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The Comprehensive Guide to NEW Car Buying

The process of buying a new car requires a driver to conduct thorough research prior to finalizing the sale. The more prepared you are and the more questions you ask, the more confident you will feel about selecting the vehicle that is right for you and your needs. Whether you need to request a VIN report or determine the market value of the car in which you are interested, our guide will help you navigate through the essential steps of car buying. Read on to learn more.

Check out Reviews Online

Buying a new car is an important step in a person's life. However, prior to purchasing a vehicle, compile the research regarding the vehicle itself and whoever you plan on buying it from. If you are purchasing a new car from a dealership, one of the best places to start your research is with online reviews of the dealership itself.

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Though most cars on a dealership lot will appear shiny and new, what is under the hood may not match the exterior. Aside from getting the vehicle inspected by a professional prior to purchase, you can also gauge the sales quality of the dealership by reading reviews other car buyers have left. You can also find out more about the reliability of the vehicle in question by checking reviews of the car written by others who bought the car before you. An internet search of the terms "most reliable car" and "least reliable car" can yield many results for vehicle reviews. Other companies that allow drivers to review cars and dealers include:

  • J.D. Power
  • Edmunds
  • Cars.com
  • Carfax

Conducting extensive review research on a vehicle and dealership can give you a broad view of what it is like to own that particular vehicle for the long term.

Best Times to Buy a Car

Most drivers purchasing a new vehicle visit car dealerships expecting to haggle the price down for a certain amount of savings. However, visiting a dealer at a particular time of year can go a long way towards adding savings to your purchase price before you even step foot inside the dealership. Pay attention to pricing during the following time periods to ensure you get the best deal on your purchase:

End of the Month

One of the best ways to get a good deal on a car is to work around car dealers monthly quota marks. Most dealers have a set number of cars they are supposed to sell by the end of the month. As the end of the month approaches, dealers who have not met their quotas will many times sell the remaining vehicles in their inventory for bargain prices. Visiting a dealership during this time period is a great way to ensure you receive the best deal possible.

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End of the Year

Just as with end-of-month quotas, dealers also have yearly quotas that typically include selling all of a particular car model for that year before receiving the next year's model. If you happen upon a current model near the end of the year, dealers will typically give you a great deal to make way for their upcoming shipments.

Holiday Weekends

Almost all of the major holiday weekends (i.e. Labor Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc.) coincide with a number of retail sales in all markets, cars being no exception. Car dealerships will typically advertise their holiday sales extensively prior to the weekend so you can see exactly which types of deals work best for your budget and desired vehicle.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Prior to paying for the used car you have your eyes on, drivers everywhere should make sure they are getting the best value for their money. Car buyers who fail to ask the right questions open themselves up for fraudulent activity that can hurt both their bank accounts and ability to get around. Regardless of who the seller is, ask the following questions before paying for your next used car:

Mileage

Even though the mileage is typically what you first make note of when researching a vehicle, the number on the odometer does not tell the whole story. Shoppers buying any vehicle that has been driven more than 20,000 miles should ask the seller where those miles were driven. Cars with a high amount of miles from stop-and-go traffic generally fair less well in the long run than cars with highway miles.

Features

Before you purchase a car, research the features that came standard with that particular make and model (i.e. safety systems, antilock brakes, power windows/doors/seats, etc.). During your inspection, ask about each of these features so you can find out which ones are properly functioning and which ones are not. With this information, you will be better equipped to make your final decision.

Accident

Though this information should be present on any vehicle report you order for the vehicle you plan to buy, it pays to also ask the seller if the car has ever been in any accidents. If the answer to this question is yes, follow it up with more questions about the specifics of the accident(s). Cars that have been in a minor fender bender with no structural or engine damage can often be purchased for a fairly good deal.

Records

Many drivers keep their most recent maintenance records for their car, if not all records dating back to when they bought the vehicle. Ask to see these documents prior to purchasing a car to ensure that the vehicle was properly maintained and inspected by the previous owner.

