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Old 10-02-2019, 08:53 PM
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Buying a car - what do I need to know?


It's been 15 years or so since I've purchased a vehicle. Back then, you go to a few lots, haggle 'til you're weary of the entire process, then face down a barrage of attempted upsells.

It's different now, I hear.

Anyway, I'm looking for a used, 2017 or 2018 vehicle. I know the make and model I want. What's my step-by-step?

Any tips appreciated.

Thanks.
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:21 AM
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Look up the value of models you're interested in at the NADA web site. Try some variations for trim line, mileage and condition so you have the numbers down cold. (Don't bother with Kelly Blue Book. Around here it's NADA all the way.)

VIN reports: Carfax is the most popular service. If you only want to check one car the info Clark Howard has might help. (And Clark Howard and his forums in general might be really useful.)

Note that VIN reports sometimes have gaping holes, so not 100% trustable.

Last edited by ftg; 10-03-2019 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 10-03-2019, 09:06 AM
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If you belong to AARP, Sam's Club, or Costco they have car buying tips. They also have discounts depending on what cars you're considering. Sam's got us $50 off the used car we bought in May. It ain't much, but it helps!
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Last edited by NotherYinzer; 10-03-2019 at 09:08 AM.
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Old 10-03-2019, 09:16 AM
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If you're financing, secure your loan before you set foot in any dealership. They're probably still going to make you talk to their financing guy, and he may even come up with a better deal for you, but having the option to reject their financing outright is a pretty huge bargaining chip.

Last edited by DCnDC; 10-03-2019 at 09:16 AM.
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Old 10-03-2019, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Look up the value of models you're interested in at the NADA web site. Try some variations for trim line, mileage and condition so you have the numbers down cold. (Don't bother with Kelly Blue Book. Around here it's NADA all the way.)
I've been using Edmunds True Market Value (TMV) for a few years, now, and it has worked pretty well for me.

You can find good car buying advice on Edmunds, Cars.com, and Consumer Reports.

I agree with the other posters. Know in advance how much you should be paying, and secure your own financing in advance. You should be negotiating only one number: the purchase price of the vehicle. Don't get sidetracked with any discussion about monthly payments.
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:02 AM
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There is still haggling at various dealers, especially the smaller ones. Places like Carmax have set prices, but their prices seem a little high.

Watch YouTube reviews of your model, go to Edmunds.com, autotrader.com, dealer websites, and KBB.com. That will educate you on the options available, and the pricing.

When shopping don't give SSN or any personal information other than name, email, and phone number. Say you're just shopping. Remember you are in control, without you there is no sale. If they try to pressure you move on.

Don't get car fever, don't say how much you love a car. Only talk to the dealers about what you don't like. "Yeah this is nice but it's got some scratches around the door handle", "the floor mats are dirty", etc. If you are prone to rash buying decisions, vow that you are not buying anything, just looking. You will probably want to go on multiple trips to see what's out there with what options, you can check online first to see generally what's available but nothing beats seeing it in person.

If you go to a traditional haggling dealer I always find it handy to negotiate on "out the door" price. Find a car you like, test drive it/get it checked by a mechanic/whatever, then offer $xxxxx "out the door." That means that is the final price you will pay including dealer fees, tax, title, tags, etc. Otherwise when you agree on say $15,000 for a car by the time the financial guy finishes with you you'll easily owe $16,500. Make a reasonable offer, but on the low side. If you think you can get the car for $15,000, offer $14,000 or even $13,500 and see how it goes. You won't insult them and they won't accept any offer that doesn't make them money.

When you make your offer the salesman might act all flustered and say he doesn't think his manager will accept that, but he will go off and make a show of talking to his manager, and then will come back either saying they can do it or with a counter-offer. Usually you will get a counter-offer. If you made your offer low enough, hopefully you can meet in the middle somewhere and be happy, or maybe you can ask more for your trade-in or get them to make some sort of concessions to support their higher offer. Otherwise don't be afraid to say "No thank you" and walk. They can contact you if they want to make another offer or accept yours, and they often will.
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Mean Mr. Mustard View Post
Anyway, I'm looking for a used, 2017 or 2018 vehicle. I know the make and model I want.
It sounds like you're looking at cars that are two or three model years old and in my admittedly limited experience, at that point, a new car might be roughly the same price (because some makes and models retain their value so well). So don't automatically reject the idea of buying new.
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:16 AM
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Except for luxury vehicles, you're not going to see any significant savings buying a 2018 model over a new one. That's especially true right now; there is an industrywide sales slump and dealers are putting big incentives on mainstream models. Buying nearly-new made a lot of sense historically, but right now it makes more sense to buy new, and get a full warranty and after-sales service. You might save $2-$3K buying a slightly used car from a dealer over a new model, which definitely isn't worth it (particularly because there will be better financing incentives available on new stock).
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:50 AM
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My simple advice?

