Buying a New Car

Archived Q&A and Reviews


New CAR hurts my back. Deal with or cut losses?

May 2014

I purchased a Camry last August-2013 and knew almost instantly that the car seat was causing me back pain. I have tried everything from adjusting the seat to adding cushions. I tend to have back pain on occasion so I figured it was just a normal flare but after using the car for over 6 months, I now know that the car-seat itself is causing me extreme pain. So, what do I do? My husband is really irritated that I am considering selling the car (since we would lose the cost of taxes and probably more), and thinks I just need to get used to it and overtime things would improve. He's agreed to drive the car himself (his car needs replacing) but he hates my car and would be miserable in it-- but it makes the most financial sense. I just want out of the car but obviously don't want to throw our money away but maybe we need to count our losses and move on? I also wish I knew the best way to sell the car for the most money. A friend suggested Carmax but I have no idea if they offer the best price. Help! Sick of the pain

Turn the headrest backwards.You can also try ordering a headrest from a previous year.I found that it was the headrest that caused my head to go to far forward and that is what was hurting my back. Ellen

why not invest in a good quality lumbar support that you put on top of the existing seat? probably would be worth a try before losing money on the car. here is a site with a few different options: anon

I have been taking pilates classes and I would like to suggest you try taking some reformer or mat classes to strengthen your back before you make your final decision. I haven't worked out in years (had a baby, then used him as an excuse to not exercise), but recently found a good deal (group deal website) on a bunch of classes. My back feels great, and it's only been a month. I go once or twice a week. I know you will probably think, ''I don't have time for that'', but if you are honestly wanting to find a solution that might allow you to keep your car AND have a stronger back and better posture, I think it's worth a try. Wish I'd tried pilates years ago.

Best of luck! my back loves pilates

I had a Camry for 10 years and wanted SO much to like it, but now that I have a Subaru Forester it is very clear that the Camry did not fit properly. I am SO relieved to be rid of the Camry!

I tried to talk myself into accepting the Camry. It was good on gas, mostlyreliable, and generally OK. But I could not see well enough out of the passenger side rearview mirror (not being a tall driver) and was always getting dings on the right side of the body due to bad visibility.

Sell it and get something that fits you! Why suffer? Amelia

Husband's arguments against buying a ''safer'' new car

May 2013

My husband and I have two boys under 5yo. We drive his cars, a 1993 Toyota 4-Runner truck and a 1998 Honda Civic VX. We sold my car which was having too many problems. Ever since I was pregnant with our first boy, I have been trying to convince my husband to buy a newer family car with better gas mileage (the Toyota gets 14mpg) and current safety features like air bags, etc. He has resisted all these years, saying that the Toyota is built like a tank and is just as safe as anything with air bags -- in fact, it's *more* safe than the cars I've been proposing -- like the Mazda5, the Prius V, or the Ford C-Max Energi, for example -- because it's bigger and stronger. He's an engineer and used to work for a company named Failure Analysis, so he pulls out all his engineering and professional terminology as evidence to support his theory that his Toyota is safer because it's bigger. He says that a van like the Honda Odyssey would be more comparable in safety to the Toyota and he's willing to buy one, but we don't need a big van like that and I want to get better gas mileage. I say that there are other safety features in vehicles now, not just the air bags - anti-lock brakes, stability control, for example - but I think that even the air bags in a Prius V, for example, are better than his 'tank' - front, side curtain, knee airbags, overhead air bags. Oh, one more piece here: while driving the truck with our baby 3 years ago, I was rear-ended at a stop light, and the insurance company said the truck was ''totaled.'' The bumper was badly bent down and the frame was bent. Rob took the truck up to his brother's farm in Sonoma, where they lifted the back end up with a crane. They put a huge steel block under the truck, then dropped the truck onto it, nudging the bumper up bit by bit for about 15 drops till it was drive-able again. He says that the bent frame and the slightly-hanging bumper is an aesthetic problem, not a safety problem.

Can anyone match my husband's ''expert'' arguments with evidence supporting my arguments that newer vehicles with current safety features are safer than his 1993 Toyota 4Runner? Or, is he right and I should just relax about these safety issues? Btw, I'm a graduate student and don't have enough income to buy one without his support! I found a 2012 Mazda5 for $15,500 and I want to get it! We can definitely afford it. Safety conscious

It sounds like your husband loves his car. I'm a car person so I get that. I wonder if you were to consider keeping that car and still getting another one? For years and I my husband had a deal we would only have 2 cars period. Seems reasonable - you don't want to take up space on the block, pay extra insurance, etc. But honestly now we have 3 cards and it is great to have the back up. I don't know if that suggestion helps, but maybe he would consider a new car if it didn't mean giving up his baby. He's obviously put a lot of love into that truck. Good luck!

