Each passing day brings new information to the consumer, along with relative enlightenment (believe it...or not) in the automotive industry. Here, then, are some are recommended steps to make your next automotive purchase as painless as possible.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: The available choices in makes and models can be dizzying, so it's important to narrow your choices. Evaluate your actual needs and wants, limit yourself to what you can afford (a loan officer can help), and see what fits your needs and your budget. Winnow down to two or three preferred brands or models that fit your criteria. Read independent reviews from sites such as Consumer Reports and Autoblog. And it's valid to ask a friend or co-worker who owns your preferred model for feedback.
IDENTIFY A DEALER: Even with vastly improved quality and reliability, you still need the occasional dealer visit for service and repairs, especially during the warranty period. So pick a convenient dealership that is close to your work, home or daily route.
BUILD YOUR OWN: You still haven't taken a demo drive, and driving before you buy remains one of the tenets of car buying. But start online using the 'Build Your Own" tool available from most manufacturer websites and navigable through Autoblog's ownership window. Once you've selected the model, trim level, colors, options and accessories, most sites will also supply a loan calculator (as does Autoblog) to help determine if your preference is available and affordable. Print out the build sheet and also store it digitally, to share with prospective dealers when soliciting a bid.
DRIVE BEFORE YOU BUY: A road test is essential and should be more than a 10-minute around-the-block tour outlined by your dealer. Choose a route that reflects the type of driving you'll actually do. If the vehicle has more than one powertrain option (and both are affordable) you should drive both - a base powertrain may be perfectly adequate or woefully weak. Fuel economy should be top-of-mind but shouldn't come at the expense of acceleration or a fatiguing drone at highway speeds.
PUT YOUR PURCHASE OUT FOR BIDS: Virtually every dealer has an online center for those not wanting to endure the back-and-forth of a showroom negotiation. Autoblog provides two variations of an online purchase via their Smart Buy and Get-A-Quote processes. The first is a true "no hassle" quote, while the second represents a purchase range, allowing some fine tuning between you and the seller. And we'd add this: If, in taking a demo drive or drives at the dealership (which is the only way to obtain that drive, short of a rental), know you've taken the time of a sales representative working – in most instances – on a straight commission. If going the online, get-a-bid route, make one of your solicitations for that bid to the dealership where you obtained the demo, and indicate clearly the name of the sale person you dealt with.
MAKE A DECISION! You've now selected the vehicle type, brand and model, driven the cars or trucks you most want and obtained your cost quote. Now it's time to weigh both the tangible and intangible aspects of your purchase. Tangible, of course, is the vehicle and its purchase price, while the intangibles are things like dealership location and its reputation. Even those vehicles with sterling reputations for reliability and longevity will inevitably need something. If you purchase from a dealer with a reputation for taking care of its customers, you'll be taking the final step in a hassle-free approach