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4 steps to
a year-end car bargain
Rebates, 0% financing and other incentives abound as the end of
the model year nears. Here are tips to help you secure a great deal.
By Mark Solheim, Kiplinger's
Forget about waiting
until the August dog days to score an end-of-model-year deal. As
automakers introduce new models earlier and earlier in the calendar
year, late spring and early summer may be the best time to dicker.
That's especially true for models being redesigned for 2004, says
Joe Cashen of CarsDirect.com
If you're worried about
a double dose of depreciation -- fearing that you'll pay for an
extra year's worth of declining value if you buy at the end of the
model year -- don't fret. Three years down the road, there won't
be that much of a spread between the value of an '03 and an '04
with similar mileage. Getting a bargain on an '03 could easily compensate
for any difference.
Gather the numbers
The best route to a rock-bottom price is to contact several dealers
and let them compete for your business. Start with MSN Autos or
Kiplinger.com's Car Finder. (See link at left under Related Sites.)
You can study all the models, build a car with the options you want,
and see both sticker and invoice prices.
Then go to a site that
lists rebates, such as Edmunds.com or Intellichoice.com. The big
rebates (some more than $4,000) are mainly the domain of GM, Ford
and Chrysler. On luxury and foreign cars, you're more likely to
find low-rate financing -- or no incentive at all.
Next, check out no-haggle
offers on the Internet to get a sound footing on prices in your
market. Start with the local dealers' sites, then visit CarsDirect.com,
which works with dealers nationwide to offer preset prices. (See
link at left under Related Sites.) You can also buy a new or used
car for a fixed price at CarMax (See link at left under Related
Sites.) and at a handful of no-haggle regional dealerships.
Focus on the deal
Once you have a specific model in mind, test-drive it. Then get
on the phone to talk price. That way, you won't be subjected to
the games dealers play, such as "desking the deal" (you
cool your heels while the salesperson visits the manager to get
each price concession approved).
Check out several dealers.
That's how CarBargains works --for a $190 fee, it solicits bids
from five or more dealers in your area (call 800-475-7283 for information).
"That kind of competition is the only real leverage consumers
have," says Robert Ellis of CarBargains. (See link at left
under Related Sites.)
Ask each dealer to bid
an amount above or below the factory invoice price for the make,
model and style you want. The invoice price will be the same for
all dealers in the same region, so any difference in price -- even
for cars equipped with different options -- will be consistent.
Make sure rebates aren't included (you get them directly from the
manufacturer) and that you know any miscellaneous charges that could
show up on the final bill, such as dealer prep or port charges,
or dealer add-ons such as rustproofing. Get the lowest bidders to
send you an e-mail or fax confirming the price.
When price shopping,
try to speak with the dealer's fleet manager, whose commission is
usually based on sales volume rather than cost of the vehicle. The
next best person to talk with is the sales manager. Let each dealer
know you're comparison shopping and that you want their best price
because you won't be calling back to negotiate. "Some dealers
will and some won't let you talk to a manager," says Jerry
Sommerville of O'Donnell Honda, in Ellicott City, Md. At O'Donnell,
says Sommerville, each salesperson has the authority to offer a
Research financing in
Don't let a low-rate loan steer you to a higher price. See what
your bank or credit union is charging for auto loans, and consider
using a home-equity line of credit to purchase the car. If you have
a choice between low-rate financing and a rebate, it usually makes
sense to take the cash, add it to your down payment and get your
Negotiate the trade-in
It's convenient to leave your old car with the dealer, but put off
the trade-in talk until you've locked in the price of the new car.
You can research prices at Is-it-a-Lemon.com
, Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book and CarsDirect.com.
(See links at left under Related Sites.)
Source: CNBC - Jun 17 7:05 PM - web site: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/SavingandDebt/P50047.asp
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