The first thing I did was decide how much I was willing to spend on a new vehicle, and how much I could afford for a monthly payment. This was important because it saved me time looking at vehicles that were out of my affordability range. I personally don't want a ridiculous car payment that prevents me from enjoying life. After all, to me, a vehicle's sole purpose is for going from point A to point B. I have no one to impress and could care less about status.
Second, I researched several different makes and models that were in my price range. I thought of the brands and models I would feel most comfortable driving and which ones I would feel safe driving.
Next, I made a list of what I was looking for in a new vehicle. I knew I wanted a roomy vehicle with lots of back seat leg room, lots of trunk space, good gas mileage and classic style. I prefer cloth seats to leather, however, I am open to either. I am not a bells and whistles type of person. I prefer the standards with a few upgrades. This saves me lots of money.
After narrowing down to the vehicles I was most interested in, I visited websites like Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book and Consumer Reports. They helped me to get in depth information and ratings on the vehicles I was considering. I also visited my local book store and researched the vehicles in several publications there.
The last step before visiting the car dealers was seeing what color exterior and interior options I had.
Now I was ready to start searching for the best price and rate at all of the local dealers. First, I always get a price quote from at least 3 dealers and I never purchase from the first dealer I visit. I have learned over the years that there is always a better price. Trust me, the dealers do not want you to leave without a purchase. Do not let them make you feel obligated or pressured. If you feel uncomfortable just walk out. I usually will tell the salesmen that I am only researching and have no interest of making a purchase that day. This way there is less pressure. Also, I use online payment calculators to see what my monthly payments will be based on my down payment and any incentives that the dealer and or manufacturer are offering. Notice I said and/or. Sometimes you can get saving incentives from BOTH the dealer AND the manufacturer. Never be afraid to ask about 0% financing. I once was ready to walk out the door over a 1% financing difference. Every way you can save, try.
ALWAYS ask to see the dealer invoice of the vehicle you are planning to purchase and add a reasonable profit that you feel the dealer should make. This should be between 300 and 500 dollars. So, for example, if the invoice says that the dealer paid 23500 for the vehicle, a reasonable offer would be 24,000. Of course, don't forget to deduct any dealer and manufacturer incentives that are being offered.
Once I have gotten all of the pricing options and learn about all of the details of the vehicles, I am ready to make my decision.
Here are a few side notes.
If you are looking to trade in your vehicle, do NOT disclose this to the dealer until AFTER you are given a bottom line price for your purchase. The trade in and the purchase price are two separate business deals and should be dealt with separately. Do not allow the dealer to combine the price of the vehicle with the trade in value. Also, make sure you research the current value at Kelly Blue Book of the vehicle you are trading in. You will probably get a better price if you sell the vehicle on your own, rather than trade it in. However, if you just want to get rid of your vehicle quickly and don't want to haggle price, by all means trade it in.
Dealers will always try to get you to purchase extra insurance, I always opt out. If you prefer to purchase it, be sure to read all of the details of it before signing on the dotted line. I personally don't think they are worth it.