My advice would be to get a new modern car. With an early 90's model truck you are likely to have crumple zone design, (The crumple zone concept had first been implemented in the 1959 Mercedes Fintail, but it was not widely adopted until mass market unibody vehicles became popular in the 1980s. The concept involved a reinforced safety cell surrounding the passengers and a front and rear structure designed to absorb and disperse crash force, protecting the passengers by sacrificing the vehicle.) However, I would assume that damage to the frame would negate or hamper this feature. Another recent avenue of improvement has been side impact safety. If crumple zones worked for the front and rear, they should work for the sides. The only problem is there's not much energy absorbing space between the passengers and the skin of the doors, so the issue has presented some challenges. Side intrusion beams and multi-point door retention points as well as the aforementioned side airbag strategies have gone a long way to improving side impact safety. Does your truck have these features? Second too many parents think that their child will only be safe in a huge SUV or truck, with wobbly handling and a rollover-prone high center of gravity. They think that their little baby would never be safe in a modern economy car, built with high-strength steel, energy-absorbing crumple zones, and accident-avoiding low mass. Larger cars may have more mass but are harder to maneuver and stop. Another note: The safest vehicle on the road is the one driven by an alert driver driving within his/her limits who is not distracted or drunk . . . not the heaviest, nor the longest, nor the bulkiest car. For more info go to they collect data from all lethal traffic accidents and there is no correlation between vehicle size and safety. Mayu

I am not an engineer but your husband is dead wrong! A car that has had that kind of damage and not been properly aligned is dangerous. Moreover, cars, safety features including airbags, improved belts, anti lock brakes, stability control, etc. are FAR safe than that truck. Tell him you wont ride in the car and neither will your child until he gets a new one or buys a second car for you! not an engineer but smart!

Hi, I owned a 1993 Toyota 4Runner since 1997 and loved it! Like your husband, I believe that they are one of the safest cars on the road. But, I knew eventually that the low gas milege would get me to move on to another vehicle. What I experienced three years ago, finally got me to sell it; the catalytic converter was stolen more times than I cared to deal with over one summer. My goal was to find an equivalent vehicle in the same price range, safety and value. I shopped all kinds of cars and decided to buy a Volvo wagon. I found a single owned, 1997 850 with all the maintence reports. I used to feel guilty when I stopped at the gas station, but now I only go 2x a month. I do not regret the decision at all. It has truly been a great car that with good care will last as long as the trusty old Toyota. I hope to hand it to my now 6 year old when he goes off to college. Hope that helps! Volvo Convert

Need a new car, don't want to deal with a dealer

Jan 2011

After an $800 repair, we're confronted with another $350 repair and realize it is time to buy a new car. However, we haven't bought one for 15 years, so don't know how to go about it nowadays. We really, really do not want to deal with car dealers. Are there better ways to buy a car? We're looking for a compact -- something like a Prius or Civic Hybrid, maybe a non-hybrid with good mileage. We could probably use 5 seats (parents, child, +2 friends) but maybe would manage with 4 seats if it is much cheaper. Also, we are a one-car family, so reliability is crucial. In a couple of years we will probably want to teach our teen how to drive using the car. So the two questions are: what models should we consider? What alternatives are there to going through the dealer? not quite ready to go carfree.

We recently bought a used Civic hybrid and love it. I, too, hadn't bought a car in 15 years, but the process was much less painful than I anticipated. We searched CraigsList and Ebay Motors, but ended up finding the car from the regular old newspaper classifieds (the Chronicle has a big 'Cars' section once or twice a week). It was a dealer trade-in at a non-Honda dealership, so they were motivated to sell since it wasn't their core brand. We also saved by buying a model that was a couple years old. I can't guarantee you'll find the same situation, but it's worth keeping your eyes open for. Happy to be Driving a Car Made in This Century

Six years ago we bought our Honda Accord by going to Edmunds.Com and requesting eMail quotes from the three closest Honda dealers. We already knew exactly which model we wanted with what options and didn't need a test drive (we were replacing an existing Honda Accord). All three dealers were within a couple of 100 dollars, so we picked the lowest one. We paid more than $1000 less than we did 10 years prior for the Honda Accord we were replacing. That time (1995) we went through the AAA buying service. The guy we dealt with at the dealership said 50% of their sales were through the Internet. I'm sure it is higher now. We were paying cash, but it still took 2-3 hours to go through all the paperwork because we were trading in our old car which had over 100k miles on it. But, compared to walking into the dealer to buy a car, it was picnic. --Internet Only Car Buyer Now

