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Special report

5 keys to driving a good deal on a new car

Hooked on that new-car smell? Then don't get stuck with a deal that leaves you holding your nose.

Be a smart buyer
1. Know your budget before visiting the dealership.
Even with today's low rates, you don't want to financially overextend yourself. Determine what you can afford and what interest rate you deserve. Dealers use credit scores when offering finance terms, so check your credit score before the shopping begins.
Match the car and your budget; How much car you can afford; Check your credit rating
2. Do your homework.
Research vehicle costs before stepping in the showroom to haggle. Even if you're uncomfortable negotiating, brace up. Car salesmen are experts at negotiating. Go prepared and expect to work to get a good deal.
Maximize your savings with these pre-shopping strategies; Haggle like a pro
3. Flexibility and good timing cut price.
Shop when sales are slow -- when new-year models are due, at the end of the month and during the last two working hours of the day. Plus, remember that hottest-selling model will cost, so if you're flexible and willing to buy the not-so-popular one, you'll save.
Good time to be in the market for a new car; For the best car-financing deal, learn to love an ugly duckling
4. Get top dollar for your old vehicle.
The market sets the value of your car whether in a trade-in or private sale. Selling it privately, however, usually results in more money -- but it takes time. Going for the trade-in? Don't talk about trade-in value until you've settled on the new car price.
The deal on auto depreciation; Be your own used-car salesman
5. Don't pay extra for the mop and glow.
Extras such as undercoating, scotch-guarding, detailing and decorative features on a car don't add to it's value. They simply add to your debt. Many of these options are worthless or overpriced to boost the dealer's profit.
Sales incentives drive up the price of your car; Warranties and service contracts
Here's one parting tip and it's an important one. It's best to think of a new car purchase as three separate negotiations: the price of a car, the price of a trade-in and the financing. A car salesman will try to lump this stuff together. Don't let him.
-- Posted: April 12, 2002
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See Also
The female car buyer's bill of rights
How to save on auto insurance
10 rules for dealing with a car dealer


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