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Car Buying FAQ’s

Got a question about buying a new car? Ask it here or see if it’s already been answered.

New Car Questions | Used Car Questions | Trade-In Questions | Financing & Leasing Questions

New Car Questions

A man from Austin, TX asked me how he could get a good deal when there was no local competition. In Austin there’s pretty much one car dealership per manufacturer. So I suggested expanding his search to Houston and Dallas to get competitive car prices. Each city is about a 3 hour drive, but has a wide variety of dealerships. By expanding his search he could easily find 5-10 dealerships for just about every manufacturer.

Read more about how to find additional car dealers.

Sure! Ask the dealer how much it would cost to ship to you. If that is still less than your local prices, then buy. Also consider taking a long road trip or flying to pick up the car. Again, if that costs less than local dealers and you don’t mind the travel then do it!

One reader, Sara, flew cross country (from South Dakota to Georgia) to buy her Lexus and save $8500.

If you find a good broker, then yes, they can save you a lot of time, hassle, and frustration.

I teach people how to negotiate great deals for themselves.  But I’m well aware the negotiation process takes time, patience, and a willingness to play hardball with several car dealers at once.  It’s not for everybody.

If you are short on time or just want a professional to help you through the process, car brokers will usually pay for themselves in savings many times over.

See my pick for the best car broker.

If you have flexibility, December is the best month to buy a car.  Car salesman and dealerships get sales incentives at the end of the financial year. Couple that with the holiday week between Christmas and New Years and you get one of the best weeks of the whole entire year to buy.
Absolutely! If you need to buy two cars and want to get the same make (example, Honda), this will help you get an even better deal. When you email car dealers, explain you want a price for both cars. Be specific with the make, model, and trim for each car and be consistent in your emails to every dealer.

Read more about buying two cars at once.

BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo will each let you buy a car through their European Delivery programs.

You make arrangements with a dealer in the U.S. to pick up your car at the factory in Europe.  You take a European vacation and afterwards the manufacturer will have the car shipped to the U.S. for local delivery.  You’ll typically get a discount on the price of the car plus a travel deal.

Whether the savings and travel perks are worth the effort vary by manufacturer.  Read more about how European Delivery programs work and which are worth the money.

Here’s where you can find our picks for the best car deals across all car brands.  And here’s where you can find the best leasing offers right now.

If you want to get early access and to be notified as soon as deals are published, scroll to the very bottom of this page and subscribe.

Invoice price is useful to make sure you are comparing similarly equipped cars when getting prices from several dealers.  You can find this on most car price websites.

Read where to find dealer invoice.

Yes, you can negotiate a special order vehicle. However, it will be more difficult and dealers will not be as flexible, so have lower expectations. They are more apt to cut deals on cars they have in stock.

Aside from all electric vehicles, typically hybrid cars have the best mileage.

Here’s where you can find our picks for the best cars for gas mileage.

Used Car Questions

You can negotiate, but you can’t use the same process for buying a new car buying. This is because every used car is slightly different. My new car buying strategy is based upon getting prices for the exact same make, model, trim car from different sellers.

Here are some tips for buying used cars.

Slightly used cars (under 10k miles) used to be a great deal. But these are hard to find and that has driven up demand. Car dealers want to sell new cars really bad and because demand for slightly used cars is high, you can sometimes find a better deal on a new car than the same car after its been slightly used.

Trade-In Questions

Before going to the dealership, get an appraisal for your car so you know how much it’s worth. Understand how much you can get and remember the tax implications.

Financing & Leasing Questions

Despite what you may have heard, the answer is no! You can’t get a better deal paying cash.  Dealers make a profit off car loans, called dealer reserve, so they’d rather you finance.
Cashback when buying a car mean dealers will provide you with a discount off the price of the car.  Learn more about how cashback works.

You are highly unlikely to find a car dealer that will allow you to put the whole cost of a car on a credit card. However, you often can use a credit card for your down payment and earn points.
0% APR car loans are offered as an promotion to get you in the door.  Sometimes these offers are a bait and switch but sometimes they can actually be a good deal. Read the fine print to determine if zero percent APR is really a good deal.

And check out who’s offering 0% APR deals right now.

In a zero down lease, most or all of your upfront payment (cap cost reduction) is rolled into your monthly payments.

Learn about how zero down leases work.

The general guideline is a down payment of 20% on a new car.  However, if you are able to get a low APR deal, put down as small a down payment as possible.

In a one-pay lease, you prepay for the entire lease agreement with a single, upfront payment rather than spreading the payment over months like in a traditional lease.

This is not to be confused with a short term lease which require monthly payments like a normal lease, but with a shorter lease term (typically under 2 years).

Learn how one-pay leases work.

A well qualified buyer is typically someone that has a 720 credit score or higher. Many car incentives come with the fine print of only applying to well qualified buyers.

I’m not a fan of warranties, they are a big money maker for dealership. I usually refuse all extra warranties.
Dealer holdback is a refund to the dealer from the manufacturer, typically 2-3% of MSRP. It’s usually not negotiable and best to be ignored by car buyers.

Read more about dealer holdback.

Yes, unfortunately. It seems silly, but some dealers will charge more for certain colors. Make sure you ask that any additional charges (like paint) are included in the price they give you.

Here are some other dealer add-on fees to avoid.

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