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How To Intelligently Shop For Your Next Car

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

How To Intelligently Shop For Your Next Car

Winston Takeda
November 24, 2012


Shopping for a car is a frightening experience. Because car salesman make their money from commission, the more they charge you, the more they'll make. It's in their best interests not to give you a good deal, despite what they say on those late night TV commercials. It is in their best interests to make you think you're getting a good deal while charging you an arm and a leg.

This isn't like most products. Most people buy things right off the shelf, without the help of salesperson. This way, company's have to always pay attention to what people are buying, and how much they're willing to spend. And how much something costs is always a factor when shopping for normal things.

But as we all know, cars aren't normal things. We only buy them once every five or six years, if that. So when we do go shopping, we forget about looking for the cheapest price. We're more willing to sacrifice a little bit of price so long as we get a good product. After all, what's an extra couple grand over five or six years?

But the truth is that with a little planning and research, you can easily save a couple grand on your next car. And if you were to save a couple grand every five years when car shopping, and invest it wisely, that can add up to a pretty big chunk of change over your lifetime. Now, I wouldn't consider car shopping to be integral to your investment strategy, but if you go shopping without much planning, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

The first thing you'll need to do is figure out what kind of car you want before you head to the car lot. Choose the color, make, model, options, everything. Then once you go to the car lot, you're only verifying what you've already decided.

Once you know what kind of car you want, do some research to find out how much you'll likely pay. A good rule of thumb is that you'll pay about 15% less than the MSRP. This may vary according to supply and demand, but that's a pretty good rule of thumb.

Once you've got the car picked out, and how much you're willing to pay, it's time to muster up the courage and face the car salesman. Just walk on the lot, and say you'd like Car X for Price Y. Have it written down on a piece of paper, or better yet, printed out from a website. Don't explain your figures, just stick to your guns. Whatever the salesperson says, just say, "Yes, I understand. I'd like Car X for Price Y. Do you want to sell it to me, or not?"

When you do this, you'll get the car you want, for the price you can afford.

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