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Top Auto Buying Tips

Auto Buying Tips

Buying a car can be a real hassle. There are so many options. Should I buy new? Should I buy used? Where should I get financing? Am I being overcharged? Am I buying a clunker or is it a reliable car that will meet my needs?

DCU knows your plight. We can help direct you into purchasing a vehicle that best fits your pocket book and your transportation needs. Through additional pages in this section, we help you to avoid scams and misdirections to help you find a vehicle you will be happy to drive.

Check out these basic tips for auto buying below

1. Slow down!

Speed in the automobile business is a very dangerous thing. When you rush, you don't think, and you don't compare. So, use the web for education, but don't let it rush you into buying without thinking.

2. Do your homework and shop around!

The internet has many car buying resources. Before you step onto any lot, utilize the internet to identity the type of car you want to purchase, and then research comparable makes, models and prices online.

Many sites, such as, and offer free vehicle histories through Carfax and AutoCheck.

Know what you are buying beforehand, and know what a dealership's competition is selling an equivalent car for. Be in charge. See Buying a used car for more details.

3. Figure out the total cost you can really afford

The cost of a car is NOT ONLY what you can afford to pay to purchase the car. It also includes the auto insurance costs and maintenance costs. Make sure you factor in the amount of auto insurance you will have to pay and maintenance costs when figuring out how much you can afford. See how much car can I afford.

4. Never leave a deposit until the seller has agreed to your price.

Sellers generally want your deposit so you can't easily shop their price.

5. Don't waste your time: call ahead.

Make sure to call ahead to make sure that the vehicle you want to see is still available. Often advertized models can be sold before the listing is updated on the dealership website.

Make a list of the top three cars you want to see and where they are located. Call ahead to the dealer that day to make sure they are still available and that they are on the lot. Occasionally a dealer will store vehicles off site due to space restrictions. Start with the best fit for your desires and pocketbook. If it is not what you desire, go to the next.

6. Research any dealer "switches."

Occasionally a car you came to see at a dealership is not what you expected. But the dealer shows you another that entices you.

Warning: never buy a car that you have not investigated on your own. Make sure your budget is adequate for the purchase, and you have funds for the insurance and maintenance. Research the vehicle history of the new auto with Carfax or AutoCheck before you agree to a purchase. Occasionally a dealer will already have a Carfax for the vehicles he intends to sell.

7. Stop the transaction if you feel pressured or confused.

The salesman or the sales manager deal with negotiations every day on the job, unlike you. They will know what tactics work best with what sort of people -- such as yourself.

Remember that you have control. If you do not say "yes" and agree to the purchase, then there is no sale and the dealership will make nothing. It is the job of the salesman or sales manager to make the most profit at the best price for their dealership.

But if you feel pressured or manipulated, excuse yourself and walk out. Certainly don't agree to anything you do not understand.

On one occasion we went to a dealership to look at an advertized auto which was said to be on the lot. It turns out it wasn't, but the salesperson said that we could work an equivalent deal with a new car purchase. Driving the new car for a test ride was great, but when negotiations began for the cost of the new vehicle, no rebates or incentives were present. We felt pressured to continue. We walked out and went to another dealership on our list. If you feel pressured into purchasing, do the same thing.

8. Get the most for your trade in

Research your present car's fair market trade-in value on such a site as NADAGuides. This will give you a ball park figure of its value. If you are near a CarMax dealership, CarMax will give you a guaranteed, written, trade-in price, good for seven days, even if you don't purchase a vehicle from them. This trade in value can be compared to the trade in value given at a dealership.

In addition, one can also sell your car yourself. For more information, see how to sell your car yourself.

9. Be wary of paying for add-ons

The cost of a car is not the only place a dealership makes money. A dealership can make more profit on some of the add-ons it sells, than from the profit on the sale of the car alone.

Warranties, detailing, financing, insurance, rustproofing and other protections are often offered during the buying paperwork process. Be wary. These can add thousands to the cost of the vehicle. Investigate thoroughly whether you really need these add ons after all.

A dealership will often allow you to "add on" these costs for a certain time after the purchase. Research thoroughly whether these are really needed. For additional information on warranties, see "Extended Warranties."

10. Buy hassle free

Hate negotiation and the haggle process? You can buy haggle free and negotiation free. And finance your vehicle through DCU if you like.

DCU has arranged Auto Premier, a free-no-hassle online auto sales site with pre-arranged new car pricing and incentives on used vehicles, available in MA and NH.

Auto Buying Step by Step

DCU has a specially prepared "Auto Buying Step by Step" resource that guides one through the different steps of auto purchasing. Topics include:

  1. The Most Powerful Tool;
  2. Available Cash;
  3. Research Then Shop;
  4. At the Dealership; and
  5. The Negotiations.

Check it out at Auto Buying Step by Step