I bought my Prius while they were still issuing carpool stickers. I too felt overwhelmed and don't feel comfortable negotiating. I sent emails to all the dealers in the area and told them what model, color, features, etc I wanted and asked them to provide their best price including all taxes, etc so that I knew the $ amount I needed to pay to walk out the door. This worked out well for me and I called a buying agent through USAA who said they couldn't get me a better deal. It was nice being able to compare prices in the comfort of my home. Good luck--with technology you can have a totally different experience!! Anon

Buying a car can be very stressful. I too dislike the whole dealer thing but here's what I did to lessen their pushy sales approach. First: decide exactly what car you want, do online research and test drive, you will have to cope with dealers while you test drive, they will say they have a great offer this week etc etc, ignore them and just concentrate on choosing your car. Personally I would only buy a Toyota, Honda or Ford. Second: email the local dealers asking for a quote for your chosen car, be specific about models and extras, do not give your phone number in the email. Once you have the emailed quotes you can either just go with the cheapest, or you can then email them again and ask if they could go lower. Finally: choose your dealer, make an appointment, go in with the email quote and buy your car. Good luck! Laura

Buying a new car is so daunting ...

Feb 2010

I could use some advice about the process of buying a new car - I'm procrastinating because it's so daunting, especially walking into a showroom and negotiating the price. I'm worried that I won't get a good deal because the dealers will take advantage of the fact that I'm a woman (that happened to a friend of mine). I want to empower myself with knowledge before I go in. My current car is breaking down a little more everyday, I may have to WALK to the dealers!! How have you gotten through this process with your eyes open and dignity in tact?! Can you recommend any good books or buying guides?

In the day of the internet, you need only do some online research, make a few calls and you'll be empowered with knowledge alone. If you know what car you'd like to buy, search online first -- at one of those type places. THEN, onto the local dealers' sites to see who has what. Compare prices and print out everything. NEXT, call a dealer that you feel you might go with and tlel then you're set to buy. Tell them you've done your research and tell them what you'd like to pay. Also, and this is the important part and it worked like a charm for us -- tell them you want to be in and out of their dealership in an hour to an hour and a half. Or you're walking. Then do it. If you go to the next guy in line, just tell them what you were going to pay at the last place but that they couldn't make it happen. You go (car buyin') girl!

I bought my car by using e-mail correspondence only. That way I didn't feel pressured and got the price I wanted (in writing). There was no sitting in a room for hours and the ''I have to talk to my manager about this'' type of scenario. I found a dealer by starting at Costco's car buying program. The program (IMHO) isn't much of a deal but it does set you up with dealers around the Bay Area. This is especially helpful if you know what car you want to buy. The dealers did call me but I told them that I did not want to talk over the phone and that I preferred e-mail correspondence only. Once the price was negotiated, I came in, did paperwork and drove away in my new car. If you are unsure of the car you want, test drive cars but don't negotiate. Let them know you are still very early in the process. If you have any interest in an Acura, Joe Sid at Acura of Redwood City is a great guy and will deal with you via e-mail. Good luck! -RK

Hi, I've never bought a new car - always preferring to buy used - but several of my colleagues have recommended Cartelligent in Sausalito. They're a car buying/leasing service, and if I remember correctly they charge you a flat fee of $500 and almost guarantee that you'll make that back by way of the better purchase price they can negotiate compared to what you could do on your own.

Again, I haven't dealt with them directly, but my colleagues who have (2 leases and 1 purchase) are very happy with the results. That said, consider buying used and/or taking transit. Graham

Oh, I feel you! Bought my 1st car as a single woman 12 years ago and was could only go to the Saturn dealer, because they didn't bargain--what a relief! Then that car was totaled, so I walked to a Honda used car lot and found a car I loved. I was terrified but I got the car for $2,300 less than asking price by:

1. Browsing online first, get a feel for what you can afford and what's available., or AAA pre- negotiated cars at which shows you cars for sale in a 50 mile radius or less.

2. Go car hunting with the absolute promise to yourself that you WILL NOT buy a car that day. Keep hunting separate from buying, & keep repeating that to the salesperson no matter what they say. EVEN if you LOVE the car and it's PERFECT and they say 2 other people are looking at it and it may not be there when you return, WALK AWAY. (Maybe you'll come back by the end of the day but walk away anyway!)

