Auto Questions: How Buying A Car Works

You can purchase a car from an individual or a dealer, but knowing what to expect can make the difference between getting a deal or getting scammed.

If you're interested in buying a new car, there are very few choices other than going directly to a car dealer. Be prepared and informed when going to a dealer, whose commission is paid by how much he manages to get you to spend. Dealers have allowance to make adjustments in prices, but overall, they're concerned with getting you to pay the highest dollar possible, meaning a bigger paycheck for themselves. Certainly if you show up draped in gold and furs expecting a mark down, you can probably forget it. At the same time, attempting to appear impoverished won't get you much slack, either, since most dealers have seen that routine before. The best way to approach the dealer is to be up front about what you expect, assertive when it comes to bargaining for a better price, and above all, get everything in writing. Additionally, it's best to have one other person with you, but don't bring along the gang. The two-against-one scenario gives you the upper hand in that the dealer is naturally going to try to please you both, and may realize ahead of time that two heads are better than one. Bringing along a group of people is overwhelming and distracting.

Before going to the dealer, have a car type in mind and a ballpark figure of what the car will cost. Search online for car prices, check sales in your local paper and be aware of what "extras" are and what they mean to the price tag. The better informed you are, the less likely you are to pay full price. And, when it comes to the actual salesperson, don't allow them to push you around. Don't be afraid to ask for a different salesperson or even to leave the dealership and opt for another. Before going to any dealership, though, check your credit and make sure you know where you stand. In addition, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the dealership in question.

After a deal is struck, don't expect to drive the car home that day. It could be that everything wraps up nicely and you'll receive the keys before day's end, but many car dealerships ask you to come back later in the week to pick up the vehicle so that the paper work can be taken care of and the vehicle loaded with gas. To increase the odds of driving the vehicle home the day of purchase, speak to a loan officer who's done business with you before and make tentative loan arrangements. It also helps if you arrive at the car show room early in the day to give the dealership and the loan company time to work out the details. Come prepared with your license for identification, your insurance info and your checkbook along with loan arrangements. Expect to put down a deposit in cash that day. Most loan companies ask that you provide a deposit, then they'll finance the remainder. This deposit could be 10%, 15% or 20%, sometimes more, depending upon your credit rating.



If a new car is out of your league, you can visit some used car lots or buy from an individual. Keep in mind that most people don't trade in fabulous cars that have given them perfect service, unless they have accumulated quite a few miles. Usually people trade in cars because something has quit working or the car has given them trouble in the past. Although the car may have been repaired before being put up for sale, don't take any chances. Bring along a mechanic or someone knowledgeable to examine the vehicle. Whether you're purchasing from a car lot or a person, check that the motor looks clean and that the car doesn't emit black smoke upon starting. Take the car for a test run, checking wipers, flashers, signals, heater and other functions.

Most dealerships sell used cars "as is", meaning the car is not guaranteed to even make it to your house. That's why it's very important to have someone who knows about cars to evaluate the deal. It's often the case too, when reaching an agreement with an individual, that the car will be sold in the condition it is in. If the motor blows tomorrow, you are stuck with the car. After assuring yourself that the car is the one you want, make sure that the title is valid and ask if the seller is willing to offer a limited guarantee. Get all details in writing and get a dated and signed receipt for all payments. Depending upon the laws in your area, you might be required to accompany the seller to a notary to sign the title over. You'll then have to go to the local licensing bureau to have the car legally transferred to you.

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