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Here’s How to Get a Great Deal on a New Car

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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In the market for a new car? Don’t worry, scoring a great deal on a new car doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are numerous ways to get a great price if you know how to ask for the deals and know where to look for them.

If you haven’t done a ton of research, it’s a little nerve-wracking to visit dealerships and negotiate prices in addition to discussing policies for warranties and insurance.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a number of tactics and resources to help navigate the somewhat pressure-filled undertaking of buying a new car.

There are a lot of moving parts to figure out if you are getting a good deal on a car. You have to consider things like the upfront costs, long-term expenses, and rates. Fortunately, doing your homework beforehand can help you snag the best deal.

Eight ways to get the best deal on a new car

1. Understand the total price you’ll pay

Most of us just think about the monthly payments, and how it will fit into our budget. That’s a major mistake for two reasons:

  1. It can make the loan term longer and/or boost the interest rate.
  2. It makes it harder for you to understand exactly what you’re paying for when you’re just going by a monthly fee.

You’ll want to get a monetary breakdown of everything you’re paying for before you sign on the dotted line. Ensuring that you receive the out-the-door price that includes tags, taxes, fees and any other extras will go a long way in helping you understand exactly how much your new car is costing you.

You’ll want to be certain you know the invoice price of the car, not just the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). The invoice cost is what the dealership paid the auto manufacturer for the car. This will become key in your price negotiations down the line since you’ll want to negotiate the price of the car down to as close to this number as possible to get the best deal.

2. Know your trade-in value

Knowledge is power. If you are interested in trading in your old car (as opposed to donating it or reselling it), you’ll need to find out how much its worth. Fortunately, the National Automobile Dealers Association has a helpful guide for assessing the value of your old vehicle. Find out exactly the current selling price before you trade your car in at the dealership so you can know whether the dealership you are haggling with is giving you a fair market price for it. You could also read more about the people you might meet at the dealership.

3. Get preapproved

Getting preapproved helps you get a better deal because you know just how much you can afford, and it can help you score a better deal when it comes down to the negotiating table since you won’t necessarily need dealer financing. Getting preapproved means that you get a conditional approval for a loan at a set interest rate, period and for a set amount of money. Obtaining preapproval for a loan has definite pros, including:

  • It’s simple and quick. You could also compare custom offers from multiple lenders in just minutes.
  • It will save you time at the dealership. When you do some of the virtual paperwork at home, you will probably spend less time with the sales and finance representatives.
  • By getting preapproved, you are doing your due diligence by taking control of financing experience of purchasing a car. This shows you are serious about getting the best deal, and you’re taking the necessary first steps toward financing your new car. Also, when you arrive at the dealership, you’ll have a pretty solid idea of the interest rates and terms you can expect for the car you’re buying.

Just as there are positive points to getting preapproved, there are some drawbacks as well. Ronald Montoya, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds, said there aren’t too many negatives to being preapproved, but consumers should be aware of the following:

  • Don’t “sit” on your loan application. Banks can choose to do a hard inquiry or soft inquiry on your credit every time you apply for preapproval. According to Montoya, if you do all the preapprovals within two weeks, the banks know you are shopping for a car, so they won’t ding you every single time you apply for a loan. If you wait for a while, it’s considered a separate occasion and that may reflect badly on your credit. Check with each bank before getting preapproved to see how they pull your credit.
  • Be mindful of how much money you’re borrowing. Montoya said it varies by bank, and some banks will approve a specific amount and that gives you the flexibility to change your mind on certain models as long as it’s within that price range. Other banks will want to know exactly which model you’re interested in, and give you a loan for that exact amount, so you’ll need to check with that bank before getting the preapproval.

As a rule, Montoya said it’s a good idea to know what you can afford. If you realize that you didn’t get preapproved for the amount, there may be an issue with your credit that needs to be addressed.

4. Shop around

You need to know what kind of deals are out there and compare as many offers as you can. You may also want to check out dealerships and showrooms outside your local market. Sure, you may spend more time and a little more gas getting to some out-of-the-way places, but it’s worth it to compare offers.

