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December 01, 2011 | auto

How to Shop for a Car


Buying a new car can be stressful. A little knowledge can go a long way toward making you a Smart shopper. If you're in the market for a new car, the following tips can help you negotiate the best price on the car you want.

Research your vehicle online.

Most manufacturers have websites that let you select your vehicle and the options you want and see the recommended price. This price is not set in stone — it's the price you'd pay if you bought the vehicle without negotiating.

Find out what the dealer actually paid for the car

, which is the vehicle's factory invoice price. You can get this information from several Internet sources. You can also find the Kelley Blue Book value at www.kbb.com.

Look for rebates or factory-to-dealer incentives on the vehicle.

Rebates can be applied directly to your purchase price, resulting in less sales tax. Factory-to-dealer incentives are cash rebates the manufacturer gives to the dealer when a car is sold. Although dealers don't have to pass these along to consumers, you may be able to use them to negotiate a better price. Do a search for "factory to dealer rebates" online for the new car you're interested in buying.

Use information you can find online on how much you'll be charged for dealer-installed options.

Add the cost of these to the factory invoice price, subtract any rebates, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what you should be paying for the vehicle. Start with this figure in mind and negotiate up, rather than starting from the sticker price and working down. The dealer can't sell you the car for less than it costs him. Let him work up to your predetermined final price.

Have your financing in place.

While some dealerships advertise zero-percent financing, it may not be available for the car or options you want. If you have less-than-perfect credit, you may not be able to qualify for zero-percent offers. Get pre-approved for your auto loan before you shop, and you'll have more negotiating power. Amplify can pre-approve you quickly online, over the phone or at any branch. And your not-for-profit credit union usually has better rates than dealer financing, so you'll save in the long run.

Condition:

The "shiny chrome" factor is a big one for many new car buyers--nothing else can quite replace the feeling of knowing you're the original owner of a new car in mint condition. Used car buyers have to settle for freshly detailed.