Smart Buying Tips for a Brand New Car

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Know which fees you’re willing to pay for before you visit the dealership.

If your home is the most significant purchase you’ll make, a new car is not far behind in terms of financial investments. The average cost of a new automobile hit $30,303 last year, according to TrueCar.com, up $1,219 over the average price in 2011. It’s in your best interest to know as much about the types of cars you’re considering before making a final decision and handing over your money. It could be worth your while to check out Nationwide’s Auto Shopping Service, which shows you what other shoppers paid for the car you want and gives you a price and Guaranteed Savings before you even visit the dealer. (The site offers savings on both new and used cars for Nationwide members.) And check out IIHS vehicle ratings for information on the safest cars to buy. Generally, a car’s sticker price includes options such as a built-in GPS or a sunroof, but dealers will also add on administrator fees, tag/title, credit insurance, sales taxes, etc. Some of these fees are unavoidable—but not all of them.

“The most common is the extended warranty—something you should think long and hard about before agreeing to,” says Andrew Schrage, co-founder of MoneyCrashers.com, a personal finance site that offers tips on negotiating a deal and a variety of other topics. “Other add-ons include vague charges such as dealer services, electronic-filing fees and tire and battery fees. They may also try to sell you fabric or paint protection, which is usually unnecessary.”

With this in mind, go over an itemized list of each expense, and evaluate which extras are really necessary. Eliminate those that you can do without and negotiate a lower price on the rest. Beyond the sales tax and tag/title expense, pretty much any fee can be put on or taken off the table.

That extended warranty, for example, can set you back thousands for a year, Schrage says. “What are the chances you’re going to incur thousands of dollars in repairs for a car that isn’t old?” he says. “When you look at it this way, you can see the extended warranty isn’t really a good idea.”

Dealer preparation fees also represent an unnecessary charge. “Sure, you’ll get a bunch of explanations if you question them,” Schrage says. “But the dealer [preparation] fee generally is for the removal of protective coverings from the car needed during transport and the cleaning of the car interior. These costs should be already built into the price of the car. You should refuse to pay twice for them.”

Before you drive the vehicle off of the lot, check that gas gauge to roll back the fuel charge. “See how much gas is actually in the car, then compare it to the amount you’re being told to pay,” Schrage says. “If you can’t eliminate this outright, you should at least be able to pay less than what’s quoted.”

And, as always, keep in mind how much you’re paying for the luxury of buying a brand new car. Sure, that new-car smell is great, but a lightly used ride can still come with nearly all the appeal of brand new car—at thousands of dollars less.

Enjoy big savings on auto loans from Nationwide Bank. You’ll get the same great rates for new, used and refinanced loans. Apply today in three easy steps.

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