Gathering multiple price quotes can also help you lower the price. By presenting a dealership with competing offers from other dealerships, you may get the sales folks to engage in a kind of bidding war. In doing so, you may walk away with the lowest price by obtaining more than one offer from other showrooms in the area.

5. Flex your negotiation skills

Montoya said it’s always a good idea to negotiate because the first price you get is not necessarily the best price you can get. He suggested that people do away with any outdated notions about negotiating as being a kind of haggling – going back and forth on price. He suggests getting a number of different prices from different dealerships on a vehicle so you have a number of options: if you don’t want to negotiate, you can just take the lowest one. Or, if you like one that costs a bit more, but you are a fan of the service at that particular dealership, you can ask the salesperson if they can beat the price you received earlier. You can let the staff know you want to do business with them because of their location, or because they had the vehicle in a color you really want.

“This way,” Montoya explained, “you have a reason for why you’re negotiating. Even if you’ve just checked the price online and seen what the market value is. That’s something you can point at, as opposed to just saying, ‘Can you knock off $3,000 off this car?'”

Knowing that there are multiple prices floating around makes your case much stronger and can snag you a better deal.

Here are a few tips for being a pro negotiator:

  • Don’t get emotional

Remember negotiation is about business, not feelings. Don’t get swayed by emotions when you’re negotiating the car of your dreams. You should always be ready to pursue another dealership at the drop of a hat in order to get the best deal.

  • Do the math

If you’re asked, “How much can you afford to pay per month?” be extra careful.
That’s the advice of Sonia Steinway, president of Outside Financial, LLC. “That’s usually one of the first questions dealers ask prospective car buyers, and it should be a red flag,” she said. “The dealer knows that few car buyers like to do the math. As long as the dealership can extend the loan length to adjust the monthly payment, the customer doesn’t think about the total purchase price. The borrower pays more in the long-term, but doesn’t feel the pain each month,” Steinway said.

  • Think twice about bundled features

Before you set out on your car-finding mission, Montoya advises buyers to make a quick list of must-have options. Then, figure out which trim levels and options are going to include what you want. “If, for example, you want navigation, and it’s bundled in a technology package that costs like $2500, then you have to really debate how much you need that navigation,” he explained.

Montoya suggests that you take your must-have list with you as a reference point while you shop. “It’s important to know the basic features that you want to have,” he said.

  • Don’t shop while drowsy

Car dealers know that most consumers hit the cognitive overload point after a long day of perusing the showrooms. Sonia Steinway said that’s one of the reasons they wait to present financing options until after you’ve already spent a few hours test driving and haggling over price.

“You’re tired, hungry, and overwhelmed, and that’s when psychological research suggests you are the most vulnerable to being taken advantage of,” she said. Just like you shouldn’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry, never shop for a car when you are feeling exhausted.

6. Have a Plan B

You may have tunnel vision when it comes to your dream car, but there are comparable models that may net you significant savings. You owe it to yourself to consider those vehicles and see if one might suit you better than the car you had your heart set on. Be sure to check out the comparison tools provided by NADA and J.D. Power for help comparing different makes and models.

7. Rebate? Great!

Automakers and dealers continually offer rebates and incentives. It’s always a good idea to ask about current specials, sales events and inventory blowouts. You could walk away with a great car, and a great deal.

8. Warranties, insurance and other things to consider

Extended warranties are another thing to consider. Montoya said there is really no simple answer to whether buyers should opt for an extended warranty. It’s very much a personal choice.

“Some people do want that piece of mind that an extended warranty gives them,” he said. “Others,” he continued, “question the price of it.” He advises asking questions about warranties and other extras before you sit down in the dealership’s sales office, where it becomes a pressure-filled push to seal the deal that day. Call ahead to ask about the warranty. You have no obligation to buy the warranty, nor are you obligated to buy it at the time of sale.

“In fact, you have until the manufacturer’s original factory warranty expires, so that gives you some time to kind of spend some time in the car, see if it gives you any issues, and see if you want to move forward with that warranty,” he said.