3. If you do find the perfect car, get all the details you can about it--they should be able to hand you a print out with everything it has in it. Radio, airconditioning, anti lock brakes--even if you don't know what the parts do, get the info on it. Then go back to to enter the details and see what the value range is.

4. Decide what is the most you will pay, period. It's the emotional attachment to a specific car that allows hard-sell techniques to work. If you can't walk away, you make yourself vulnerable regardless of gender (my brother is more vulnerable than I am to hard-sell techniques). --The reason I know this works is when negotiating, I developed a terrible migraine. When the price dropped to within $700 of my researched price, I said, okay that's close enough--I'll come tomorrow when my headache is gone. They followed me across the lot as I was leaving, shouting, okay you win, but you have to take it now. (They thought I was bluffing!) So I said okay, sat through the paperwork and then they had to drive me home because I couldn't see. It was a big lesson in how important it is to walk away and really mean it.

Finally, stop car shopping after you've made your purchase -it'll just make you crazy. Congratulate yourself on the hard work you did and enjoy your car.

It's silly how proud I was for being able to handle this as a single woman, but what the heck. It's life-changing and I'm still proud of it. Now on my third solo purchased car!

When we bought our car, we first visited dealerships to figure out what we wanted, and told the sales people we were just looking. Once we knew what we wanted (including options, color, etc.) we e-mailed dealerships within 100 miles to see who had the best price including absolutely everything (no hidden or last minute document fees or other fees). Then we asked our local dealership if they would match the lowest price. We didn't go into the dealership until after we had an ''out-the-door'' price that we could live with. We were a little indecisive, which caused them to lower the price.

We found the annual Consumer Reports issue on cars to be useful. Good luck. DC

With the internet, you can learn everything you need to know about a new car. You can even haggle prices and make a final deal never setting foot in a showroom. I have purchased 3 new cars and numerous used cars and found it is always easier to get everything in place online before you every sit down to sign the papers. If you do not have online access, you can always go to the library to do your research. Also, if you are a member of a credit union almost all of them have a car buying service. I have used the credit union twice to purchase new cars and they deal directly with the fleet mananger and do all negotiations.

You will need to have some idea of the type of car you want: How much will you be driving, how far (commuting?);what size car are you comfortable driving; are you interested in a hybrid, a wagon, an SUV? You can do side by side comparisons on I also think the Consumer Reports auto buying guide and magazine issue is very helpful. You can check these out at the library as well. Good Luck and happy driving Likes Cars

Know what you want before you step onto the dealership property. Go to the manufacturers' websites, select the models you are interested in, print out their specification sheets. Do this for all the models you are considering.

They all have a comparison sheet which allows you to select a few models to compare. The spec. sheets are extremely detailed, they tell you all the equipment that's included in the model and submodel.

Once you've figured out which models are of the most interest to you. Go take your test drives but make it clear that's all you are doing.

Call the fleet managers of various dealerships to ask them for the price of the model you are interested in. Now they often will take e-mail inquiries too. Fleet managers sell with a set price for each model. So be very specific about what you want, down to the color of the interior, exterior, floor mats, etc. Compare the prices from the various dealerships.

Select the one price you are happy with, check to see that they have the car on the lot. Go in see the fleet manager, pay and leave. Only buys from fleet managers.

I just read your post and had to reply, since I was exactly where you are a year ago. We did some things right and made a couple of rookie mistakes.

Here's what we did right:

1) We did a ton of research on-line on makes/models/prices and blue book trade-in prices. When we went to the dealer, we already knew what we wanted and our down payment amount.

2) My husband went to the 2 dealers we'd chosen and pre- screened their selection in the models we wanted. So he and the dealers narrowed it down to 2 cars, 1 in each make/model. Could your partner or a friend/family member who is good at this sort of thing do this step for you?

3) We resisted the relentless hard-sell for add-ons that we didn't want. As soon as they found out we had kids, they started pressuring us to get this gross anti-stain upholstry treatment that cost $1000, and the Lo-Jack. I must have had 5 separate dealers tell me the same story about some family whose car got carjacked with the baby inside, and only Lo-Jack saved them! (We live in *Davis* - we're about as likely to get carjacked as we are to get hit by lightning...)

Here's what I'd do different next time:

1) We got the basic model, but we probably should have gone up a step - we paid just as much adding on all the features that don't come with basic, like the locking thing on the keychain.