Sit in the car first. Get in, get out. Imagine repeating that action for the next ten years. Are you grabbing at the door to pull yourself out? Making grunty noises when you have to move about? Then perhaps that's not a car for you.

Get a feel for the vehicle. Does the radio adjust easily? Do the air vents blow where you like them - in your face, on your chest, nowhere near you, whatever your preference may be. Do you frequently put stuff in the passengers' seat? If so, is it spacious enough for you? Do you load up the back seat? Does the trunk space meet your needs.

Once you've covered all of these, then start looking at purchase options. The financing will usually be a bitch of a process, but if at the end, you're not satisfied with the car, then it doesn't matter. I have to spend a minimum of two hours in the car commuting, so comfort was of the utmost concern to me. I could have purchased a more expensive car, but when it came to getting in and out of the vehicle, it was more difficult in the lower-riding more expensive car than the cheaper, higher-riding car.

Anyway, YMMV, and looks may be more important to you.
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Old 10-04-2019, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mean Mr. Mustard View Post
It's been 15 years or so since I've purchased a vehicle. Back then, you go to a few lots, haggle 'til you're weary of the entire process, then face down a barrage of attempted upsells.

It's different now, I hear.
I bought a car a few years ago. It's still pretty much the thing you described in most places.
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Old 10-04-2019, 05:54 PM
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Or you could use my method... also called the cheap lazy guy's way...

Look at craigslist.
Send pics of cars you like to a mechanic you trust. He vetos most of them.
Pick best of the rest, take it in to said mechanic. If it checks out, buy it.

In my case, the wise mechanic (shout out to Omer at Budd's Auto) found $800 worth of repairs I'd need right away. I took 800 out of the envelope of cash I was going to give to the car owner, drove back and explained it to him (with pics on phone of problem spots). He saw the cash, said I'd been "up front so far" with him, took the cash.

That was a year ago. Love the car, best deal I've ever made.
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Old 10-04-2019, 08:34 PM
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Lots of good tips so far, I appreciate every one.

But these posts...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
It sounds like you're looking at cars that are two or three model years old and in my admittedly limited experience, at that point, a new car might be roughly the same price (because some makes and models retain their value so well). So don't automatically reject the idea of buying new.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Except for luxury vehicles, you're not going to see any significant savings buying a 2018 model over a new one. That's especially true right now; there is an industrywide sales slump and dealers are putting big incentives on mainstream models. Buying nearly-new made a lot of sense historically, but right now it makes more sense to buy new, and get a full warranty and after-sales service. You might save $2-$3K buying a slightly used car from a dealer over a new model, which definitely isn't worth it (particularly because there will be better financing incentives available on new stock).
...really have me thinking. I was actually beginning to come to this realization on my own as I "shopped" for my vehicle and found myself surprised at how close the prices were between a year (or even two years) old and new.
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Old 10-04-2019, 08:59 PM
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Make sure you also research if the car model year you want to buy has any known serious issues, but don't have issues recalls for check car forums and message boards if you need to do so.

I just had to spend $1200 dollars replacing the clutch and all associated parts on my 2016 car because of a known big issue caused by a faulty throwout bearing that had I done a little more research about before I bought maybe I would have bought something else.
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Old 10-05-2019, 08:13 AM
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My husband is a fan of cargurus dot com - that's where he and my daughter both found their last vehicles.

I've felt like we've had the best luck by doing our research, knowing what our trade-in is worth, knowing what the vehicle we're looking at has been selling for, plus having cash/financing in hand before even talking to a dealer. Also, be willing to walk if you feel like you're being jerked around. And ignore salesguy sob stories. It isn't personal, it's business, and your business is to get what you want at the price you're willing to pay. You're not responsible for the salesguy's seven starving children...
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Old 10-05-2019, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by digs View Post
Or you could use my method... also called the cheap lazy guy's way...

