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Hi ( I chose a car - ford mustang- from drop down menu, but only because I had to, to ask you a question. I don't own a car). my question: I need to buy a car. I haven't owned a car in 7 years! I sold my car while living in SF, didn't need a car while living in the city. but now I don't live there and need a car. I'm nervous about the experience of choosing and buying a car. I also have bought from friends in the past, just fell into some great deals through them, so have never officially been through a car buying experience on my own. What's worse, I think I'm already upset just knowing that, with the way I chose my college, and most apartments, I'm in for a long, drawn out, and painfully indecisive experience. I worry too much about making "the right choice" and rarely give myself what I actually want. Always the practical woman and at 45 I'm sick of it. I'm not sure how much money to put down on a car either. I don't have a lot saved for a car, but don't want to wait too much longer as I am tired of taking multiple buses to get to one destination; I'm at the end of my public transit rope. I make over 80K, and have $1500.00 that I can put down on a car (saving the rest for initial car insurance and any other potential fees). My credit is at a good rating - not bad, and not excellent, very much right down the middle. Is $1500.00 too little to put down on a used car? and where should I start looking - online or car dealers? I want a used car, and something with a little flare this time! :) Any help to get this girl in action, get the car purchase process rolling, and some confidence for me as well, would be great! thanks Kristin

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Jessie L Thatcher, F&I and Sales Specialist at Reynolds and Reynolds Company  (Retired) A few steps to follow: 1. If possible rent the car/cars you think you might want for the weekend, see if you really like it and if it meets your requirements. 2. Make a list of what you really want in a car (i.e.: power windows, locks, mirrors, regular engine 4 CYL, 6 CYL or maybe a hybrid. How many people will you have in your car at one time, how many miles will you put on the vehicle. How will you use it...do you go to auctions, antique sales or have a hobby that would require you to have adequate truck and other space. Will you be making long trips, how important is image, etc.) These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself. Ask your friends what they like and don't like about their cars. Since it has been a while since you have owned your own car there have been a lot of changes. 3. Check out vehicle pricing on line, in the papers and anywhere else you can compare so you know exactly how much to pay for the vehicle you decide to buy. Edmunds.com, auto auction sites, just put used car in search and you will have enough resources to find out anything you need. 4. Know the difference between Retail and Wholesale pricing. Retail is what the seller is asking for the vehicle, wholesale is what they may have paid for the vehicle to get it in stock. Don't discount a new vehicle as the financing rates are usually lower and the warranty longer than on a used car, plus there may be rebates from the manufacturer. This info is available on the manufacturer's web sites Right now there is a glut of new cars and if you have all your information when you contact a dealer you will be able to know what is and is not a "good deal". 5. Investigate all your financing options, your local bank, credit union, insurance companies, etc. Do not go into the dealership without this knowledge or you will be subject to some rates that may be higher than you would pay if you have all your finance options with you. Know your credit score (exactly) and what this means to you when considering financing. You can get a copy through freecreditreport.com and if you don't understand what it means ask your banker or financial advisor. The higher the score, the lower your rate. Remember almost everything may be negotiable, the price of the car, the rate, the cost of the extended warranty, etc. 6. Understand what you will be offered when you complete your sale, Credit Life Insurance, Accident and Health Insurance, Extended Warranties, Rustproof/Protection Packages, Theft protection items, etc. etc. The best advice is to be prepared, don't fall in love with a car before you buy it, don't get involved in long negotiations. Tell them what you will pay for the vehicle either plus or including taxes and title. Do not get wrapped up in payment quotes, this is how they make more money on the sale. Know what you can afford and how much the payment should be before you go in (another reason to talk to your local bank first). If you have a credit score over 730 you will get a good rate, anything under that will cause the rate to be prorated. The lower the score the higher the rate. Be very aware of the term quoted, it can go as long as 84 months, the payment sounds great but the interest paid is a killer. Your down payment should be more than adequate, however this also depends on your credit score with the financial institution. Have your automobile insurance ready to go when you make a decision. You can't take your car home without insurance in place and since you don't currently own a vehicle you will have to do this as well. This is another consideration when choosing which vehicle to purchase, some carry higher insurance rates than others. You can do all your negotiations on line without ever going into a dealership. Contact the manufacture through their web site, they will assign you to a dealer and you can do everything on line or on the phone only going in to sign the papers. Last piece of advice.....DON'T BE NERVOUS, THEY NEED YOU MORE THAN YOU NEED THEM. If you don't like what they have to say LEAVE, don't make excuses just stick to your guns, know what you want and if they won't give it to you, thank them and go somewhere else. GOOD LUCK!!

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