Smart car shopping tips

If now is the time for you to buy a car, you might be in luck. Although car shopping isn't all that fun, there are plenty of deals to go around as car manufacturers and used car dealers are trying find ways to move cars off the lots.

But one concern that always creeps up (especially for young women) is not getting ripped off. One way to help avoid getting scammed is by doing your research. There's never been a better time to find information on the internet about new and used cars. You can get a very good idea of how much a car is worth if you're willing to spend the time on research.

There are a few key points to consider when trying to make a deal on a car:
  • Decide what your budget is before you go looking, and stick to that budget. One rule of thumb is that if you can't pay off the car in less than three years, you can't afford it. Remember that the dealer's job is to get you to buy something more expensive. Stay firm on your budget.
  • Will a used car fit your needs? It's no secret that brand new cars aren't usually a good deal. Sure, it's nice to have that new car smell and the reliability that comes with a brand new car, but they're not very budget friendly. You can get a reliable, stylish used car that will be much more budget friendly.
  • Don't focus too much on the monthly payment. Buyers sometimes ignore the total cost of a car, focusing only on the monthly payment. That's dangerous, but it usually leads buyers to purchase a car that's too expensive. Car dealers can find sneaky ways of making the monthly payment sound good, but that doesn't mean you can really afford the car.
  • Don't let your guard down and don't give the dealer too much information. Don't seem too interested in a particular car, and don't come across as desperate. In order to get the best deal possible, you need a "take it or leave it attitude." Let the salesperson know that you're not really "sold" on any particular car, but that a good deal may help persuade you. If you seem likely to buy elsewhere, the dealership may be more motivated to make a better deal for you.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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