Car shopping doesn't have to suck, but most people equate the experience to going to the dentist for a root canal. It's one of those things that just has to be done. But if you take smart actions before you buy, they will not only reduce the hassle but also could lead to a seriously good deal for the car that works best for your needs and wants. Here are five tips that will help your car shopping experience go more smoothly. 

1. Know What Financing You Qualify For Early

interest rate balloons tied to car

How many of you have felt cornered to make a financing decision at the dealership because you failed to shop around for a good interest rate beforehand? You're not the only one. Dealerships get a cut from their lenders when they sign a new loan, and they love it when you go through them after finding the car that you really, really want. The result is that you may very well end up with a higher interest rate and tacked on fees. Take the time to get your credit score and apply for financing before you start shopping. 

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2. Establish Your Shopping Criteria Before You Perform Research

cartoon laptop with printed checklist

Do you want a sedan, crossover, or a station wagon? Okay, let's say you've narrowed down the segment, but what about fuel economy, safety, horsepower, reliability, AWD/FWD/RWD, etc? Any brand preferences? What about amenities like Bluetooth, heated seats, power liftgate, etc.? These are things you should know before you start narrowing down the models you're seriously considering. It's easy to get lost in the sea of automobiles out there, so whittling down the things that are most important to you certainly will help you before you start performing serious research. 

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3. Know Your Monthly Budget

budget spreadsheet with cash

So many car buyers want the most they think they can afford, but that's not a good way to measure how much you can actually afford. Just because a $400/month payment sounds good because it's only a couple of hundred bucks more than your mobile phone bill doesn't mean it's a wise move. The rule of thumb is to not spend more than 20% of your monthly take-home pay on your car expense. This means calculating in insurance, gas, repairs, registration, etc. If you think you'll spend less on those, you can increase the amount of your monthly car payment amount. 

4. Research Your Trade-In Before You Go to the Dealership

green trade-in key on computer keyboard

Let's say you're really excited about the idea of getting a new car, and you really want to offload your old one fast. But don't be in a rush to trade it in before knowing what it's worth. You could lose out on hundreds, if not thousands of dollars if you're not paying attention. Of course, dealerships will generally want to shortchange you on your trade-in, but if you know its value before you make the transaction, you'll be better equipped and likely won't get hosed when it comes time to sign the papers.

5. Get Online Quotes From Numerous Outlets

online car quotes web2carz

These days, most online car shopping sites like ours will provide pricing so you don't have to call up the dealership or head in to get a good idea of what you can expect to pay for used or new vehicles. We encourage you to get quotes early so you're well-equipped before you actually physically head out to negotiate and buy. You can actually do some degree of negotiation over the phone and online if the seller/dealership is willing. They're eager to get your business, and that's exactly why you should take advantage of the available information out there.

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