and sounds. Listen for the steadiness of
the engine's sounds and cabin noise.
Open the windows to hear any unusual
sounds while braking and turning.
Drive on different surface pave-
ments to check the car's handling and
smoothness of ride (suspension sys-
tem, braking, and steering).
Make sure you're comfortable be-
hind the wheel. Can you reach hand
and foot controls without stretching?
Is your head too close to the roof or
windshield? Is your vision obscured
by the dashboard or headrests? Can
you sit comfortably without hunching
forward or cramping your legs?
(Check the back seats too.)
When you return the car, assess the
dealership by asking these questions:
* Is the dealership conveniently
* Are the service areas kept clean and
* Are loaner cars available if your
car is out of service for several days?
Weigh the Options
When you're ready to make a deal,
you'll be faced with a range of op-
tions-from performance and safety
options to luxury, appearance, and
entertainment options. If you can't af-
ford them all, what should you
What you should not sacrifice are
the performance and safety features.
These features-a more powerful en-
gine, better steering and braking, safe-
ty gear, and internally wired security
systems-are hard to add at a later
date. They can save your life-and
help you reduce your insurance costs.
You can always add upgrades, such
as deluxe wheel covers and a better ste-
reo, later. When you purchase extras,
your main concern should be your
ability to finance the total package.
Negotiate for the Best Deal
How much negotiating power do
you have? Usually, you can negotiate
between 10 percent and 20 percent off
the sticker price. But a lot depends on
timing. Pick your time carefully.
Month-ends are often slow sales times,
and dealers will be more open to nego-
tiating. According to Auto Week mag-
azine, any time you read that dealer in-
ventories exceed 50 to 60 days, you're
in a good bargaining position.
Should you get an extended war-
ranty or service contract? Base your
choice on what the factory warran-
ty excludes. Today, most factory
warranties are fairly comprehen-
sive. Even if you don't know a
wheel bearing from a widget, check
the name of each item under origi-
nal warranty against the coverage
list for the extended plan. In this
way, you can begin to identify
which systems of the car would be
gaining additional protection under
an extended warranty.
If you're the type of person who
intends to keep the car longer than
the period of the factory warranty
or if you put on a lot of miles each
year, extended plans make espe-
cially good sense. Consider that as a
car ages, it tends to require more
service-of the expensive variety
(transmissions, valves, etc.).
With a good extended plan, you
are actually insuring against unex-
pected major repair costs that you
may not be able to afford at the
time they occur.
Here are some negotiating tips to
* Don't talk about financing until
the price is settled. Your means of pay-
ment can influence the price you pay.
* Be prepared to wait for the car you
really want. Chances are the dealer
can swap with another local dealer
who has your choice on his lot.
. Consider selling your old car your-
self. You'll get a higher price than if
you trade it in.
* Understand that markups on for-
eign and luxury cars are higher than
those on domestic compacts or sub-
* Inspect the car carefully before you
close the deal. If anything is wrong,
point it out to the dealer before you
sign the contract.
Figure Your Financing
Shopping for a loan is just as impor-
tant as shopping for your car. Talk to
at least three financing sources, in-
cluding the dealer, a bank, a savings
and loan, and a credit union. Com-
pare the Annual Percentage Rates
(APR) and the lengths of the loans.
Interest on car payments is figured
differently from the simple interest
compounded on your savings .ac-
counts or student loans. Obviously,
the shorter the term and the lower the
rate, the less you will pay overall. But,
you can lower your monthly payments
by increasing the term, or reduce your
total payout by accepting higher
Unless you are an accounting ma-
jor, have your lender prepare a chart,
such as the one below, that clearly
shows your options.
Buying a new car is a major invest-
ment. When you've taken the time and
effort to ensure getting a good deal,
you can be proud of both your car and
your buying savvy. Q
Payment 7% 8% 9% 10% Rates
36 months $5,562 $5,634 $5,724 $5,814
48 months 5,736 5,856 5,976 6,096
60 months 5,940 6,090 6,240 6,360
36 months $154.50 $156.50 $159.00 $161.50
43 months 119.50 122.00 124.50 127.00
60 months 99.00 101.50 104.00 106.00
6 plus/SPRING 88