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Car smarts: How to buy your next vehicle the right way

Buying a new or used car seems to follow a typical trajectory, one that might lead you to the car you want, but is devoid of planning, logic or ultimately securing the best deal possible.
The car buying consumers want a certain make, model, color or gas mileage and make it a point to convey that information to the salesperson upon their arrival. Lost in the shuffle, however, can be the cornerstones of what will become either a savvy shopping experience or one that leaves a lot to be desired as far as budgeting and negotiating.
What you don't want to do is set out to buy your next vehicle without actually going online and researching exactly what the going rate is for your potential car and using that figure as the cornerstone of your negotiations.
Far too often, customers visit just one dealership and take what that one salesperson says as gospel, without ever shopping around either online or at other, physical dealerships. In addition, if you're trading a vehicle in, make sure you know what it's worth and have at least looked up the value of your old car if applicable.
Often dealerships and car salespersons with tremendous acumen for adjusting numbers will tell you that they'll give you a certain amount for your car, but their sticker price is much more than you'd pay elsewhere. It's the old illusion of getting a "great deal" on your trade in but overpaying for the car you're about to buy.

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That's what makes the internet so invaluable when you're buying a car. You can shop from your couch, and skip the high pressure sales tactics or dealers that want you to buy a $30,000 car in exchange for a free grill. You want to go into this deal with as much info as possible, without being swayed by a salesperson who has already done his or her homework, while you've come into this endeavor blindly.
Once you find a car and a price you really like, you shouldn't divulge what you'd like your monthly payment to be, even though that question likely will come up. The salesperson asks, and if you tell them $300 per month, for example, they'll make sure that number magically appears in front of you. Of course, what they aren't telling you is that you'll be paying on the car for 72 months (approximately 6 years), when an intelligent buyer won't go further than five years.
This isn't to suggest the car buying experience is altogether awful by any means. The process is perfectly fine as long as you're an active part of it.

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