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I am in the market for a new car. I currently have a Honda Civic, which is my second Honda. I would like a car that's a bit on the sporty side, maybe a hatchback, something that's good in the snow, great gas mileage and finally extremely reliable. I keep buying Honda's because I never have any problems with them and I don't have to worry about the car too much. Do you have any suggestions for me? I was looking at the Audi A3, but it's a bit on the pricey side. Thanks, Maria

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Patty Streeter,  at AskPatty.com Maria, Here are some links with reviews for many differnet platforms. Remember it's important to test dirve every vehicle you are considering and make sure you choose the car that will work best ro YOU. You might be interested in a wagon: http://www.automotive.com/new-cars/02/wagons/index.html Here are some great reviews on hatchbacks as well: http://www.automotive.com/new-cars/02/hatchbacks/index.html Here are some reviews done by our experts: http://askpatty.typepad.com/ask_patty_/2006/10/expert_car_wome.html And for mom friendly vehicle reviews, try www.MotherProof.com Remember these tips before you buy a car: 15 Must-Know Automotive Terms by Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® Do you ever feel that the car dealers are speaking Greek or some foreign language? Do you need a translator? The auto dealers are not trying to trick you; language is just something you will need to learn, sort of like talking to a doctor or a chef. I have translated the 15 most common terms to help you understand the terms so that you can negotiate the best deal. Add-on interest: Interest that is computed at the beginning of the loan, and then added to the principal, so that all must be repaid, even if the loan is paid off early. Base price: The cost of a car without any options. This price includes standard equipment and the manufacturer's warranty and is printed on the Monroney sticker (window sticker). Blue Book or Book Price: Where do most dealers get the average going prices of vehicles, the Kelley Blue Book, an industry guide dealers use to estimate wholesale and retail vehicle pricing. This usually referred to as "the blue book price" it can actually refer to a price looked up in one of the many guides to pricing. You can find out these prices before you go to the dealer by going to a few web sites that offer ongoing updates. I prefer www.edmunds.com because their prices are based on your zip code. A four-wheel drive will have more value in snowy climates than in warm climates, so the values may change. Dealer holdback: An allowance, usually between 2 percent and 3 percent of manufacturer's suggested retail price that manufacturers provide to dealers. A holdback allowance may allow the dealer to pay the manufacturer less than the invoice price. A buyer could obtain a car below invoice price and the dealer would still make a profit. However, most dealers will not dig into their holdback, because that’s what coverage their costs. Dealer incentives: Programs offered by manufacturers to increase the sales of slow-selling models or to reduce excess inventories. Dealers may elect to pass on the savings to the buyer. You can sometimes stack these incentives and there are also incentives for new drivers, college graduates and newlyweds so make sure to ask what’s available. Dealer preparation, or dealer prep or preparation charges: An additional charge that dealers try to impose on buyers. It represents pure profit for the dealers, who have already been paid by the manufacturer for the cost of preparing the car for sale. Dealer prep is removing all the plastic, adding knobs and details to make the vehicle ready for delivery. Destination charge: The fee charged for transporting the vehicle to the dealer from the manufacturer or port of entry. This charge is to be passed on to the buyer without any markup. Extended warranty or Service contracts: A contract that covers certain car repairs or problems after the manufacturers or dealer's warranty expires. Car manufacturers, dealers and independent companies sell extended warranties. With a new car, the extended warranty usually must be purchased by the end of the first year of ownership. If you are keeping a vehicle more than 3 years this is a consideration, all vehicles are covered for 3 years of 36,000 miles some even cover 10 years or 100,000 miles – so think before you buy there are a lot of details to read. If you purchase an extended warranty make sure the dealer is doing the repairs and what the deductible may be. Invoice price: The manufacturer's initial charge to the dealer. The price may not be the dealer's final cost because dealers receive rebates and other incentives from the manufacturer. The invoice price always includes freight, also known as the destination charge. Monroney sticker or Dealer sticker price: The sticker on the car window that shows the base price, the manufacturer's installed options with the manufacturer's suggested retail price, the manufacturer's destination charge, and the car's fuel economy (mileage). Federal law requires this label and it is only removed when the purchaser sells the car. Named after "Mike" Monroney, a longtime Oklahoma congressman who wrote the Automobile Information Disclosure Act. Prepayment penalty: A lender's charge to the borrower for paying off the loan before the end of the term. Rebate: A manufacturer's reduction on the price of the car as an incentive to buyers. Rebates appeal to people with no credit or less-than-perfect credit who cannot qualify for the lowest-rate loan. A rebate may also appeal to first-time buyers who don't have a lot of cash for a down payment or another car to trade in. Rule of 78s: A mathematical formula that was devised in the days before modern calculators. The formula was a quick way for lenders in the 1920s and 1930s to estimate payoff amounts when a customer paid ahead on an installment loan. Some auto lenders still use the "Rule of 78s" formula to calculate a rebate of finance charges when a customer pays off a pre-computed loan early. For a borrower looking to end an auto loan early, there isn't a worse way a lender could calculate your payoff amount. The Rule of 78s formula packs extra interest charges into the early months of a loan. Using this rule, a lender typically collects three-quarters of a loan's interest in the first half of a loan term. This can only be applied to pre-computed loans that are paid ahead of schedule. The formula can’t be applied to simple interest loans. Title: A legal document containing specific information about the vehicle and stating who owns it. If you borrow money to get a car, the lender will hold the title until the vehicle is paid off. In some states you will have the title mailed to you with a lien holder listed at the bottom. This is the ownership of the vehicle and MUST be stored in a safe place. If you lose this document it will take a lot of work and