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Faking Adulthood | Buying a Car


As of July 7, 2013, I have officially been driving the same car for the last 10 years. My parents did me a huge service by making the downpayment on my beloved Toyota Matrix when I was 16, and then passed the monthly lease payments off to me for the next 6 years, until I owned my car outright. By with the realization that I’ve been driving the same car for the last 10 years comes the thought: how long can this last?

If you’re a twenty-something from the burbs, chances are you’re in a similar situation. I really appreciate that my parents made that downpayment, allowing me to get a new(ish) car that has lasted so long and saved me so much in the past few years. But you know what they didn’t do? Inform me on the negotiations that went into buying it. I now am 26 and have no idea how to go about buying a car, other than go to a lot and tell someone that I’m looking. Luckily, a friend of mine recently purchased a new car, and our office was atwitter with tips and ideas on how to get the best deal when buying a car.

Do your research first.

Oh, the powers of the internet! You can learn so much about any car’s features from the privacy of your own home, where you won’t feel pressured and have time to think over what is right for you. That way you can take everything a salesperson tells you with a big ol’ grain of rock salt.

Go to the dealership alone to “browse.”

Even if you know exactly what you want before you step on the lot, pretend you’re just there to have a look around at what’s available. My friend used the whole “I’m very happy with my current car, but I may be getting a raise soon, so I wanted to see what else is out there” approach. Now the salespeople don’t see you as someone who I looking to buy today, and therefore you’re less of a priority. You’ll get to check things out without the hard sell, and may be able entice them to make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Most people also agreed that you should go it alone or with a significant other at most, but almost everyone agreed that you should not bring a parent. They may have done this a dozen times, but this is a big financial decision and you should make it for yourself. (Also, just because they’ve done it before does not mean that they are good at it. Being a parent does not equate to being fiscally responsible.)

Strategically pick a day/time of the month to buy.

Salespeople work on quotas most the time, so they’re going to do anything they can to make a sale towards the end of the month. You may be able to walk away with additional free servicing, a lower downpayment, better trade in on your current car, just about anything. However, the flip side is that people get desperate at the end of the month and may be pushier.

September tends to be the best month to buy in if you’ve got the luxury of picking when to buy; new models are usually rolled out in late summer, so dealerships want to move the cars from last year off the lot. However, sometimes there are great deals on specific models, either to drum up interest on a new car, or to move something that hasn’t been selling well. Consumer Reports offers an RSS feed of the latest rebates, incentives, and offers on specific models.

Any words to the wise from those of you who have been-there-done-that?

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