Take the pain out of buying your next car
January 3, 1996
Web posted at: 1:30 a.m. EST
From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman
(CNN) -- I believe I speak for a lot of people when I say
that buying a car -- any car, but especially a new one -- is
a tedious, painful experience.
This is especially true when you are seeking a car in a hurry
to replace your rapidly dying one, when you buy your first
new car and don't know what you're doing or when you don't
have time to research the best deal for the money.
Thus, many buyers walk into showrooms because they see an
attractive car they think has a good reputation, they don't
know how to negotiate the purchase, and they get taken for a
This does not have to happen.
If you're reading this column, then you have Internet access.
Ergo, you have time to do some research. (It's not like you
have to schedule a trip to the public library anymore). At
the very least, you should find out what the dealer paid for
your car. If you know their buying price, you're in a better
position to get their lowest selling price?
Learn what the dealer pays for everything
Edmund's Car Buying Guides is an amazing resource that
allows you to do just that. Not only can you find out what
the dealer paid for the car, you can find out what he or she
paid for every option. The guide also lists the
manufacturers' recommended charges. There are also road-test
reviews of some new cars.
Microsoft Car Point
can be another good place to get information. Among its
features, it posts full specifications (mileage, available
features, manufacturer's warranty) for each car. And, it
throws in some history. For example, did you know that the
BMW Z3 Roadster, the car featured in the latest James Bond
movie "Goldeneye," was the first roadster the company built
in relatively large numbers?
For some models, the site estimates repair and maintenance
costs. And if $30,000 for the BMW Roadster is more than you
want to spend, you can take a look at its competition -- for
instance, a Mazda Miata MX-5, a Chevy Camaro and the
convertible Toyota Celica GT all have a lower ticket price.
While I like those features, I have to say you probably get
more bang for your buck with Edmund's, since everything on
Edmund's is free. By comparison, you have to pay for
detailed information from Car Point, ranging from the cost of
a car's features to the likely cost of insurance. So for $5,
you can find out what insurance costs are for someone under
65 years old with a clean driving record. So what? If
you're researching any number of cars at all, the price for
this special information adds up fast.
Once you've decided on the car you want, you have two
choices: You can go to a dealer and haggle until you feel
satisfied, or you can go to an online service that sells cars
at a fixed (and often, lower than the dealer's) price.
Getting what you want from the dealer
Edmund's offers super advice on how to negotiate with a
dealer. It's hard to believe, but lots of people have
written the site to say that thanks to Edmund's tips, they
actually enjoyed buying their last car.
Because Edmund's tells you how much the dealer pays for the
car and for each of its features, you can tell dealers up
front that you know what everything costs, and that you can't
be bled dry to pay for the car you want.
So, if you're using Edmund's for car research anyway, you may
as well set aside a few minutes to read the site's "How To
Get Your Way at the Auto Dealer." It explains what you should
say to put the dealer on the defensive and tells you just
what they'll do to try to put you at a disadvantage.
Unless this is your first car ever, or your family really
needed an additional car and not just a new one, you're going
to have to do something with the car you've been driving.
You could sell it yourself, or you could trade it in to the
dealer. Either way, you have to find out what it's worth.
Kelley's Blue Book, has long been a resource for people buying or selling
their used cars. In the past, you had to stop by the library
to do Blue Book research. Today, the Blue Book is as close
as your laptop. You select the year and model of your car,
the features it has, such as air conditioning and radio, and
its condition; the site tells you what the dealer will try to
resell it for, and what he'll likely offer you for it.
This site also has some information on new cars that overlaps
with Edmund's. It lists a dealer's invoice price and the
manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), as well as
costs for any options. According to the site, if the invoice
price changes, it will be updated. Revised prices are flagged with a "revised on" date.
Skip the dealer, buy online
There are car-buying clubs that charge you for their
services; they say that the money you save through them
justifies the fee. That may be true, but why pay them when
you can get the same discount through another group for
I found two different online car buying services, both free,
which work roughly the same way. You tell them what car you
want and what features it should have, and they get a dealer
in your area to call you with a price quote. The theory is
that they get a volume discount from the dealers.
One of them, Auto-by-Tel, is available in English or
French. You can get price quotes on buying or leasing a car,
and information on the dealer and customer rebates available.
A dealer rebate is a rebate the manufacturer offers dealers
as a sales incentive.
Two still-unavailable Auto-by-Tel features have potential.
Starting this month, you can get approved for a car loan
through its service, which promises to use "advanced security
encryption technology." And later in 1997, the site plans to
launch a used-car cyberstore espousing the same one-price,
no-haggling credo of the new car buying service.
some services for which it charges a fee to members. However,
the car-buying service is not one of them. You can access
AutoVantage information through its own site or through
eAuto, another site with lots
of information about different cars.
I like the AutoVantage site because when you tell it what car
you're interested in, it sends you straight to a page
combining an evaluation of the car with its suggested and
For a quick read, you can get a list of the pros and cons of
any car. If you want more detailed information, you can read
a road-test evaluation and get information on performance,
accommodations, workmanship and all the information available
on option packages and warranties.
If it irks you to have to scroll down the pages several times
to read it, you'll hate the layout. Personally, I hate going
to a new page where I have to wait for the same graphics to
download with new words. The AutoVantage one-page format
suits me fine.
Good luck buying on buying your new car! I hope you get a real
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