2) I regret financing the car at all. We had money in our emergency fund to pay 100%, but we wanted to keep cash on hand. They totally got us on this big ''finance fee'' to initialize the loan. We should have read up on what to avoid, re: finance charges, fees, etc. I'm sure there's lots of guides for this online.

Anyway, hope that helps. I'm so interested to see what other people have to say - everyone wants to do better at this! Another car-buying rookie

We recently got a car from CarsDirect ( It was thousands cheaper than the price the dealer quoted us and we didn't have to haggle. Plus, for an extra $50 they brought it to our house. I'm sure we could have gotten the dealer's price down but we didn't like her so didn't bother trying. If we had, the conversation would have gone something like this:
Us: Hi, how much is car we want?
Them: Expensive price.
Us: Wow, we were looking at the Cars Direct website and they said they can get us the car for a lot less.
Them: Stupid reasons why it is better to buy from them then somewhat lower price.
Us: Well, I do like the idea of buying locally, but it isn't worth that much to me. Can you give us a better price?

You can go back-and-forth like this for awhile if you want (the goal being to beat the Cars Direct price) or you can just spit out the Cars Direct price and ask them if they can match it.

I think it is wrong to use the resources of a dealer (make them spend time with you, drive their cars, etc.) and then once you've decided just go with the absolute lowest price. But while I would pay a couple hundred more for them spending time with us, I wouldn't pay thousands more. Anon

Here's what you need to get a good deal on a car (or a house or anything else) and know it: 1) Knowledge 2) confidence in your knowledge 3) detachment from the car Things that may help you 4) Timing (if you are buying a new car) 5) Pretend you are buying the car for your mother.

Knowledge: If you really know how much a car should cost, you are not going to let someone tell you otherwise. This is easier on a new car, harder on a used one due to the obvious variables. Knowledge and confidence in your knowledge take a bit of research, this can be done online and at the dealer. When you go to the dealer you can say ''I am doing research, I am not buying today, or this week''

Detachment: You need to then determine what you will pay for a car. If the car costs $5 over that, you walk away. If the car is in your favorite color, has a license plate # that speaks to you, but is $5 over your price - you walk away. If you are not committed to your price, you will be susceptible to over-payment. Your commitment to your price is essential, it can be sensed, as can your possible affection for that color of blue. When naming a price, you should start lower than your walk-away price. That way the sales person can get a bit more $of you - but not more than you are willing to give.

Timing: If you are going to buy a new car you can take advantage of the sales commission system. Buy at the end of the quarter, call on the last Thursday of March, all dealers in the area, say ''I want this car, I will buy it Saturday, I have already test driven now I am going to buy, I am calling all x dealers within 100 miles, what is your best price?'' Then call all the dealers, get the best price, call back the one closest to you, say can you meet this price. You can use this tactic any time, sometimes there is additional motivation at the end of the quarter.

Pretend it's for your Mom: Research shows that women are better negotiators than men when they are negotiating for someone else's benefit. They perform less well than men in negotiating for themselves. So, pretend you're buying this for your mom. You wouldn't let that salesperson oversell your mother, would you? negotiator

Hi! I have the PERFECT local resource for you! Her name is Sharon Krieger and she helped us buy our last car- and what a difference it made for us! I was JUST like you! I dreaded the whole car-buying process and put it off for as long as I could but finally we had to get a new car. Sharon used to be a car sales-person herself, and has turned her experience into helping women get through the car-buying process with the least amount of stress and (most importantly...) get great deals on cars. Sharon held our hand, gave us great advice and walked us through the whole process. She helped us zero-in on the right car for us, went with us to dealerships, and finally researched the true price of our car, so that when we went to the dealership we knew exactly how much money we should offer. We got a GREAT deal without any angst, without feeling cheated, and with plenty of knowledge on our side.

