Some of the reasons people drive cars before the wheels fall off is because they say they want to get the most from it prior to going in debt for a new one. Which sounds good, but I am gambling a close second on the list are the simple fact that nobody but nobody especially enjoy the practice of looking around for a car. Automobile dealership horror stories are something most of us possess in common, while it's high pressure salesmen, cars that fall apart once you push them off the lot, or poor funding scenarios that put an undue burden on your family budget.
First of all, you have to determine what type of car you're likely to purchase, and unless you just have cash to burn, it is always preferable to base your choice on needs as opposed to needs. Ask yourself exactly what you'll be using the car for, how many people or what sorts of cargo you'll be transporting, and how many miles you're going to be placing on it every day per week.
Set your budget. It's essential to set a monthly payment which you are able to manage without putting undue burden on your family finances. Your car payment should never exceed 20 percent of your monthly take home pay.
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As for me, I have not purchased a new car since 1994, I've discovered it infinitely preferable to let someone else take the depreciation hit (which happens the moment you drive the thing off the lot)... even automobiles that are just a year old might be a complete. You'll also typically spend less in insurance costs, and lots of used cars might still be under factory warranty. For those which are not Certified Used cars will provide some measure of warranty protection.
I've not ever bought a car from an individual, but many folks recommend this strategy, stating it is usually less stressful than dealing with a car dealer, and the costs could be slightly better.
Drive it as you would in everyday scenarios, and above all, dismiss the salesperson's pitch. The auto will sell itself....any vehicle that demands a salesman to sell you isn't worth purchasing.
Of course the negotiation procedure can be a harrowing one, and also one which takes all the pleasure from purchasing a car (which is a pity, as it's one of the bigger decisions you will make). My negotiation tactic is easy, I tell them upfront what I am willing to put down and what I am prepared to pay per month. They've got just one shot at earning my organization. I have no intention of spending a perfectly pleasant day moving back and forth with a few hidden used car manager. I heartily wish more folks would adopt this strategy.
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Do not be afraid to get up and leave if they can't satisfy your needs but insist on placing pressure on you to cough up some more money, or spend more each month than you know your budget will permit.