of your car. Don't fret if you land just below the market value the most important thing is to choose a car that feels right. Don't focus too heavily on price at the expense of other aspects like fuel needs or reliability.
Take a thorough test drive. It's no secret that people need to spend time in a car to properly decide whether it's a good fit.
- Call ahead for a long trip. When you've settled on some models you are interested in, set up test drives through dealership's online sales departments. (Less dithering.) Take a long test drive; otherwise you could find yourself being pressured to buy a car after driving just two miles in a circle.
- More than just a spin. Though at the dealer's discretion, it's sometimes possible to borrow a car overnight, to see how it fits in your garage, whether it's compatible with your smartphone, whether it can store your golf clubs, and so forth. Some people even rent a car for a short period of time before buying it.
Buy from the right salesmen.
- Showroom or online. Car dealers now have two sales teams: the salespeople in the showroom and salespeople in the "internet department" who communicate by fax, email and phone and have little direct contact with the visiting public, at least initially. Once you've pinpointed your car and options, negotiate with the internet team whenever possible, because they generally work on volume rather than commission, and therefore have a vested interest in selling lots of cars quickly, even if that means offering some surprisingly good deals in the process.
- Or get someone to do it for you. The negotiating process for buying a new car can be frustrating and time-consuming. Skip the haggling and use a car-buying service from Costco, the American Automobile Association (AAA) or several others. There programs tend to work best when the car you want is commonly available; if you want something harder to find, the service may not offer as many benefits.
- Consider a trade-in. Trading-in your old car may not get more money than a private sale, but experts say that used car values have jumped following the belt-tightening of the recession. After all, a good, late-model used car is still a value compared to the same car fresh of the line. Many dealers who weren't crazy about trade-ins before are now far more interested.
What not to do when buying a new car:
- Don't be in a hurry. It's always important to shop around and compare quotes before walking into the dealership. When you are in a rush, you can skip over little things that make a big difference, like back support or seating position. A thorough test drive can help.
- Don't overlook depreciation. Some brands don't depreciate as quickly as others, meaning they'll retain more value if you eventually resell the vehicle.
- Don't go overboard on options. Some options packages are bundled, requiring thousands of extra dollars even if you are just interested in one particular piece of technology.