10 tips every car shopper should follow

In the end, such deals usually leave buyers paying more than they should.

7. Don't be swayed by a low-payment lease

Advertisements are filled with attractive lease payments on a wide variety of vehicles. However, the terms of these leases don't really fit the needs of most consumers.

The mileage allotments in these leases often can be as low as 10,000 miles a year and usually run to just 12,000 miles a year. Because most people drive at least 15,000 miles a year, such leases can mean huge penalties when the allotted mileage is exceeded.

8. Take a test drive

Given the huge amount of money spent to purchase a vehicle, it's amazing that some buyers don't bother with a test drive. When you take that test drive, pay attention to the seating position, the accessibility of controls, and whether controls are logically placed and easily understood.

Make sure you drive on expressways and city streets. Have the salesman drive while you sit in the backseat to see if your passengers will be comfortable. If you're considering a particular model, think about renting that model vehicle for a day.

9. Never drive off until the deal is cemented

It's not unusual for dealers to send people off in a new car with what's called a conditional finance arrangement in place. This means the dealer -- perhaps because it's late at night or on the weekend -- hasn't placed the loan with a specific lender.

If your credit is good, this is usually not a problem. But more than a few buyers have driven off only to get a call a later that says the dealer couldn't make the deal for the loan rate or payment amount and that new car will cost you more.

Never drive off until all blanks on a contract are filled in and there are no contingencies to the deal. It's better to wait a day to pick up the car when everything's been hammered out than to get a rude surprise.

10. Watch out for the never-ending sale

Many dealers make their profit after the initial sale is done by selling the buyer on extended warranties, such as expensive paint protection and rustproofing. A finance person often pitches such items.

Don't buy any such extras at the time of the sale. If you decide you need them, they can always be bought -- usually at lower prices from other providers -- after the rush from getting a new car wears off and you're thinking more clearly.

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