Recession Watch: A new car is in your future

With recession fears growing, it might not seem like a great time to think about a new car. But if you want (or need) to get a different car, you might actually be able to benefit from the challenging economic conditions. Here's how:

Auto makers are desperate to sell cars.
It's all about volume for the big car makers, and they want to sell you a car. That means you can probably find a great deal on a new model. Look for "rebates" that give you $1,000 to $3,000 off the usual price of a new car. Also consider looking at the "old" model year. As 2009 models start coming off production lines, you can find better deals on the 2008s.

Use the power of the internet to your advantage. It's no longer a secret what a new car costs a dealer, and it's all available online for free. Find the model you want, and price out the "invoice" on the car to know where to begin bargaining. Remember that a dealer actually pays less than invoice when you factor in the incentives they receive from the manufacturers. Don't be afraid to offer the dealer less than invoice.

Auto dealers rely on volume.
They can qualify for financial incentives from auto manufacturers if they reach certain sales milestones each month. That's why it's often better to go shopping for your car at the end of the month. The manager of the dealership knows how many more cars they need to sell to meet their quota or bonus, and your car could put them over the edge. They'll be motivated to make a deal.