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Questions to Ask When Buying a New Car

Walking into a car dealership to buy a new car requires the driver to be prepared to ask a number of questions prior to finalizing his or her purchase. It is important to find out everything you need to know about your vehicle before signing a contract. Be sure to ask the dealer the following questions before you buy a new car. Fees Though you may think the price you saw on the TV commercial is the price you will pay for your new vehicle, a number of fees will often change your final cost. Legitimate fees charged by all dealerships include sales tax, documentation fees and state car registration fees, among others. However, you may be able to negotiate certain fees. Ask for an explanation of each fee during the negotiation process to see which ones can possibly be eliminated.

Aftermarket

Most of the features that come with a new car are part of the car company's marketing strategy and are therefore built into the vehicle. However, aftermarket add-ons are often tacked on to the car's price by the company, in an effort to create additional profit (i.e. LoJack, additional paint packages, window tints, etc). Most of these aftermarket add-ons can be negotiated out of the car's price prior to signing a contract.

Mileage

Car buyers typically assume that they will leave the dealership in a vehicle with a zero in the odometer. However, many cars that are sold as new have in fact been driven either during test drives or from one dealership to another during a dealership trade. Asking how many miles will be on your particular vehicle can give you some negotiating power.

Car Location

Asking the location of the particular car you will purchase is a way to find out exactly when you will get your vehicle. Once you have set your mind on the exact type of vehicle you want, you can tell the dealer what you want and they will likely tell you they have it. However, many times this means they have that particular vehicle at another dealership, or they plan to order it from the manufacturer. If you want to leave the dealership with a vehicle the same day, be sure to ask whether or not the car is on the lot.

Buying an Out-Of-State Car

Many drivers who cannot find the vehicle they want for the price they can afford instead choose the option to buy a car from an out-of-state dealer or private party. The research process for out-of-state cars is also similar to the research process to buy a new car locally. However, when buying a car from out-of-state, note a few requirements prior to bringing the car back to your home state. To find out more about how to buy an out-of-state vehicle, read the tips outlined below.

Emissions Checks

Once you have bought your out-of-state vehicle, make sure it meets the minimum emissions standards set by your state. Some states do not conduct emissions checks, in which case you will not need to have an inspection. States that do require emissions checks will ask you to bring the vehicle in for an inspection prior to registering the car in the state.

Safety Checks

Another factor that varies by state, safety inspections are required in many areas prior to title and registration proceedings. The frequency with which you must conduct safety inspections on your vehicle also varies, depending on the vehicle and the state. Contact your state's local Department of Motor Vehicles for more information on safety inspections.

Titling/Registering your Car

After all inspections are complete, you will need to both title and register your new out-of-state vehicle through your local DMV office. Obtaining a valid title and registration is necessary to both prove your ownership of the vehicle and meet the minimum legal requirements to own and operate a vehicle. You will typically need to have proof that you have purchased the car legally prior to obtaining a title transfer.

Insurance

Car insurance is a requirement in most states for all car owners. Therefore, prior to operating your new vehicle purchased out-of-state, meet the proper minimum insurance requirements for your state. DMV officials will ask you for proof of insurance during the titling and registration process.

Leasing vs. Financing

Whether or not a driver should choose to lease or finance a vehicle depends on a number of factors. Reasons that can affect your decision to lease or finance include the type of car you intend to buy and what you plan to use it for. Before making a final decision, keep the following pros and cons in mind.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Leasing

Leasing a car affords drivers a number of advantages. For one, the monthly payments on a leased vehicle are typically less than for a financed vehicle. Additionally, drivers do not have to pay a down payment on leased vehicles. This allows drivers who want to drive a luxury vehicle to do so without paying the luxury car finance rate. Additional leasing benefits include low repair costs due to your leased vehicle always having a factory warranty. Drivers with leased vehicles also get to drive a new car every couple of years.

Leasing also has its downside in that you never actually own the vehicle you drive. Other restrictions are also in place, such as mileage caps and charges for excessive wear and tear. Additionally, leasing costs more over an extended period than owning a car.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Financing

Drivers who finance their vehicle and pay monthly payments towards eventual full ownership enjoy many benefits. Owning your own vehicle gives you the freedom to change the vehicle as you please, whether this means adding aftermarket products or painting the car a new color. Additionally, you can drive the vehicle wherever and however much you want, with no extra fees for excessive use. Car owners can also sell their car if they ever need an upgrade or do not need to drive anymore.