effort on your part so that you can sell of trade-in your vehicle. Trade-in value: The amount that the dealership will credit you for the vehicle you provide as partial or full payment for another vehicle. Amount credited is frequently about 5 percent below the wholesale value of the vehicle. Remember if you want a wholesale price on a car, you won’t get a retail price on your trade-in. The Power of Taking Charge! THE POWER OF TAKING CHARGE THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE WOMAN, meaning that auto manufactures have discovered that 50% of the decision makers of auto purchasing are women. Manufactures have even implemented programs to train dealerships in how to work with women so they are at ease when walking in a showroom floor. THIS IS ALSO A BUYERS MARKET. It is great to know that manufactures are not only catering to women through dealer training programs and incentives but this is the time to be purchasing as there is an overabundance of vehicles in which the prices are more competitive. With this fabulous knowledge, it is grand to know that we as women, are powerful and important! In 1984 when I went to work in the NASCAR arena as a mechanic, I had to get out of the box in thinking like a woman...toughen up...and think like a guy to earn respect. I didn't know anyone in NASCAR and became creative how to get an appointment for my first mechanics job. I used a guy's approach which got me started working for a couple of teams without getting paid for it, but didn't complain. I had to show my determination, my skills, while keeping quiet, learning by watching, listening, and working twice as hard as anyone else. My plan worked and I ended up as a full time paid mechanic on Joe Ruttman's team in charge of brakes and tires. (It was when the tires were staggered.) I didn't date anyone, didn't bother the drivers, kept my values and earned respect from my teammates. When Richard Petty won his 200th win at the Firecracker 400 in Daytona Beach, our team won the fastest pit crew time, and I was part of that pit crew – as “catch can”. I knew when the cameras were on me, because as I turned to go back over the wall, it was packed with photographers and TV cameras. They recognized my ponytail sticking out of my hat. The beauty of the entire experience was that I had a goal in mind and believed enough in that goal to not let petty situations sidetrack my focus. I took charge of my purpose became powerful with determination to succeed. One thing I didn't ever forget was that I was a woman in a man's world, a pioneer in the sport, at a time when very few women were recognized as professional. TODAY IT'S OUR WORLD...and WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY! The twist is wonderful, whereas in the 80's I was having to think like a guy to fit in the group, and now guys are learning to think like a woman just to get the autos sold! I LOVE IT! So let's talk about car buying. Here are some steps to take to help any woman feel at ease and to take charge when purchasing an auto. 1) RESEARCH - Before going into a dealership it is best to research what you want first through internet. Do you know what type of vehicle you want? Going to the manufacturers website will give you details without having to speak to a salesperson. You can do web search cost comparisons with your vehicle. TAKE CHARGE and create your own personal research facts. 2) DEALER INTERNET – Once you have done your research from other websites, then turn to the local dealer website that you chose to purchase your car from (or thinking about). Check their website out to see their prices. The internet prices are about as good as you can get because they are competing with other dealer website pricing. Compare those prices with your research. Also, check out their service department. Purchasing an auto isn't just about getting the best price, you will want to make sure they have the service to back up the vehicle. 3) OWN FINANCING / DEALER FINANCING – Research your own financing, as credit unions seem to have the best situations. When you are ready to make a purchase at the dealership, be prepared to have a resource of financing to compare with. Many dealers today have their own in-house program and work with twenty or more banks. Again...TAKING CHARGE is having your homework done so you can compare rates. For your information, dealers make more money selling used cars then new cars. Dealers can negotiate more with used cars. 4) MEETING WITH A SALESPERSON – Don't be afraid of this step. Remember that you are in charge the entire time. They are trained to cater to women and they are trained that honesty is what sells a woman. There really is something to a “WOMAN'S INTUITION”, and they know that. Let them know that you have done your research and have checked their website out. Stick with the price you want and hang tight. YOU HAVE DONE YOUR HOMEWORK. Ask as many questions as possible. They are working for you...so put them to work. There is no difference with cash or finance with auto buying to get a break. Once a vehicle and price have been decided upon, the salesperson will have to run this buy the sales desk. There may be rebates on certain vehicles that need to be checked. Again, remember it is a BUYERS MARKET. YOU ARE IN CONTROL. 5) WARRANTEES – There are great manufacture warranties that come with brand new cars, but if you have selected to purchase a used car I would suggest an extended warrantee as long as it is only with a manufacturer or a reputable company. Again, research as to what is best for your needs. 6) DEALER SERVICE – All vehicles out there are as good as the dealer servicing it. The buyer needs to feel comfortable – pick a dealer that will service you – even if you have to pay just a little bit more. TAKE CHARGE knowing that dealers are now wanting to make the female comfortable especially in the service arena. When it comes to taking your vehicle to the service department, I encourage EVERYONE to READ THE HAND BOOK – MAINTENANCE PROGRAM prior. Lift up your hood and understand what is under it. Everything is explained in the manufacturers handbook. There are diagrams to follow. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CAR. It is important to understand the maintenance to make sure it is taken care of. (My car comes first when getting the attention it needs.) Becomes friends with the service tech. Bring him a pizza for his lunch time, etc. Ask him about things you don't understand about the car. You will be surprised of the understanding, learning and respect you will receive by being truly interested in how everything works and how willing they are to share it with you. I used to sell cars in my early 20's and the outlook and focus concerning sales has changed drastically for the better. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and through your research, you will have the ability to TAKE CHARGE and actually enjoy purchasing your auto. YOU ARE IN CONTROL!

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