Montoya also advises folks to consider insurance “very early on” once you’ve decided on a couple of vehicles. He said it can help you decide between two cars if one make/model has a higher insurance cost than the other. This particularly comes into play if vehicles have advanced safety features that include sensors like adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring. Those features add up to higher insurance costs because they are expensive to replace in the event of an accident.

The bottom line

Taking the new car plunge isn’t easy. Before moving forward on a purchase, you’ll need to do quite a bit of analysis and be extremely patient. Fortunately, today’s auto dealers know that buyers have extensive information at their fingertips and will work with them to make a deal. It’s important to do your homework, ask the right questions, be realistic about what you can afford and keep your emotions in check. By taking these steps, you can snag the keys to the car of your dreams, knowing you got a great deal.

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Everything You Need to Know About Getting a VIN Check

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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You probably haven’t thought a lot about a car’s VIN (vehicle identification number). Usually, we just think of VINs when we register our car at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or we need to get our vehicle serviced or insured. But it’s critical to understand what exactly a VIN is, why it’s important, and why you should always get a VIN check before buying a used car.

What is a VIN number and where do you find it?

Just as your fingerprint is unique to you, a VIN is unique to your vehicle. No two vehicles can have the same VIN. This all-important grouping of identifiers is made up of both numbers and capital letters (usually 17 characters in all; cars made before 1981 may have fewer digits) and it displays everything that is unique about a vehicle— its features, specifications, who it was made by and where it was manufactured. It’s usually located on the driver’s side interior dash, door jamb or on a plate inside the engine bay.

The simplest way to find the VIN is to position yourself outside of the car on the driver’s side. Peek at the corner spot where the dash meets the windshield. It may also be located on the vehicle’s engine or under the hood near the firewall. As a third option, you may locate it on your insurance card/or on your insurance documentation, and on the title and registration of your vehicle.

Passenger vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), motorcycles/scooters, trucks, buses, low-speed vehicles (LSVs) and trailers also have VIN numbers.

A vehicle identification number serves a variety of purposes: it can be used to monitor recalls, indicate a car’s registration status, warranty claims, and insurance coverage.

The VIN is made up of six main sections or parts:

  • World Manufacturer Index (WMI) — The first number indicates where the vehicle was built and the next two numbers indicate the manufacturer.
  • Manufacturer Specification Data — The fourth through the eighth character display the car’s model series, engine and body type. These numbers also might indicate what kind of basic safety equipment the vehicle has.
  • Check Digit — The ninth digit in the VIN is a special number that has been created by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This number verifies that the VIN is authentic.
  • Model Year — The tenth number shows the model year of the vehicle.
  • Plant Location — The 11th character indicates where the vehicle was built or assembled.
  • Vehicle Unique Number — The last six characters are the vehicle’s serial number.

What is a VIN check?

A VIN check is, simply, a check of the car’s history. It is also called a Vehicle History Check or Report and it’s critical to do a VIN check before purchasing a used car, because you want to get as much information as you can about a vehicle’s past. Was it ever in an accident? Have any parts been recalled? These are the types of questions a VIN check can answer.

Obtaining a vehicle history report is a very important part of the used car purchasing process. You’ll want to secure one of these reports before you purchase a used car. A VIN check or vehicle history report will show things like:

