How to Become a Car Expert BEFORE You Buy

If knowledge is power then the lack of it is weakness! Don’t think this message is lost on your friendly neighborhood car dealer! Car salesmen can sniff the knowledge weaklings before they even get into the showroom, and will make them pay more before they walk out. The best counter strategy is to become a car expert yourself.

Not nearly all of us are car experts—in fact most of us are not. But that should never mean that you walk into a car dealership and throw yourself at the mercy of the car salesman in the hopes that he’ll be a straight up guy and give you the best deal possible.

Fortunately, in this day of the internet, any of us can become car experts—or at least better informed consumers—before making the buy. Just knowing the right places to go on the web can raise your car buying knowledge a few notches.

How to Become a Expert BEFORE You Buy a Car
How to Become a Expert BEFORE You Buy a Car

You’ll be spending tens of thousands of dollars on a car—new or used—and just a few hours of research can save you thousands of dollars.

If you’re not a car expert, check out one or more of these before buying your next car.

Popular car websites

If you know absolutely nothing about cars, there are major sites available that can provide a wealth of information. Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds.com and Autotrader.com are three of the most popular. Each enables you to find the value of nearly any car you can imagine, as well as provide reviews and other valuable information that raise your Car I.Q. a few notches.

Each site has tools that enable you to determine the value of the car (new or used) you’re interested in, as well as the cost of various options. Try working with several option packages, printing off a page for each to bring along to the dealer. These will be an important reference source to turn to in the middle of the fast talk that’s so common in car buying situations.

Still another site to consider, if you’re looking for a used car, is UsedCars.com. The benefit to this site is that you’re looking at prices of cars that are actually for sale in your local area, which is the true market.

Even if you don’t buy through the site, the information you can get from it will help you to get a feel for the range the car you’re looking for is actually selling in. Just remember that the prices that you see are asking prices, and actual sale prices are something less.

If you learn nothing more than approximate values of the car(s) you’re interested in, you’ll have a huge leg up at negotiating time.

Find a good car blog

Major car sites are excellent places to get raw information that will help in the car buying process, but they can also be intimidating to car buying novices. There are blogs available that are much more intimate where you can not only get information, but also have your personal questions answered through forums.

One of the best blogs on car buying is Car Negotiation Coach. Blog owner Geoff Cudd has been featured on Fox News and is the author of A Crash Course on Car Negotiation, and that’s the kind of expertise you need if the car buying process makes your knees start to wobble.

Much of the car buying process can now take place over the internet, removing the stress and uncertainty of face-to-face negotiations. The site provides a detailed step-by-step guide to negotiating a new car by email, as well as free email templates you can use to send to car dealers to set up your deal before arriving at the dealership.

If you’re trying to gain better insight on how to buy a car, and be better prepared before starting the process, CarNegotiationCoach is a rich source with a comfortable feel.

Old school: Find a “car guy”

Everybody knows somebody who’s a car guy—that person who lives, sleeps, eats and breathes cars. In the normal course of events, the hard core among the group can be at least a bit annoying. But when the time comes that you need to buy a car, he could be just the friend you’re looking for.

I’m not suggesting that you bring your car guy buddy with you to the dealership—thought that wouldn’t be a bad idea either—but you may want to have his cell phone number on speed dial (and him on high alert) when you go car shopping.

Sometimes just having an expert in the wings can give you the confidence you need during moments of confusion, or those intentionally stressful negotiations. When the pressure is heating up at the dealership, never hesitate to take a break from the hostilities by stepping away to consult with your “panel of experts”. It’ll make the salesman nervous, and that’s what we’re going for here.

 

I’ve written many times here at OutOfYourRut.com that car buying is no place for the meek. Often the reason people are meek is a lack of knowledge over what they’re buying and the many technical details that seem beyond comprehension. The best way to deal with this is to learn more about what it is you’re buying. Take in as much of it as you can from the sources above, stiffen your spine and don’t be afraid to walk if you don’t like the deal.

Then be prepared to save thousands…

Do you get nervous or hesitant when you buy a new car? What do you do to help get yourself the best deal?

( Photo by Dale Gillard )

10 Responses to How to Become a Car Expert BEFORE You Buy

  1. Along with the websites you mention I would recommend checking a site like http://www.truecar.com which will tell you for free what people are paying for specific models in your area. That’s important info to have when you negotiate.

  2. Hi Patrick–Yes, I’m familiar with that site and it’s a good one. My mistake! Thanks for catching it.

  3. The repair histories at Consumer Reports are one of the most important resources, too!

  4. Cargurus is a helpful site – from what I can see it goes out and grabs ads from autotrader and other auto sales sites, it then shows the cars all on one site with an indicator as to how the price compares to market value (not sure where it gets the market value, but it gives a good relative comparison).
    The most helpful part of this site – it gives a history – how long the car has been on the market and what the price history has been. – Helps you to know more of the story before approaching a car purchase (private or dealer).

  5. Hi Darryl–That sounds like a useful tool. In fact, it sounds a lot like the multiple listings for real estate sales! That has to come in handy. Thanks!!!

  6. You know what, I think this is really important. Not that we don’t encourage them to buy as soon as they can. Sure they can, but it is always best to know the quality of the car first. 🙂

  7. Hi Bob – I’m not closed to the possibility, but I’ve never met one. It’s one of those traditional male bastions that few women seem interested in breaking into. Not sure why, I mean a woman can certainly be a surgeon, which is even more “mechanical” than being a car mechanic, but few seem to have much interest.

    You had a word at the end of your comment that seemed unnecessary, and implies a secret meaning, so I took the liberty of removing it.

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