The Old Rules for Car Shopping Have Changed

On August 15, 2010 Richard Eisenberg of CBS Money Matters wrote a great piece on how shopping for a car has changed which was syndicated across Sunday morning papers.  This was printed in the USA Today weekly magazine supplement and we would like to share it with you today.

Rules for car shopping

With auto dealers hungry for business and used-car prices soaring, the rules for car shopping have flipped.  Today, buying a new car frequently costs the same or less than buying used.  “You’ll often pay one or two percentage points less on a new-car loan than on a used-car loan,” says Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor online for autos at Consumer Reports.  Some smart tips for buying, financing and leasing a car:

BUYING NEW

Consider the true cost.

Factor in depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuel when comparing models for ownership. Among the 2010 vehicles that Edmunds.com says will have the lowest ownership costs over five years: Honda Accord, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Cube and Toyota Sienna. Hold off on new models. “We’ve found that cars are at their least reliable in their first model year,” Bartlett says.

BUYING USED

Follow the three-years rule.

Buy a used car that’s no more than 3 years old.  That way you will be sure to get the latest safety features.  Look for “certified” cars.  That designation means the dealer’s vehicle has passed a manufacturer’s certified inspection and is backed by an extended warranty.

FINANCING

Get financing approved.

Do this before visiting the dealer. “Then the dealer will have to compete against the financing you have,” says Jerry Edgerton, blogger at CBS MoneyWatch.com.  You can get preapproved at myAutoloan.com.

Scout for deals. You’ll want to find the latest rebates and low-cost loans. Edmunds.com lets you find dealer incentives where you live.  If you must choose between a dealer’s new-car rebate and its cut-rate loan, use Bankrate.com’s car rebate calculator to see which would save you more.

LEASING

Give it careful consideration.

Because you won’t receive any money back when your lease is up, most car experts say that leasing is best if you plan to replace a car within three years (the typical lease term) or if you can write off the payments as a work expense.