  1. Odometer rollbacks: If the reading on the vehicle history report doesn’t match the reading on the odometer, the odometer may have been rolled back. This could mean that the odometer reading is unreliable.
  2. Flood damage: When a car is flooded and totaled, it’s VIN is recorded. Sometimes flooded cars are cleaned up and sold hundreds or thousands of miles from where the damage occurred. The VIN check will tell you if the car has suffered any flood damage.
  3. Collisions and accidents: When a collision or accident happens and it is put through insurance claims, or when the police get involved, the VIN number is recorded. Car history report providers collect data from insurance companies, law enforcement, collision repair shops, and DMVs to paint a picture of what the car has been through. If the airbags have been deployed or there was serious structural damage to the vehicle, you’ll be able to tell by running a VIN check.
  4. Frame or structural damage: If the car was in a wreck and sustained frame or structural damage it will show up on the VIN report.
  5. Airbag safety: Millions of cars have recalled airbags. By checking the car’s VIN, you can check to see if one exists on the vehicle you’re considering buying (if it does, a dealership should repair it for free). Defective airbags can be incredibly dangerous if deployed in a crash.
  6. Service and repair information: While not all services are recorded with the VIN number, many major ones are. By pulling the vehicle history report you can see what kinds of major repairs and services the car has had before you buy it.
  7. Vehicle usage: Was the vehicle used as a taxi? As a leased car? When a car is used as a livery vehicle or leased its VIN is registered with the DMV. Some livery cars have had a hard life (lots of miles, stop and go traffic, the potential for accidents) so it pays to pull the vehicle history report.
  8. Recall details: Are there any recalls on the vehicle and have they been repaired? The VIN number can help you find out.
  9. Title information, including salvaged or junked titles: If a title is salvaged or junked it means that the vehicle you are considering has a branded title. A salvaged title indicates that the vehicle has been in an accident and declared a total loss by an insurance company. Someone then came along and repaired the car to be drivable on the road and got a salvage title in order to register it. A junked title means that the car has been deemed unsafe to operate on U.S. roads. Each state Department of Motor Vehicles has different terms for junk titles so be sure to check with your local office to find out what exactly the term junk means in your state.

In addition to the potential problems the car has, the VIN will also show you the more mundane (but still important) details that we mentioned above. Automotive repair shops and service technicians also rely on VINs to identify the car’s parts such as the engine, transmission and brake systems.

A VIN check is important, but….

VIN checks can tell you a lot of things about a used car, but it doesn’t tell you everything. According to Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds, you should not believe everything you find on a Vehicle Inspection Report.

Why? Jones said it’s pretty easy to avoid putting an accident on Carfax or Autocheck.

“Just because a car says it has a completely clear history, does not mean that it’s true.” Jones explained that’s because Carfax only knows what’s reported: if an insurance claim wasn’t filed, Carfax won’t know it occurred.

In some cases, he added, dealerships or body shops may also report work done, so all a customer would have to do is avoid the Carfax mention of an accident would be to pay for the repair out of pocket (which sometimes happens on minor accidents so the at- fault driver doesn’t get an insurance ding from reporting properly) or selecting a repair shop that does not report work to Carfax.

It is worth nothing, though, that major accidents generally are paid through insurance because of high repair costs.

“On the flip side, just because the VIN report says it has had an accident, doesn’t mean that it was a real accident,” Jones said. He gave MagnifyMoney an example from his own experience: his son, who was 6 years old at the time, lost control of the bicycle he was riding, hit the neighbor’s car door, and put a dent in it. When it was fixed through insurance, Carfax said an accident had been reported.

“So I guess, yeah, an accident did happen, but it was a 6-year old riding a bike into a door.”

Jones advised buyers to use the VIN check as a guide and to have the vehicle checked out by a certified mechanic and inspection specialist to be doubly sure if you have concerns.

How to get a free VIN check

If you type in “free VIN check” into your favorite search engine, you’ll get countless suggestions of websites to peruse. A VIN check can cost anywhere from $3.50 on CheckThatVin for basic information such as odometer readings, collision history and if it’s been salvaged or junked, to more comprehensive reports for $39.99 on Carfax. (Autocheck reports are a little cheaper at $24.99). And while there are free options such as VinCheck, these services usually only cover the basics like mileage readings, when the vehicle was titled, and if insurance companies ever reported a total loss or salvage of the car. Other places to get a free VIN check include the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and

If you opt to pay for a VIN check, you’re getting much more information about a vehicle from potentially thousands of sources. This is absolutely key in knowing the history of your selected vehicle. The information will come from data centers at state and local DMVs, auction sites for autos including salvage auctions, collision repair facilities and body shops, service shops, insurance providers, car recyclers, state inspection agencies, companies that offer extended warranties, manufacturers, car dealerships and law enforcement agencies.