Note, however, that car buyers must pay a high down payment prior to receiving the vehicle. Financed vehicles also come with higher monthly payments. Financed car owners must take full responsibility for a vehicle, including any repair costs after the car's warranty expires.

How to Request Vehicle History Report

Prior to purchasing a vehicle, potential buyers are encouraged to conduct research on the vehicle they plan to buy as much as possible. This includes perusing the vehicle's history report, as well as any other documentation associated with the car. To find out how to request vehicle history reports and other car documents, read the information outlined below:

Order a Free Vehicle History Report

To order a free vehicle history report, you must first locate and record your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Your vehicle's VIN can be found in various locations, such as on your car registration or on the jamb of the driver's side door. Once you have your VIN, select one of the many online services that offer free vehicle history reports (i.e. Carfax, AutoCheck, etc.). After verifying your information, you will be issued a vehicle history report.

Parts of a Vehicle History Report

Vehicle history reports give a complete breakdown of every recorded incident your vehicle has been involved with. Vehicle history reports include the following:

  • Vehicle history summary
  • Vehicle value
  • Ownership history
  • Title history

Free vehicle history reports may truncate these sections and offer simple summaries with the promise of more information if you purchase a premium report. In the event that you would like to see the minute details about the vehicle, you can purchase this full report for a nominal fee.

Negotiate the Final Sale

Learning how to negotiate the best price during a car purchase can make a huge difference, both in the final price of the car and the actual vehicle you receive. Many car dealers try to hook customers by proposing deals that seem to give prospective buyers the advantage but actually do not. Read the following tips on how to negotiate the best deal for your new vehicle.

Be Up Front

Once you walk into the dealership, the car dealer will approach you ready with their sales pitch. Either before or after the pitch, inform the dealer of the following to expedite the negotiation process:

  • Tell the dealer you have already researched the vehicle you would like to purchase, including the various vehicle options you need.
  • Tell the dealer you know exactly how much you are willing to pay for the vehicle, also based off of your research.
  • Tell the dealer that you are willing to make a same-day purchase of the vehicle you have researched provided they meet your maximum price.

In addition, inform the dealer that you are open to visiting other dealerships if this particular one does not have the vehicle you want for the price you have presented.

Be Firm

If the dealer dismisses your proposal, stand your ground and tell the dealer that you have already visited other dealerships and gotten competitive pricing. However, do not give the dealer specific numbers concerning the prices you were given by other dealerships. By keeping this information to yourself, you allow the dealer to produce their own lowest price offer.

Negotiate with Reason

During negotiations, each side will likely have to give in a little before a final settlement is made. However, giving a little does not mean you should act like you are giving in. If you do happen to raise the price on your offer to the dealer, make sure to indicate a specific reason for doing so, such as the convenient location of that particular dealership.

How to Transfer Vehicle Ownership for Used Cars

Once you have purchased or sold a used car, the vehicle's title must be transferred to the buyer before he or she can claim ownership of the car. The process to transfer titles varies, depending on the state the buyer resides in. To find out more about how to transfer vehicle ownership to another party, read the information outlined below:

Title Transfer 101

Car titles are documents that prove who owns a car. Therefore, title transfers are required each time a buyer purchases a used vehicle from its previous owner. Typically, title transfers must occur within 10 days of the vehicle purchase, though this figure varies depending on the state.

Reasons for Title Transfers

Aside from the sale of a new or used vehicle from one party to another, title transfers are required in a variety of other situations as well. Buyers must complete the title transfer process if they are involved in any of the following transactions:

  • Donating a car
  • Inheriting a car
  • Changing the name of the vehicle's primary owner
  • Changing vehicle owners within the family
  • Completing the finance payments on a car

How to Transfer Titles

To transfer titles after purchasing a used vehicle, visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles office and ask a DMV official for a title transfer application. You will be required to pay a small title transfer fee in addition to any required registration fees. Prior to completing the title transfer, you will have to sign the application, as well as have it signed by the car seller. Provided the vehicle meets all inspection standards for your state, you can submit the completed title transfer application and receive the revised title for your new vehicle, either in person at the DMV office or in the mail.