Owning a car is a major investment when you factor in the price tag, insurance, repairs and maintenance. But just because you have to plunk down a decent amount of cash to buy a car doesn’t mean you have to break the bank.
Here’s what you need to know to get – and keep – your wheels without busting your budget.
Buying the car. Before you buy a car, you want to know whether you could pay less for that car at another dealership. The Internet makes it easy for you to find that information. Not only can you search the inventory of dealers around you and ask for a price, but you can head to car-buying website Edmunds.com to look up the True Market Value (TMV) – the average sale price for a car in a particular region. Edmunds suggests that you use that information in one of two ways:
Keep quiet and let the car salesman start the negotiations, with you knowing that you won’t pay more than the TMV.
Start the discussion off by telling the salesman that you know you can get the car for the TMV price, so if they won’t give you that deal or a better one, you’ll take your business elsewhere.
Insuring the car. Always get quotes from several car insurance companies, says Lolita Scesnaviciute Guarin, author of “Be Insurance Savvy: Home, Auto, Dwelling, Renter’s, Flood and other Personal Insurance Explained.” Ask each insurer which discounts you’ll qualify for. For example, you typically can get a discount if you have home insurance with the same insurer or if you have a good driving record with no recent accidents. Let an insurer know that it’s vying for your business. You also might ask your insurer whether it can throw in services that can save you money, such as roadside assistance service, says Phil Reed, senior advice editor at Edmunds.com.
Repairing the car. When your car’s not working right, you might think you’re at the whim of the repairman and whatever he tells to do. But that’s not the case. If you don’t already have a relationship with a trusted repair shop, ask around for recommendations. Once you’re told what’s wrong with your car, don’t be afraid to take it to another shop to see whether it comes up with the same assessment and will charge the same price. Another way to find out what other shops will charge: RepairPal.com has a tool that lets you enter your car’s make and model, as well as the repair needed, and it will tell you what repair shops are charging in your area. Armed with that information, you can ask your repair shop to go down on the price – or you’ll find another shop that will.
Maintaining the car. Don’t let a repair shop talk you into getting maintenance you don’t need. Read your owner’s manual to find out how often your car needs to be serviced. Your car may even have indicators that tell you, for example, when it’s time to get an oil change. Call several shops to find out which one will charge the least amount for scheduled maintenance. Keep track of when you’ve had certain services done so that even if your repair shop tells you it’s time for your tires to be rotated, you have the paperwork showing otherwise.
Laura Adams (plus.google.com/) is the senior insurance analyst for CarInsuranceQuotes.com, a Bankrate company. CarInsuranceQuotes.com provides consumers with a free, easy way to shop for and compare car insurance quotes online, and delivers information and advice about car insurance.