Feeling Awkward in Shopping for the Right Car?

By: Mike Bartley

Are you afraid of shopping for a new car? You might be thinking you'd likely make a lamentable mistake. Cast your worries away and get over it. It's high time for you to grab hold of your chance to choose wisely.

It seems that some individuals hate the idea of shopping for a car at an auto dealership. But how rational is that trepidation?

"Based on my experience over the past few weeks, the process is not nearly as bad as some claim. Without exception, the sales staff at the various dealerships I visited -- domestic and foreign brands alike -- were courteous, knowledgeable and professional," said John McCormick, a renowned auto critic. "It is true that the quality of dealer facilities did vary considerably, with one brand's showrooms standing out from the rest. There's no question that a clean, spacious, comfortable and modern showroom makes one feel good about the experience from the get-go, but the real test is the showroom staff."

He added, "Anything that matches my experience at a local discount furniture chain store, where as soon as you walk into the showroom you sense the sales staff approaching from all angles, would obviously be a turn-off. But at the auto dealerships the sales people were clearly trained to sense when the 'prospect' would feel comfortable about being approached. At no point was I totally ignored, which can be just as annoying as over-attentiveness. Prompt and useful e-mail follow-up was also appreciated."

"A big part of shopping for a car these days is figuring out the incentives. Should you take zero percent financing or the cash back? Can you really get both?" said Rick DeBruhl of AZ Central. Even on many popular cars like the Ford Focus, Consumer Reports says you'll find plenty of incentives.

Consumer Reports' Rob Gentile looked at one deal that gave the option of zero percent financing or a $2500 rebate and arranging your own financing through a low rate credit union or bank auto loan. "With zero percent financing your monthly payment is 423 dollars, much higher than the 382 taking the rebate. And also the total cost is much higher," said Gentile.

With this deal, you'd save 14-hundred dollars taking the rebate. But a rebate is not always the way to go. Gentile added, "You really need to crunch the numbers to determine your best route." Consumer Reports said it pays to negotiate with the dealer. The auto shopping guide Web site has put together a calculator to help shoppers figure out which deal is best.

"Part of the art of having a relatively happy car buying experience is some knowledge of the process. Take the time to research the procedure -- easily done through a variety of Web sites -- and you will feel much more comfortable when you step through the doors. It also helps to have narrowed down your vehicle selection to a degree, although be flexible, because seeing a vehicle in the flesh can be surprisingly different from viewing it on screen or in a brochure," McCormick noted.

Web sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds offer valuable data about invoice prices and what other shoppers are actually paying for your chosen vehicle. Choosing a car is quite easy. And it could be as reliable as but only if you know where to start and when to stop.

"One other tip: Avoid, if possible, picking up your vehicle on the last day of the month, because that's when finance departments are usually swamped with processing paperwork and you may be kept waiting," McCormick concluded.

New Car Buyers
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