Search this site:

Get the Savvy Consumer Newsletter! (FREE)

Consumer Focus

Savvy Consumer - Consumer Focus
Home > Consumer Focus Archive > Ready to Roll? Tips on Buying a New Car
Consumer Focus: Ready to Roll? Tips on Buying a New Car
Image of a car

Ready to Roll? Tips on Buying a New Car

Do you feel intimidated by the car buying process? Given that the average price of a car is more than $20,000 these days, it's understandable. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure you get the best deal, and avoid being scammed in the process. Knowledge is power when you are negotiating for a new car, so read on and prepare to bargain.

Image of a wise man

Tips, Hints, and Sage Advice

  • An old philosopher once said, "You can't get what you want unless you know what you want." Figure out which car you want and how much you are willing to spend.
  • Don't wait until your old bomb is on its last leg to start thinking about a new car. Plan on spending two or more months to choose which model you want, shop around, work out the financing, and make the purchase.
  • When it comes to car dealers, competition is the name of the game. Get prices from at least 5 dealerships.
  • Use the Internet to do your homework. Go online to find out the dealer invoice price and Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), search discount car-buying services, search car finance loans, and shop for extended warrantees, among other things. Each car-buying site has a certain area of expertise. Some sites include: Consumer Reports Online New Car Price Service, Center for the Study of Services (Consumer's Checkbook), and Edmunds Consumer Advice and Information.
  • Of course, you can do your research the old-fashioned way - at your local library. Look through popular consumer publications, such as Consumer Reports for reliability and repair ratings, as well as general advice on the car-buying process.
  • Don't wear out your shoe leather - make calls to get bids first. Dealers should be willing to give you a quote over the phone. If they won't, move on the next dealer.
  • Before you talk to dealers in person, get quotes from two financing institutions, so that you know what payment and interest rate options exist.


This is just a brief overview. For more information on buying a new car, check out these resources on the World Wide Web:

Publications Available:


For more information on other popular consumer issues check out our Consumer Focus Archive.

Image of a woman shopping

Shopping for Car Safety Features

One of the most important considerations when looking for a new car is what safety features are available. You should be able to understand what they are and what they are worth to you - how well they protect, and how much they cost. If you haven't bought a car in many years, you may not be familiar with some of the newest safety features. Some features are mandatory and some are optional. Safety features on many of the 2000 model cars include:

  • Front and side air bags.
  • Head injury protection such as head air bags (shield you from impact with the upper interior of the car).
  • Anti-lock brake systems (ABS).
  • 4-wheel drive with traction control (usually with ABS).
  • Automatic dimming rear-view mirrors (to reduce glare).
  • Daytime running lights.
  • New child seat attachment systems.
  • Built-in child safety seats.

For detailed information on these features and others, check out the web pages for the following publications, researched and written by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA): Buying a Safer Car 2000 and Buying a Safer Car for Child Passengers 2000. In addition, you can find the crash-test rating of the car you are interested in at NHTSA's web page on "Buying a Safer Car."

Image of a person buying a car from a car dealer

Dealing with Dealers

Once you have done your homework, know which car you want, and how much you want to spend, it's time to start bargaining with the dealers in person.

  • As in any contract, it is very difficult to get out of it once you sign on the dotted line. Therefore, DO NOT commit to buying or sign anything the first time you go in.
  • Take the information you have gathered with you and show them you are an informed person, so you can make the deal on your terms instead of theirs.
  • Negotiate based upon the selling price (not payment plans or trade-in value on your old car), and be sure to get full disclosure of every charge involved.
  • Don't let them persuade you to buy options and extras you do not need.
  • Don't take their word on promises made - get any proposal IN WRITING.
  • Follow your instincts - if you feel pressured or powerless when dealing with the salesperson or you sense they are playing games with you LEAVE.

Web Sites*:

*If you click on these links, you are leaving our web site. Please bookmark us before you leave so you can return easily. We are not responsible for the content of these web sites.

Search this site:

Get the Savvy Consumer Newsletter! (FREE)