Couple sitting in a car admiring it.

Buying a car can be stressful. Before you go car shopping, prepare yourself with these 5 tips.

1. Beware of the dealers low payment spiel

The payment is important, but it’s a small part of the total deal.  If you focus only on getting into the car you want for $150 a month; you will likely end up paying more overall in total finance charges.

A good car deal starts with negotiating the purchase price as a separate transaction.


2. Always determine the value before making an offer on any car

Never make an offer before you’ve done your homework. You'll be in the best position to confidently negotiate when you know the value of the car and the most you will pay.  Ignore the price on the windshield - you want to start with the dealer's invoice price. Visit or to find the price that dealers pay for the make and model you're interested in and come prepared.

You can often negotiate a price that is below the retail Kelley Blue Book value.


3. Keep your cool

A test drive does not obligate you to make an offer. It's your money - don’t be pressured. Keeping your emotions in check during the process is critical, as is taking your time. Recognize when you're being rushed into making a decision, and be prepared to walk out the door.

Even if that car ends up being sold, chances are there’s another very similar car available in your area.


4. Consult your insurance agent

Financing a car means keeping it fully insured. Don’t blow a great purchase price with high insurance premiums.

Some cars simply cost more to insure.

5. Get pre-approved

Command the respect of a cash buyer and have the confidence of knowing exactly how much you can afford.  When you have a preapproved auto loan, the payment is none of the dealer’s business - so there are no games to play.

You will have already secured your lowest possible rate at the credit union and the dealer just needs to decide if you’re offering enough for them to sell the car.

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