After listening to the portion of today's show about buying cars (8/20/00), I visited fool.com for the first time. The 13 steps to buying a car is one of the best resources that I have encountered for buying cars.I really only had one objection and that was that Obtaining Financing was Step 3 after negotiating the price of the new car and trade-in. A prospective car buyer should always arrange financing in advance with their own credit union or bank before discussing the same with the likes of GMAC, FMCC, Chrysler Financial, etc.Even if you are planning to take advantage of special Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) financing, you are in a position of strength when you enter into negotiations prequalified.In addition, a prospective car buyer should review their consumer credit files (something that should be done at least once per year as SOP) in advance of applying for a loan:www.experian.comwww.equifax.comwww.transunion.comWhat you don't know will hurt you - see www.creditscoring.com for details.Finally, a 14th step is in order. The fool auto expert was "spot on" when he stated that a good, modern automobile will last 10 years or more with proper care - I have surpassed 200,000 miles or 10 years with vehicles that are on Consumer Reports "avoid" lists (see http://www.consumerreports.org/Special/Worksheets/Reports/0008use7.htm) and I have NO FORMAL automotive training.Proper Maintenance (PM) is the 14th step that will help a vehicle remain a clean, reliable, and economical means of transportation. Anyone can learn to practice PM without extensive training or expensive tools. All you need is a clean paper towel, a good tire gage (a $15 dial-type gage available at most major auto parts stores), and a notebook.Everyone should check all their fluids, tire pressures, operation of lights/horn, etc. at least MONTHLY. Get out the owner's manual and make a checklist of the items to check on your particular vehicle. If the owner's manual doesn't have enough information, the buy the $12.99 Haynes repair manual for your car (auto parts stores or www.haynes.com). Chapter 1 on maintenance will show you what to do with easy step-by-step instructions, photos, and diagrams. Also try www.carcarecouncil.org or www.familycar.com.Make a chart of all the OEM recommended maintenance/frequency in the first column. In adjacent columns pencil-in the date/mileage of the last service. In the final column pencil-in the projected month and mileage (to the nearest 100 miles) of the next service due. Review this list each month to see what is coming due in the way of scheduled maintenance.I always recommend following the OEM's "severe" schedule regardless of the type of driving you do (the OEM's motivation is to avoid paying warranty claims, but keep you coming back to buy more cars).Here are some other standard comments I give to consumers I am helping with car related questions: 1. I recommend a new car vs. a used car. Here is why:A. A new car has the least probability of being abused, neglected, odometer rolled back, wrecked, etc.B. A new car has the full OEM warranty and they are not going to deny your claim because the previous owner(s) skipped the required maintenance.C. A new car has lemon law protection when the OEM warranty doesn't help.D. Financing rates on new cars are lower than on used cars (because new cars are lower risk).E. When you look at the price difference between a new car (especially with special OEM financing or rebates) vs. a used car over the 10 year life of the car, we are talking pennies per day. A small price to pay for the added benefits.2. Get the invoice price for the car you are interested in at:www.edmunds.comwww.kbb.comwww.nadaguides.comwww.carprices.comAlso check the prenegotiated prices at COSTCO, Sams Club, AAA, etc. if you are a member.Also try the websellers:www.autobytel.comwww.greenlight.comwww.carsdirect.comwww.carorder.comFax or email your offer of total invoice prices for vehicle, options, and fair profit (see edmunds.com for details) to every dealership within a reasonable drive.Compare "drive out" prices from every source above (drive out includes tax, tag, title, and all fees).3. If you have to go "used" due to budget, then try to:A. Buy from the original owner who has properly maintained the car and has the records to prove it.B. If not buying from the original owner, then try to buy from somewhere that has a free return period and some kind of warranty (e.g. AutoMaxCarNation).C. Check the VIN for any used car at www.carfax.comD. Have it inspected by an independent diagnostic mechanic.E. You can get an idea of the book value of the vehicle at the URLs for new car prices above.4. Once you have the car, learn to take proper care of it. Every month check all of the fluids, tire pressures, operation of lights, horn, etc. Follow the OEM "severe" maintenance schedule and keep immaculate records.You can learn more at:www.familycar.comwww.carcarecouncil.orgbest of luckPS A good resource for consumer auto questions is www.clarkhoward.com - the "Cars" message board. He has plenty of other good consumer advice as well.
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