I am currently helping three friends purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle. My top goals are to minimize their time and distance required during the purchase process and get the best deal possible. Here are some tips on making an informed and greener purchase of your vehicle.
Know before you call or go to a dealer
Information is power and having this power will ensure you get the best deal possible. I find researching my vehicle purchase is one of the most exhilarating parts of the buying experience. Before I bought my first new car, I read the 1999 Toyota Solara brochure cover-to-cover 20 times, at least. Today, there are enough resources on the “internets” to help you decide which vehicle(s) best suit your needs and keep even the most avid car shopping enthusiast satisfied. Here are a few of my favorites listed in alphabetical order:
- Edmunds.com: provides a wide variety of new and used vehicle pricing and appraisal values, options, specifications, vehicle reviews and much more
- KBB.com: find new and used car pricing, when you hear “Whats the Blue Book on this car?” this is where it comes from
- Totalcarscore.com: one-stop shopping for industry-wide ratings of new and used vehicles, fuel economy, crash test and many other ratings along with car reviews, pricing and specifications
TIP: If you want to get the most for your money, look at a newer used vehicle, usually off-lease (1 to 3 years). The first 3 years yields the largest depreciation in value for the life of the vehicle. The vehicle will likely be within the original vehicle manufacturer warranty or even an extended warranty if it is Certified by the vehicle manufacturer.
How much you can spend and not a penny over
This will help you avoid negotiating by monthly payment which enables the dealer’s finance department to massage the numbers to lower the payment, but over the term of the loan you will pay a lot more.
Here is a simple auto loan calculator:
Don’t forget to see if there are any offers of cash back or low interest rates from the vehicle manufacturer. This could apply to used cars and certified pre-owned purchases as well. Edmunds has up-to-date Incentives and Rebates.
TIP: Get pre-approved financing and support credit unions so you have a back-up financing if needed and not forced to take the dealer’s options.
Pick a dealer closest to home, if you don’t get what you want move to next closest dealer
It is always best to keep your money working for you as close to home as possible, shop locally. A vehicle is the second largest or even the largest purchase for many people. Your time is valuable so choose dealers that are most easily accessable. Look at the for sale inventory on the dealer’s website. Once you find the vehicle, start off by submitting for a quote. To help avoid the cold calling, request to communicate via e-mail. Try to negotiate price over email or phone and then schedule an appointment so they have an opportunity to draw up any paperwork beforehand to speed up the process.
You don’t have to buy a Prius to be green
Just because I am a car enthusiast, doesn’t mean I can’t be “green.” Just because you all drive Prius (Prii), does not mean you are all “green.” True, I did not buy my car for the miles per gallon, I bought it for the smiles per gallon (pretty sure that I can’y take credit for that). What was important to me in a car is that it was fast and had all the latest gagets and doodads. That is where my priorities were back in 2007. I still love my car almost as much as when it was new, but I rarely drive it, to offset my fuel consumption. That is how I can be green and drive a 306 horsepower beast to deliver my Meals on Wheels.
– GreenUp! Guy