Vehicle Shopping Tips

by Beth Johnson


Although I look forward to car shopping almost as much as cleaning my oven, I've got to hand it to the local dealership where a few Saturdays ago my husband, daughter and I shopped.

The dealership certainly made an effort to keep us entertained. My daughter loved the inflatable "jumper" as well as the free hot dogs, popcorn and soda. Not to mention, the coloring books and the stickers she got.

With all the activity going on, I almost forgot why we were at the dealership in the first place. We almost left after my daughter ate her second hot dog and jumped herself silly in the inflatable.

But, we did buy a used sports utility vehicle and during the process, I learned the following which hopefully will help you when purchasing your next vehicle.

Before you step foot into the dealership, it's important to prepare for the purchase.

Tip 1. Shop around for financing and be sure to visit the credit union or bank where you have your checking and/or savings account. Although the loan officer at the dealership said he worked with about two dozen lenders, the rate he offered us was 0.9% higher than the rate I could have received at my local bank an added expense of about $150.00 during the term of a three-year loan. What's the lesson here? I wish I had gone to my local bank for the loan and pocketed the $150.00

Tip 2. Surf the Internet before going to the showroom; numerous web sites can help you with your vehicle purchase. We found Kelley Blue Book's website at kbb.com and N.A.D.A. at nadaguides.com informative. Here we learned what our trade in was worth as well as what to expect to pay for the vehicle we wanted to buy.

Tip 3. If you will be trading in a vehicle, have an idea of its value before going to the dealer. While Kelley Blue Book's web site provided me the average amount I could expect for my trade in, I should have driven my car to at least one local used car lot for a quote. Then, I would know if the dealer gave us a fair price for our car.

Tip 4. Decide beforehand if you want extras such as rust protection, fabric protection or an extended warranty. Although the warranty on the vehicle we purchased was $1,200, it would have actually cost us about $1,400 over the term of a three-year-loan because of the interest on $1,200. We declined.

As important as it is to do your homework before going to the showroom, it's important to remember a few things when negotiating.

Tip 5. While test driving vehicles, scan the interior looking for missing accessories. For example, a cup holder was missing in the vehicle we bought, so we asked for a replacement. A small concession in this case, but something more important could have been missing.

Tip 6. When negotiating, ask to have an accident history report run on the vehicle. We learned that the only repair done to the SUV we bought was a mirror replacement, lessening some of my fears about buying a used vehicle.

Tip 7. Ask for an oil change, a full tank of gas, and an emissions test for the vehicle you purchase. Again, not huge concessions, but you'll be happy you don't have to set aside time for these errands later.

Tip 8. Make sure you receive at least two keys to the vehicle. As our salesperson handed me a key to our vehicle, I asked him for another for my husband. After all, my husband was more excited about the V8, 5.4 liter engine than I was. The salesperson informed me it would cost $65 for the second key because it had a computer chip. After I asked to speak to the manager, our sales person had another key made. No less than one hour later - but $65 richer - we had our second key.

After your purchase, you've got another task.

Tip 9. Contact your auto insurance agent to have your records updated. As we've done in the past, we choose $1,000 deductibles instead of $500 deductibles. By choosing the higher deductible, our insurance is $140 less per year. As long as I don't get into any accidents, that's $140 per year in my bank account. If you do choose the higher deductible, just make sure you have $1,000 available if you need it.

And the final tip . . . Tip 10. If you have kids, hope the dealership has food. After all, it's not every day they get free hot dogs, popcorn and soda.


Beth Johnson is a freelance writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She enjoys saving money and loves the used SUV she bought.

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