What You Need to Know Before Going Car Shopping

November 17, 2016

Is car shopping in the near future for you? Don't walk onto the car lot unprepared! We have five useful tips to remember before going car shopping.

Is a new vehicle in the near future for you? Don’t walk onto the car lot unprepared! We have five useful tips to remember before going car shopping.

Taking a couple minutes now to learn a few helpful bits of info can save you thousands later.

Research Car Makes and Models BEFORE Leaving Home

While it may seem like a no-brainer, too many people go car shopping before doing their research. They fall “in-lust” versus “in-love” during their first test drive and end up purchasing a car that doesn’t actually meet their needs.

To avoid making this mistake, you will want to spend a good amount of time researching what you want in a vehicle, including warranty, longevity, and cost of maintenance. Not to mention, make sure the vehicles you are considering don’t have any known major problems.

I personally use Consumer Reports, Car & Driver, and Kelley Blue Book for information on a potential new (or new-for-me) car, but even a simple Google search will give you more information than most car salesmen. Remember, my dears, a bit of research can go a long way in preventing buyer’s remorse.

Check Dealer Reviews Online

I hate to say it, but some car dealerships and their sales people deserve the “used car salesman” stereotype. That’s why it is so important to check a dealer’s online reviews before stepping foot on their lot. Granted, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any dealership with perfect reviews, as some folks just like to take their bad choices out on the merchant. Still, it won’t be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Try searching on the Better Business Bureau, as well as websites like Yelp and Google. I’ve also had great luck asking for recommendations in my local Facebook swap and shop group.

Be Aware of the Invoice Price

Having knowledge of a vehicle’s invoice price – the amount a dealership paid the manufacturer for the car – can give you a big leg up in negotiations. Car salespeople are out to make money, and regardless of how obliging or courteous they are, they’re ultimately about the bottom line. So when considering buying a new car, know the invoice price beforehand. Car & Driver has a nice section dedicated to the invoice prices of new vehicles.

Also, whether your purchasing new or used, TRUECar can tell you what others have purchased for that same make and model in your area. This information can certainly come in handy if you have reached a stalemate in your negotiations with a dealer.

Be Firm On Budget & Knowledgable About Financing

While dealers can potentially offer competitive financing, it’s always better to walk into a dealership knowing what you can afford, as well as the best loan terms you can find. To do that, you will want to check local banks, peer-to-peer lending, credit unions, as well as online banks like Capital One.

Once you have a few quotes, print them out and bring them with when you go car shopping. Whether the dealership can beat those rates or not, you’re prepared to move forward with your purchase. Plus, you’ll know that you have secured the best loan option available to you.

Buy at the Right Time

Believe it or not, the day of the week, as well as which time of the month you shop can make a huge difference. When you shop during the week, especially during the day, salespeople generally have more time to devote to you. This often makes for better negotiations.

In addition, car dealerships run their books on a month-to-month basis. Statistically, it is therefore better to shop closer to the end of the month. Salespeople will be eager to reach their monthly goal and may be more likely to work with you.


Of course, if you are wanting to eliminate all of these steps, consider taking a gander at Capital One Auto Navigator.

There you can get a quote without a hit to your credit, secure financing, research cars, and more. Pretty sweet, don’t you think?


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Capital One, a bank I personally use and recommend, but of course, all opinions, information and advice is entirely my own. 


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