Buying a Car

Need advice and help buying a car? This free lesson covers car buying tips and the things you should think about before making a purchase.

Negotiating the best deal

Before visiting a car dealership, know what you can afford and be prepared to bargain to get the best price. Don't get talked into buying a vehicle you can't afford or one that is a lemon—a car that may look good but that has a lot of mechanical problems.

When shopping for a new car, don't settle for the sticker price or even the invoice price if possible.

The sticker price is the price that appears on the window sticker of the car. The invoice price is the price the dealer pays the manufacturer. Sometimes the invoice price can be much higher than what the dealer actually paid because of such items as dealer incentives—a price reduction given to stimulate the dealership to push more products onto the public.

Instead of starting your negotiating at the invoice price, try to find out what the car's wholesale price is and begin there. You can call the Consumers Reports New & Used Car Price Service at (800) 933-5555 to request a set of three detailed price reports—manufacturers', dealer's invoice, and wholesale—for specific models and options for a fee.

Gather as much information as you can by phone, email, and other means before visiting car dealerships. For example, go online and get quotes at sites like InvoiceDealers.com. Then consider visiting dealerships when they are closed so you can leisurely look at vehicles without dealing with salespeople. Once you have narrowed down your choices, go back when the dealership is open and talk to a salesperson.