If you'd rather do it all on your own, Sharon has just finished writing a car- buying guide for women. It's great and it costs less than $30!!!! If you're local, I recommend working with Sharon directly, but you can decide to either use her services or buy the guide. Either way, you'll get a much better deal and not have to get all stressed out about it. Sharon's web site is:, and her phone number: (510)593-0289 Good luck! Naama

I think it is really important to do your homework and research various cars so that you are knowledgeable about the cars you are looking at and feel more empowered. Knowing the various options and packages helps as well. I think and RepairPal are good sites. It is also a good idea to take a mechanic with you to look at used cars. My husband has a mobile mechanic business (Auto On The Go) and he offers this service. However, not very many people use it. It is more often that he is called out to fix a car someone just bought and already isn't working properly! Good luck. Jane

I recommend the auto web site edmonds. com as a starting place. They have lots of reviews of cars, so you can get real user feedback. also lets you get quotes online from 5 dealers in your area, so that you can see 1) whether they have the car you want and 2) what they say about prices. Saves you a LOT of legwork. But most importantly, you can fill out their online form for the ''true market value'' of the car you are interested in. It gives you a realistic quote for what that make of car you want is *actually selling for* in your area. (It's adjusted by region, time of year, demand for that vehicle, etc.) Print it out, bring it to the dealerships with you, and say you want that price. I did this when buying a new car last summer, and it took a lot of the BS out of the process. No cojones required

I know quite a bit about buying cars, not because I am a car fanatic, but because I know how to work car salesmen. (I apologize to car salesmen who read this, keep in mind that what I say is a generalization ;)) I've been asked by several friends to go with them to purchase cars, because I don't intimidate easily. My husband and I also successfully walked away with both of our cars paying no more than $300 over invoice and with license taxes included (this was quite some time ago!) We saved probably over 3 grand.

Here's how I do it: research the car you want on the web. Find out the blue book value, and the invoice value (what the car is worth right out of the factory). Go to and a few other sites to compare prices. This is how you find out what people are willing to pay for the car you want. Next,no matter what, visit more than one sales lot in a day. Even if the car you love is sitting right in front of you, walk away. Tell them you need time, you're interested but want to check out other options first. This will make them anxious to serve you when you come back. Go half hour to one hour before closing time. People want to wrap it up and go home. Especially on Fridays. reject the first offer. Flat out. Repeat the price you want to pay, and then you'll probably end up waiting as the salesman goes to see his manager several times. Don't budge on the price.

Keep them guessing: Your behavior should be erratic (it totally throws them off). One minute you REALLY want the car, the next minute, you hear something that you don't like, you stand up abruptly and say: '' I don't like what I'm hearing, this is NOT working for me.'' Be ready to walk away. Be ready to stand firm on what it is you want. You don't have to pay for hidden costs. It helps if you have the money to pay for the car without having to finance it (nothing hurts a car salesman more than to see cash walk out of his door). Take a few days if you need to. If the car you want is gone, then it means the people you were dealing with were difficult. It wasn't meant to be.

Finally, after you are successful at being an actor (because you are one, make no mistake), and an educated customer who KNOWS the value of what they want..... go home and take a hot shower. I always feel gross after these experiences! Good luck Hard Bargainer

Here is another vote for - we got our last car this way and had a great experience. You specify all the options you want online (be sure to select the color, it's in a separate tab from other features) and carsdirect gives you a firm guaranteed price. If you are happy with the deal, submit your request online and they call you back with location of the dealer who has the exact car you want for this price. Note, you may need to drive a bit far to get it. Once at the dealership, their car salesman may try to push extra things onto you for additional price, but all you need to say is ''NO'' and you will get the deal you signed up for. I believe you can also arrange for financing through carsdirect, not sure about trade-in. carsdirect rocks!

How to evaluate a new car?

Jan 2008

Buying a car can be a bit scary - but there are lots of great tools on the internet now that can help you figure out which suits your needs, desires and budget. I sell extended warranties thru used car dealers in the Bay Area, so while I don't directly sell cars I DO know from our claims history which cars are better than others. But without knowing more about what you need, it's hard for me to give you any suggestions. Take a look at websites like and use their research area. Also, when you figure out which car you like the best, definitely get the Kelly Blue Book info for the make, model and year. Never pay the retail price listed for the vehicle. Also, it's always a good idea, unless you know the history of the car 100%, to get a vehicle history report from either CarFax or AutoCheck. Good luck! and Happy shopping. Robin

Buying a New Car - What to Expect?

