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Bankrate's 2007 New Car Guide
Dollar$ & $en$e
Status and styling aside, many car-buying decisions boil down to bucks and budgets.
Dollar$ & $en$e
Select a conversation:
Patient Gardener (salesman):
"Good morning. I'm Robert. Which car were you looking to steal today?"
  [Are you old enough to drive?]
Data Geek (customer):
"(Laughs) I like that! I'm actually interested in this model here. I have done a spreadsheet study on national averages, dealer incentives and manufacturer's holdbacks. It's here on my iPhone. I'll pay $19,314.86 for this car today. That's exactly $700 above dealer invoice. Plus sales tax, of course. In black, please. And after a test drive, of course."
  [Come to think of it, maybe this does qualify as stealing.]
Patient Gardener:
"I admire a prepared buyer. I'm sure we can put a deal together. That price doesn't account for upgrades however. Are you sure you want the standard package? No GPS? Back-up camera? OnStar?"
  [Can we nudge that number up with some high-tech gadgetry?]
Data Geek:
"Nope. There's a better selection for less on the secondary market."
  [That sales tax, by the way, is 7.624 percent.]
Patient Gardener:
"Sound judgment, my friend. I assume you want our Slam-Dunk financing special today -- zero down, zero interest, zero payments for six months? Your credit's cool, right?"
  [He can't have a spreadsheet for financing terms, too.]
Data Geek:
"Yeah, I guess so. I live at home and don't have any credit cards, so it should be."
  [As long as the sales price is low, what do I care about financing terms?]
Where he went wrong:
Our Data Geek was correct to focus on the price of the car, rather than the monthly payment. He knew exactly what the dealer paid for the car and the least he would expect to make on the sale. But when it came to the financing, Data Geek was clueless.
Never go into a showroom without knowing your credit score; those attractive Slam-Dunk offers unfortunately only apply to perfect-credit folks who don't need them.
Since our Data Geek lives at home and carries no plastic, chances are he has little or no credit history. That means he'll pay top dollar in financing terms and fees if he hopes to drive away in that rock-bottom deal.

By Jay MacDonald -- Posted: Aug. 2, 2007

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