Buying a car can be tough for any driver. But it doesn’t have to be, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Car Buying Service Manager Dave Cavano. Fall and the end of the year are good times to purchase a vehicle since new 2015 models have arrived on dealer lots and dealers are motivated to offer deeper discounts on older models, he added.
Like any important buying decision, doing research and having a plan can save money and ensure buying the safest car possible within any individual’s budget, according to Cavano.
Since more members may be out car shopping this time of year, Cavano offers the following tips to help drivers choose a vehicle and avoid typical car-buying pitfalls:
- Research costs, features and safety. Before visiting a dealer’s car lot it’s important to research the vehicle to make sure it fits your needs and style the dealer’s cost, government mileage ratings, available safety features, costs to own, warranty coverage from the manufacturer and special features, like hybrid technology, navigation systems or crash avoidance systems. Crash-test ratings are available from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov) and the Auto Club (www.AAA.com). Both provide crash-test ratings information at no charge. Ask the local Auto Club branch for the “Buying a Safer Car” brochure describing safety features.
- Set a budget and stick to it. Decide how much you want and can afford to spend on buying a car and determine if you’re eligible for discounts, rebates or incentives from the manufacturer or dealer. If you’re an Auto Club member you can use its Car Buying Service to obtain pre-negotiated pricing the Auto Club secures for its members.
- Get pre-approved financing. Get pre-approved before going to a car dealer. “If the dealer can offer better financing, that's great. If not, you know you have a competitive loan because you’ve already shopped the loan,” said Cavano.
- Get referrals from trusted sources. Ask family members, friends, or trust-worthy organizations such as the Auto Club, about reliable makes and reputable new car dealers. The Auto Club’s Car Buying Service has developed a AAA-recommended network of reputable new and used car dealerships in its car buying network which offer discounted vehicle prices to its members as well as dispute resolution should the purchasing process be unsatisfactory. Members still get all manufacturer’s rebates and financing incentives, and save 15-20 percent on service contracts (warranties) and aftermarket accessories.
- Know the value of your trade-in. Know your trade-in’s value before visiting the dealership so you know the market price beforehand. You should also know the selling price of your vehicle if you’re going to sell it yourself. The Auto Club provides trade-in values at www.AAA.com
- Invest in a vehicle equipped with safety features. Ensure the vehicle is equipped with driver and front-passenger airbags and height-adjustable shoulder belts in the front and back seats and adaptable cruise control. Also ensure the car features adjustable and lockable head restraints. Anti-lock brakes and traction control also are desirable features.
- Know your numbers. Don’t guess. The Auto Club provides new vehicle pricing information and cost of ownership information at www.AAA.com. Most consumers rely in the Internet for fast, reliable and convenient vehicle research information, but newspaper automotive ads are still a good place to check for vehicles, too.
- Test-drive before you buy. Make sure you test-drive the car you want to buy in the manner you plan to use it. Drive up hills, on highways, and in stop-and-go traffic, to mimic your commute and other driving patterns. Look over the vehicle inside and out.
To help members with what’s typically the second-largest lifetime purchase after a home, the Auto Club Car Buying Service provides a transparent and stress-free purchasing experience with pre-negotiated pricing through recommended dealers and an all-new online pricing feature for numerous vehicle makes and models at www.aaa.com/auto.
To obtain new vehicle pricing, members can generate a AAA vehicle certificate featuring an estimated AAA member price*, estimated savings off the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), manufacturer rebate and incentive information, plus car shopping tips and links to useful tools such a AAA auto insurance quote and trade-in values.
*The estimated AAA member price is not a dealer advertised price or a dealer offer to sell. It represents an estimate of the dealer’s pre-negotiated price with the Auto Club on behalf of members, excluding any optional equipment, according to Cavano.
The Auto Club’s Car Buying Service also has more than 9,000 used vehicles through recommended dealers listed for sale on its site. Members may use the online inventory tool and also receive a 15 percent discount on after-market products and a minimum 5 day/500 mile buy back guarantee, according to Cavano.