July 2007

I am helping my mother buy a Prius next month, and my memory of car-buying involves pushy sales people and never knowing if the price you're quoted is reasonable. Has anyone gone through the process lately? Can you get a deal on a Prius, or are they too hot to bargain for? Are there any dealers who take the Saturn approach (no haggling, more humane)? Thanks -
Bad at Barganing (and my mother is worse)

Car buying has gotten easier-- but, by no means, perfect-- since the internet came. Start by going to and researching the model and package you want. Edmunds will give you info on the MSRP, as well as the dealer's invoice... and, the 'going rate' for your zip code area. I think this came through some pop-up windows, or through (where I made a separate inquiry), but your desired package then gets forwarded to all the local bay area car dealers, and they will either email or phone you with their inventory and price. The Prius has not been as hard to get, ever since the HOV stickers ran out, and dealers should be willing to offer discounts. Using the email replies, you can, to a certain extent, play them against each other. We bought our Prius toward the end of last year, while there were still HOV stickers, and we got a price smack between the MSRP and the invoice. Considering the hybrid frenzy at the time, I thought we did well-- we even came below the Edmunds' 'going rate' estimate for the bay area (which, by the way, was higher up here than for So. Calif.). We confirmed our price on the phone with a local dealer, went in for a test drive, and bought the car the next day. A competing dealer tried to, but couldn't, beat the price we had. The 'not perfect' part of the deal is that you still need to go to the dealer pickup and sit through the slimy finance and write-up guys, who try to sell you (guilt you) all kinds of un-necessary stuff. If you prepare yourself for that ahead of time, it's more of an annoyance than a real problem. jim

I bought a Prius last June and did not negotiate, just paid full sticker because I wanted a brand new one with all the gizmos, and I wanted to get it before they ran out of carpool stickers. Oh - I should say, I did negotiate on the 7 year bumper to bumper warranty that cost extra, and got a pretty good discount on that. I think the Prius frenzy has calmed down quite a bit, so you can probably do better than I did. Ask your friends - you may have someone in your circle who would go with you to handle the negotiation part (some people love that kind of thing, especially with someone else's money). And by the way, check out the tax credit - neither I nor my accountant qualified for it because of the AMT, which was a disappointment. anon

- We bought a Prius in August last year and because I'm a compulsive researcher did a lot of ''preshopping'' around and comparing dealers.

We found a few ''bargains'' in our search -- if you are flexible about color, interior, features, it's worth calling around dealers and seeing what they've got right now. People cancel orders, and less popular colors or perhaps 06 models might be available right away for a small discount. Definitely cast a wide net around the whole Bay Area. And check out what's on Craigslist in the dealer listings, although be prepared to act fast if you see what you want.

Many places did require a ~$500, refundable deposit for us to be placed on a Prius waiting list, and we ended up doing that and buying from with Putnam Toyota in Burlingame. We had a great experience with our seller/agent, Nazir Mojadeddi. Admittedly, we were an easy sell. We gave him our preferences for color, interior and features and then we all just sat back and waited -- about six weeks -- for us to move to the top of the list. But it was nice that he was mellow throughout and didn't try and push us to get a sunroof installed, custom leather, etc, like a couple of other places we approached.

BTW, sales tax is based on where you live, not the dealer's location, so buying in San Mateo Co., where sales tax is lower than Alameda Co. (if that's where you are) won't save you anything!

Service has been pretty good so far at Putnam too.

You could also look on and check out what others thought of particular dealers.

Hope this helps! Prius lover

My brother in-law bought a new Honda Civic last week. He delt with several dealerships trying to get the best price. He did all the negotiations via email with a salesperson. He thought that saved him a lot of time and prevented the games. Good luck

We bought our Prius from the Alameda Toyota dealership and it was a good experience. We paid less than blue book, although this was right before the craze began. They were not super hagglers either. We really didn't negotiate much at all. We were happy with the price and the car and just went with it. I think the craze has gone down somewhat, so you might be able to negotiate. Meredith

My wife and I used a non-profit service called CarBargains to buy our Toyota and it saved us three thousand dollars. It's a service offered by a non-profit consumer organization called Consumers' Checkbook (not to be confused with Consumer Reports which is a different organization).


What they do is approach three dozen dealerships and ask them to bid for your business. They call the fleet managers and make sure that if they bid they put their name on it. They also get all the fees up front so you know exactly what you're paying. Then you get a list of at least five bids. It takes seven to ten business days and you can have the report emailed, mailed, or FedExed to you. You can also call up the service and get help on the phone if you don't understand the report. It costs $190 but it's worth it. When we used the service, we got a list of twelve dealerships, and some actually lowered their price eight hundred dollars below invoice price just to get our business. Prior to getting the report, we had gone to some of the same dealerships and gotten the run around. We thought the Consumer Reports new car price report (not to be confused with the CarBargains service) would be enough, but the salespeople just laughed and gave us quotes that were three thousand dollars higher. Once we got the CarBargains report, they were more than happy to do business on our terms.