Run a VIN check, among other things…

Running a VIN check before you buy a used car can be valuable to your bottom line. A used car is a big investment, so you want to make sure the vehicle you’ve chosen doesn’t have too much of a troubled history. Knowing if it’s been in accidents, had numerous parts recalled, or been stolen may help you make the decision as to whether or not you should buy it.

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Can You Lease a Used Car?

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When you think of leasing a car, you probably think that it only pertains to a new vehicle. But did you know that you can lease a used car? While it’s not very common, this type of leasing has been around for a few decades and it’s on the uptick.

Why? The difference between the cost of a new car and used car is quite significant in today’s market. According to the analysts at Edmunds, a consumer automotive research site, the current market for pre-owned vehicles could reach 41 million in 2019. This, analysts say, is due to rising car prices and higher interest rates. As of November 2018, the average amount financed for a new car came to nearly $32,000, according to Edmunds. The average amount for a used car was about $22,000, a difference of $10,000.

Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds, wishes more people would consider leasing used cars, and advised that it’s great for people who want to try out a certain make/model, without making a huge financial investment.

“Leasing a used car might be just as good, if not better, because you’re getting a car that costs less,” he said.

How does a used car lease work?

First, there are a few things to keep in mind about leasing a used vehicle:

  • Those that are leasable through dealerships must be certified pre-owned.
  • Per Edmunds, these kinds of vehicles are generally less than 4 years old, with 48,000 miles or fewer on the odometer
  • Having less-than-stellar credit hurts your ability to acquire financing. So even if you’re willing to move forward with leasing a used car, if you have a low credit score, it will be harder to secure a lease.

The process of leasing a used car isn’t very different from leasing a new car. The lender will tell you how much the car is worth, and establish the payments based on the differences between the car’s residual value and its sales price. In general, the lender will be the dealer’s own finance arm.

Banks offer leasing on used cars, but Jones said it doesn’t happen all the time, adding that it’s not as easy to secure.

The lender assembling the lease will assign an interest rate, which tends to be higher than on a new car lease, just as interest rates on loans for purchasing used cars are higher than the rates for new autos. Still, when you factor in the lower cost to buy the vehicle, combined with a lower rate of depreciation, the overall payment will be lower. Buyers who lease pre-owned cars have the ability to buy out the vehicle when the lease is up, just like you can do with new cars.

As for the depreciation rate for used cars, Jones explained that the depreciation is less for a used car, as well. “The amount of money you have to pay over the course of the lease is smaller,” he said.

As for interest rates on leases for used cars, Jones said the lease is based on — or around — the advertised special interest rate for a similar car; it is also based on your credit score.

Wondering how long you can lease a used car for? Jones said it’s no different than leasing a new car — leasing is done on a case-by-case basis. If you decide you don’t want to keep the car when your lease is up, you simply turn the car back in.

How to find the right used vehicle to lease

Finding a used vehicle that suits your lifestyle — this is the fun part of the leasing process. But if you have no clue what type of car you’d like to lease, you may want to go online and search for cars that fit you. Searching terms like “the best family-friendly cars” or “best budget commuter cars” can help you get some ideas of where to start. You could also check out our used car checklist. Once you have a few makes and models in mind. you’ll want to do the following:

Find a lender and check out car dealerships.

Once you’ve found a particular vehicle that suits you, you’ll want to call the captive lender (the lender who is working with the dealership) of that carmaker to inquire where the company offers leases on certified pre-owned vehicles.

Try searching the brand’s name along with “finance phone number” to see if a customer service number pops up. For example, if you are jonesing for a Subaru Outback, you would call the Subaru Motors Finance program. And be patient — leases on second-hand vehicles aren’t too common, so finding a dealership that creates them will take some time.

