[CARS] Online Car Buying Tips
Most people would rather go to a dentist than a car dealership. If you hate the high pressure sales people, the negotiations with the invisible but all-powerful “finance manager,” the last-minute up-sales of extended warranties, undercoatings, floor mats, etc., then you may want to get as much of your car buying done online as you can. The good news is, you actually can buy a car without setting foot in a dealership. Read on to learn how...
Oatmeal in the Radiator?
I've heard apocryphal stories about used car salesmen using oatmeal to stop a leak in the radiator of a car. I'm doubtful that a dirty trick like that would work, but there are plenty of potential gotchas when purchasing a car. You have to be careful to avoid getting taken for the proverbial ride.
For most, the first step toward car-buying is to visit your bank or credit union. Get pre-approved for a loan so you know how much you can afford to pay in total and per month. Then stick to that budget no matter what. Tip: credit unions offer much better car loan terms than banks, and it’s easy to join one.
Next, do your research, all of which can be done online. Edmunds.com is one of the best places to start; the highly respected Edmunds has refined its proprietary method of estimating actual sales prices of thousands of new and used cars since 1966. Edmunds also published detailed reports on the reliability, maintenance needs, and insurance costs of specific car models. Consumer Reports New and Used Car Reviews & Ratings is another comprehensive, trustworthy resource.
If your car-buying goal is getting better gas mileage, MPGomatic is packed with useful tips. You'll also find helpful video reviews of many of the latest models to get a point of view from behind the driver's seat, before heading off to the dealer to check out a car.
When you have the field narrowed down to two makes and models, it’s time to get a feel for market prices. Edmunds is great, as I’ve mentioned. So is Kelley Blue Book. NADA.com is another popular pricing tool; but be aware that NADA is the National Auto Dealers Association and represents dealers’ interests.
Getting a Price Quote
Now that you have a feel for what your potential car(s) should cost, you can get actual price quotes from a number of Web sites. CarsDirect.com will help you find the right car at the right price and then connect you to the Internet sales department of the dealer who has the deal. TrueCar.com will show you what others have paid for similar cars as it displays dealer offers that meet your specs.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has an Auto Buying Program that offers to help members "get a great deal on a new or pre-owned vehicle, while avoiding the stress and hassles normally associated with buying or leasing a car." AAA refers members to participating dealers that agree to provide low, pre-set, no-haggle pricing. There's no cost for AAA members. USAA - the United Services Automobile Association - has catered to military personnel and their familes with car sales, loans, and even insurance since 1922.
It may surprise you to learn that Costco has a car-buying program that moves several hundred thousand vehicles per year, including motorcycles, boats, and RVs. Overstock.com also has a car-buying site but it’s “building a new experience for you” as of this writing.
At this point, you can actually close a deal at a firm price without ever setting foot on a car lot. But if you prefer to buy in-person (and many do), you can approach local dealers with the best deals you found online and see if they’ll match prices.
Buying a used car from a private seller can save money; Edmunds reports actual sales prices for dealers and private sellers; the latter are often significantly lower for the same car specs (make, model, year, condition, mileage, etc.). But scams are common in private auto sales, so stay on your toes.
Avoid Car Buying Scams
I have a friend who has bought several used cars on eBay, sight unseen. He does tons of research, asks lots of questions, and has even traveled over 1500 miles to close the deal. Amazingly, it's worked out well for him, but I can't recommend doing it that way.
My advice is always, ALWAYS take a private seller’s car to a mechanic of your choosing, not his, for a pre-purchase inspection. If the seller won’t agree to that, keep looking. And never take cash to a stranger’s home - or worse, a remote “storage lot” - to pay for a car. Likewise, don’t wire money to anyone. Meet in a well-lit public place, preferably where video cameras are rolling. Some police stations actually encourage people to meet in a designated part of their parking lots for transactions like this.
Beware of stolen vehicles. The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free VIN check to see if a vehicle has been reported stolen and not recovered. Also demand to see the owner’s driver’s license and registration; make sure the owner’s name is on both and that he looks like who he says he is.
Buying a car will never be fun; it’s a confusing, stressful, high-stakes game. But with online resources, much of the pain can be eliminated, and a lot of travel time. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Mar 2016
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