How to Avoid Paying too Much for Your Next Car and Insurance

by Sean Bryant on April 9, 2014

Ford EscapeIt’s normal to feel a sense of impending doom when you find out that you have to buy a car. It happens to all of us. The process of buying a car has been talked about and lamented over and even vilified for years. Eventually, though, I had to get over it. Why? I was tired of having to beg rides after the busses stopped running. So I bought a car and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, I had a pretty good time and now I’m really happy that I have my own wheels.

Here is what I did to make sure that the process was smooth and that I didn’t wind up paying too much for my car or my insurance.

What Do You Want?

First I had to decide whether I wanted to buy a new car or a used car. Ultimately I decided to buy a new car for all of the reasons listed in this post. Then I figured out what type of car I wanted. This, admittedly, took more time because I don’t really “speak car.” Ultimately I decided on the Ford Escape. It’s important to figure out what you want before you even think about going shopping because otherwise you’ll be tempted into buying all sorts of things. For the first few days of my search all I could think was “oooh! Pretty!”

Get to Know Yourself

As I was reading around, looking for tips on buying cars, I kept coming across the same stories—sales people would tell customers that there were problems or “dings” on their credit reports that was forcing the salesperson to sell at a higher interest rate or with a higher monthly payment plan. Then they’d go home, call a few creditors and find out that there weren’t any problems at all.

This was the most time consuming part of the process. I requested copies of my credit report and went through them with an eagle eye. I reported all of the mistakes I found and then made sure that they got corrected before I talked to a single sales person. I knew exactly what was on that report and it came in handy. It allowed me to look at sales people at a few lots and say “I know my credit history backwards and forwards and I know that you’re lying.” This helped me get much better deals than I would have gotten otherwise.

Shopping Around

Having narrowed down my search to new Ford Escapes, I was able to limit my shopping to the Ford dealerships here in Memphis. I went to each of them and, at each of them, actually sat down with a sales person. We’d go over my credit report, they’d come up with a sales quote and payment plan proposal for the car I’d picked out on their lot. I made sure to get copies of these quotes and plans. Why? Because it helped me get a better deal.

As you shop around you’re going to find that some car lots really live up to the negative hype. Unfortunately, these are the lots that will often promise you the best deals. But! The better dealerships will often offer price matching if you can provide proof of being offered a better deal elsewhere. I found this out when I showed the rates I was offered at other dealerships to my sales rep at AutoNation Ford Memphis (which is where I ended up buying my car).

Repeat this same process for your insurance (but substitute driving records for credit reports).

Viola! You’ve got the best deal on the best car for your needs. It worked for me! It’ll work for you too.

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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