Look at craigslist.
Send pics of cars you like to a mechanic you trust. He vetos most of them...
That's how you avoid the known issues, as well as problems with the specific car you want. The mechanic I found went through my list of ten cars and I was amazed at his knowledge: "Okay, on a '04 Jetta you need to make sure it's not the larger engine, that'll have piston problems in a couple of years..."

Quote:
Originally Posted by pool View Post
Make sure you also research if the car model year you want to buy has any known serious issues...
I just had to spend $1200 dollars replacing the clutch...
Yeah, same car dude put my not-purchased-yet car up on a lift, took off wheels and inspected brake rotors, clutch and tranny, then we took it for a drive: "Hear that? That's going to be trouble..."

And sure 'nuff, it was trouble. But trouble I could budget for.
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Old 10-05-2019, 07:55 PM
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Is the make and model something that A/X/Z-Plan for new would be comparable for off-the-street pricing for used? If so, PM me; I can Z-Plan you because you are my internet friend and/or neighbor, and in close proximity, too.
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Old 10-06-2019, 07:26 PM
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We just bought a car over labor day weekend. If you're going to buy new, once you've done the test driving and decided on the car you want, do all haggling over email. Definitely agree with getting financing first, so you aren't trapped with the dealer options. We live in a major city with tons of dealerships around so we had lots of options, so we found the best strategy was to email around with specific car models you want, but save your local dealer for last. Ask for specific price breakdowns with total price out the door listed. In your email make sure you are clear that you don't have the time to come in and do this in person so it needs to be done over email. Some dealers won't get back to you but most are savvy with online shoppers now. Negotiate back and forth between the dealers when you start getting prices. When you start getting people saying they can't beat it you'll know you're probably at about the best price you can get. Then take that specific sheet and email your local dealer and tell them you're ready to buy if they can beat the best price you got. We ended up at about 18% off MSRP with some extras like service stuff thrown in for free.
If you google around you can find forums where people post the prices they got which can give you a good idea of what is reasonable.
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Old 10-06-2019, 07:30 PM
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Make sure you check to see the odometer isn't on "Trip A" or "Trip B." Be sure it's on the total mileage odometer.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:36 AM
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If you decide to buy a new car, do some research to find out what the invoice price of the vehicle is. You can find this out on Edmunds.com for free or at Consumer Reports for a fee.

I usually use Edmunds.com. It will give you three prices: invoice price (what the dealer paid for the vehicle*), TMV price (what people are paying), and MSRP. You can get the same three prices for any options you might want to add.

Many dealers will even give you a printout of the invoice price and MSRP, including options. I like these dealerships because it generally means they have nothing to hide. I still compare the dealer's printout to my own research. It's usually very close: sometimes the dealer's figures even match my figures exactly.

Here's the key: ignore the MSRP. It's completely irrelevant, as far as I'm concerned. Don't do what many people do, and try to negotiate down from the MSRP. Instead, your starting price should be the invoice price. In my last 15 years of buying six different new vehicles from car dealers (for me, my wife, and adult son), I've paid a little over invoice price, right at the invoice price, and even a little under the invoice price. Here, "a little" means anywhere from 1% to 2% of the vehicle's invoice price.

*Note that even if you buy a vehicle at the invoice price or even under the invoice price, the dealer is still making money. Manufacturers pay dealership a quarterly holdback. A typical holdback is 2% to 3% of the MSRP, and the percentage increases the more vehicles the dealership sells.

Last edited by robby; 10-07-2019 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:27 PM
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Mr VOW and I are very fortunate to have USAA insurance. USAA has a car buying service where you plug in all your wants and needs and Presto! A car is located in your area at a fixed price. It was a beautiful experience! All the car-buying sales bullshit was bypassed completely. And since we had financing through USAA, that was another shortcut! Finally, we got the Extended Warranty at the USAA price (half of what the dealership asked!).

See what car buying services you may have through your various connections.


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Last edited by VOW; 10-07-2019 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mean Mr. Mustard View Post
I was actually beginning to come to this realization on my own as I "shopped" for my vehicle and found myself surprised at how close the prices were between a year (or even two years) old and new.
To me the sweet spot in used cars is 2-5 years old and around 40,000 miles. That gives you a car that's still relatively new, may still have some factory warranty, but is (usually) a lot cheaper than new. Makes like Honda, Toyota, and Subaru tend to depreciate less.

But yeah when it comes to new cars you can often get low or 0% financing and other incentives from the manufacturers. Plus you get all the warranty which is a really nice feeling while it lasts. Main downside is of course price.
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