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6 Ways to Simplify Car Buying

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Nobody gets excited about an all-day haggle-fest at a car dealership. Do most of the legwork from your computer or mobile device and save time and energy. Follow these steps to simplify the car-buying process and find the best ride faster.

  1. Research the vehicle you want to buy. Check out Consumer Reports for ratings, reviews and the latest car news. AutoSMART tools like the one from Mountain America Credit Union make it easy to shop around and compare new and used vehicles online.

  1. Compare dealer prices. Email the dealership’s internet sales rep and get quotes that include the price plus all taxes and fees. Make sure the quote includes the features you are looking for to avoid last-minute add-ons or surprises.

  2. Get preapproved for a loan. Visit a credit union, bank or online lender before visiting the dealership to secure your interest rate and determine how much you can afford to pay. If you’re considering financing through a dealer, be sure to compare their offering with what you can secure on your own. Use this tool to calculate your monthly payment.

  1. Research the value of your current vehicle. Sites like Kelley Blue Book, Craigslist or KSL will give you a better idea of your car’s current value so you can either sell on your own or negotiate a fair trade-in amount. If you don’t have a trade-in, recommends a 10% down payment.

  1. Check out current promotions. Local dealerships may be running special deals. Run the numbers to determine if a low APR or cash back is best for you. Use this calculator to help you decide.

  1. Always take a test drive. The test drive is like a first date with your car—especially since online photos can’t really tell you if it’s the best match. Here are some tips for a great experience:

  • Take a route similar to the one you drive the most. How does the car handle turns, freeway acceleration, hills and stop-and-go traffic?

  • Check out features like fuel economy, cargo space, safety, seat comfort and infotainment accessories like the back-up camera or satellite radio.

  • To avoid the pressure of a sales agent riding shotgun, consider renting the make and model you’re considering for a few days to give it a real-world audition. Is it easy to install your child’s car seat? Will it fit in your garage? Can your 200-pound lumberjack son cram into the backseat with all his football gear? Sometimes a short test-drive from the dealership doesn’t give you enough information to answer these questions.


When buying a new or used vehicle, take advantage of online tools and resources to empower yourself to make the best decision. For more information, download our free eBook, Car-Buying Basics.

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