By Diana Charkalis
Americans spend an average of $30,000 on a new car, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Making that kind of investment can be nerve-wracking, not to mention all the time and effort that goes into the process. Most people start by checking review sites and ads for details on prices and features for the car they want. Here are a few extra tips to help you avoid overpaying for the car of your dreams.
Finances first: Before you shop for your car, figure out financing, suggests the Federal Trade Commission. Check with banks, credit unions and finance companies for car loan rates, and bring your best offer with you to the showroom. You can still negotiate and see if the dealership has a better deal, but if not, stick with what you already have.
Dealing with the dealership. When shopping around, minimize pressure by letting salespeople know you’re just there to test drive and you have limited time for the visit. If they request your cell number when you leave, offer up your email to avoid excessive follow-up calls. Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, be prepared to negotiate. The Federal Trade Commission says dealers may be willing to bargain up to 20 percent on their profit margin (usually the difference between the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and the invoice price).
Trade-in tricks: Do your research and find out what your old car is worth using the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Guides, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Armed with this information, don’t talk about trade-ins until after you’ve negotiated the price for your new car. Generally speaking, you are more likely to get a better deal if you sell the old car yourself, although that may take longer.
Test-drive tactics. Don’t be afraid to go back a second or even a third time to test-drive a car—or go to a different dealership and test drive the same model. Still not sure the car’s the one you want? Some car dealers let you spend a little extra time together, such as Buick’s 24 Hours of Happiness Test Drive. Check with the dealer to see if you can strike that kind of deal for the car you want. If not, consider renting your preferred make and model for the day to really get a feel for it.
Check your coverage: Most states require vehicle owners to have auto insurance, but minimal liability insurance can leave you vulnerable, says personal finance author Nicole Lapin. Check to make sure your policy includes break-ins, which are not always covered. Also ask about glass coverage (which can be helpful when a rogue rock on the highway cracks the windshield or branches fall during stormy weather). Also inquire about rental car insurance. If covered, this can save you money when renting cars for trips or moves. Making sure you have a policy that works for you, gives you peace of mind and lets you focus on the important things, says Lapin, “like figuring out what’s for dinner or which shows you’re going to binge watch next.”
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Diana McKeon Charkalis is a Yahoo Storyteller. Her work has also appeared in USA TODAY, Prevention and The LA Daily News.