Because sales have been so slow, dealers are competing aggressively for shoppers' business, making it easier to bargain. The Internet provides numerous Web sites to compare makes, models and pricing, including Edmunds.com, MSN Autos and RoadandTravel.com. Coming to dealerships with the most current information puts the shopper, not the dealer, in the driver's seat.
Budget blind spots
Car buyers often don't research expenses that can impact the cost of car ownership, including maintenance, financing and insurance. For instance, they may assume they have no choice other than to finance their cars through the dealerships. Often, the bank down the street or an insurance provider offers better deals on financing a car. Additionally, interest rates can be based on credit history, so shoppers who know their situations can more easily recognize a reasonable deal.
Finally, it's important not to get caught up in the emotions of buying a car. Being practical and planning to spend at least a few days shopping helps people avoid making rash decisions.
There are a number of factors that influence insurance rates, beyond car models. Car buyers should ask about discounts for good driving records and good grades for teen drivers. For instance, State Farm has a Good Driver Discount®. Also, some companies offer discounts on premiums to customers who purchase other policies, such as life or homeowners insurance. When deciding on the right insurance provider, car buyers should keep in mind that, in addition to cost, it's important to find a company that will offer the right level of personal service.
For more information, visit www.RoadandTravel.com.
• Ms. Caldwell is editor in chief and founder of Road & Travel Magazine