Once you’ve located a dealer that does offer used car leases, head there and see if they have your dream car on the lot or available. After test driving it, let the sales associate know that you’d like to discuss leasing the car (rather than buying it). Most salespeople will likely refer you to the sales manager. As Jones noted, buyers shouldn’t be discouraged if you are told “no” — just ask to speak with a supervisor. Because these types of leases are rarer, some staff members might not even be aware they exist.

Obtain a price quote and compare prices.

Jones said getting a competitive lease quote is an important part of the process, but don’t obsess over getting tons of quotes — “if you find one quote, and it’s good, just take it,” he said. “Don’t pull your hair out trying to find another one where you might save five or six bucks. It’s just not worth it.”

This is a good time to take advantage of a used car appraisal tool, available at sites like Kelley Blue Book ( These online resources will help you find the pre-owned car’s retail value. When you’re on the cusp of leasing a used car, It’s important to educate yourself on what’s going on in the marketplace.

Then, once you’ve found a dealership that’s willing to offer you a pre-owned car lease, ask for a price quote. You’ll want to negotiate a fair purchase price for the car and know what the residual value — the estimate of your car’s worth when the lease is up — will be just in case you decide to buy the car when your lease is up.

The higher the residual, the lower your payments will be. So if you’re trying to get a good payment on a car, you want to search for a high residual.

Finally, you’ll want to know the total down payment and total monthly payment will be, including all taxes and fees. This is crucial to know since it will be what you’ll be spending on your car each month.

What are the benefits of leasing a used car?

Moving forward on your decision to lease a used car is a huge step, and you want to ensure you’ve made the best choice for you, and your wallet.

There are plenty of benefits to leasing a used car. Here are just a few:

  • Good quality car: When you lease a CPO car, you may feel better knowing the car you’ve chosen began its life on the road as a leased new car. Because of that, it should have relatively low mileage and wear, zero accidents and solid maintenance. Certified pre-owned vehicles come with warranty coverage and other extras that can alleviate any doubts you have about leasing one.
  • Excellent lease buyout opportunity: Say you decide you love your Ford Explorer so much, you want to keep it. Used cars cost less than new cars, so their residual values are less, too. Thus, they become great buyout options at the end of the lease.
  • Potentially lower auto insurance costs: Used cars are worth less than new ones, so the cost to insure a used car will most likely be less.

What are the drawbacks of leasing a used car?

But just as there are lots of benefits to leasing a used car, there are a few drawbacks as well:

  • It takes time. Lots of time. Because this type of lease isn’t very common (and not all dealerships are familiar with them), they will take more time and effort to find and negotiate. It’s time-consuming for the dealership, too.
  • The cost to maintain a used car: Maintenance costs can add up, especially when you have a car that’s already been driven thousands of miles. Maintaining a used car will most likely cost more than maintenance costs on a new car. Fortunately, certified pre-owned cars will come with a warranty of some kind.
  • The used car is, well, used: New cars are pretty and pristine, with nary a scratch; this isn’t the case with a used car. Expect to find a ding or two.
  • Potential lack of cutting-edge technology: When you buy or lease a current model-year vehicle, you can pretty much guarantee it will have at least some high-tech features such as backup cameras, automatic liftgates, and keyless entry. This isn’t always the case with a pre-owned car. If you decide to lease one, Edmunds suggests that you make sure it has the technology features you are seeking.

To find the best deal, Jones suggests you make sure you have the right car for you, the right amount of patience and a clear idea of what the difference in lease payments will be to be in order to choose used over new.

Alternative ways to finance a used car

If you would rather not lease a used car, you can pursue buying one instead. Reaching out to your bank is a great place to start, or even checking out these best used and new car loans to get you on the right track.

Another option is to take over someone’s used car lease. Websites like Swapalease and LeaseTrader are online destinations where you can potentially take over someone else’s lease. These websites offer step-by-step instructions on how to find a car to lease, what you’ll need to provide, and how the entire process works.

The bottom line

Making the decision to lease a used car takes time, research, and careful consideration of costs. While it may be a solid option for many buyers, it’s not the best choice for everyone. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself if this type of lease makes the most sense for you.