By the way, no haggle sales means you pay whatever the price is. In the case of buying a Saturn, you're basically agreeing to be ripped off by a friendly salesperson for thousands of dollars in exchange for a customer appreciation barbecue and a free loaner car when you come in for a service. Not worth it in my opinion.

By the way, if you're selling your mother's old car, make sure you know how much it's worth before trading it in. If you don't do this, you will be ripped off as my mother-in-law was when she traded in her car-by over a thousand dollars. You can get that information from and Kelly Blue Book

Also, make sure you have your financing before you go. We got ours from our bank and you can use it to your advantage to try to get the dealership to give you a lower rate. If you walk in without financing and ask them to do it, they will give you a high rate since the the higher the rate is the more profit they receive. And don't buy the extended warranty package they offer unless you shop around for quotes as they inflate that price on that as well.

It took us a month to get everything in order, but it was well worth it. Took a long time, but didn't get ripped off and got a fair price

We recently bought our first new car (a Camry) at Longo Toyota in El Monte. Even with having to drive it all the way back up north, the price was totally worth it. Since we bought the car, we sent someone else there for a Prius and that person couldn't find a more competitive price. There was no haggling, we were given a flat price and that was it. If you're interested, email me and I'll give you someone to contact. amanda

I went on (kelley blue book) and found the price for the car that I was looking for. Then, I printed it out and took it with me to the dealersip. I got the car at that price with no hassles- much better than the sticker prices. anon

I bought a new Civic recently, and I wanted to avoid the whole dealership sales scene. I went to a local dealer to test drive the car model I wanted. I did not talk purchase or price. Neither did the salesperson. After that, I emailed 5-6 dealers within about 25 miles (they all have an Internet sales office). I did this by going to Honda's corp Internet site, and from there, you can email how ever many dealers you want with the same message. I told them exactly what model I wanted, and I asked them to respond back with their best price. Make sure they tell you what's in the price. Does it include shipping? Does it include all the taxes and license charge. You may want to go to the Consumer Reports site and pay $12 something for a report on the car you want. It will include the invoice cost as well as any rebates. While it is difficult to determine a car's true cost to the dealer, this will give a good ballpark figure to start from. I found most Internet salespeople to be fairly straight forward. Good luck. Anon

It will depend on the dealership. I bought our second Prius this past February for $200 below dealer invoice. Some unscrupulous dealers will try to charge you over the MSRP by telling you there is a shortage or they are hard to come by, or the options you want are the most popular options, etc. So I would recommend that you do some research and make some phone calls, and only show up to the dealership to pick up your car.

Go to the Toyota website and check out the package option you want and it will tell you what the MSRP is. The MSRP is the manufacturer suggested retail price. There should be no reason to pay more than MSRP.

Then call various dealerships and ask if they have the car in the package of your choice in stock, and what the price is. They will quote it to you over the phone and you can compare prices. You are likely to get the best quotes if you ask to speak to the fleet manager. The fleet managers get their commission by the number of cars they sell, not the price of the cars, so they are interested in selling more cars than in charging more. And because they deal with fleet, they will work with you over the phone with no nonsense, since they rather not waste time.

Another option is to call AutoByTel or Autoland. Look them up on the web for contact information. They are a car broker service. They will quote you a price and tell you which dealership has the vehicle you want. I have had good experience with both. For full disclosure, my brother works for Autoland and he was the one who found us our second Prius for $200 below dealer invoice and in the green with gray interior (most green ones come with beige interior). With these services, you don't have to call all the dealerships yourself, you let the broker do the calling and the research. You don't have to pay more, because these brokers have agreements with the dealerships and their cut comes from the dealerships.

Hope this was helpful. cecilita

The more informed you are, the better a bargainer you are, and there are now lots of useful helps on the Internet. For example, at you can look up information on what invoice prices are (what the dealer pays the manufacturer for the car), and what incentives (like rebates) are currently being offered. (Prius has recently had rebates available.

Another thing that I would definitely recommend is using the Internet to get a price quote. You can do this through,,,, and probably other sites as well. When you do this, your name, contact info, and information about the vehicle you would like to purchase are sent to multiple dealerships. These dealerships usually have dedicated Internet sales personnel who handle these requests. They will get back to you (by email, if you prefer) with a price quote. You can compare quotes, and even see if one dealership will match the quote of another. In our experience, this is a much less high pressure, much more pleasant way to buy a car, and we have gotten excellent price offers.

Last of all, remember that you always have the power to walk out. The dealer can't sell you a car until you agree to buy it. Decide in advance how much you are willing to pay, and don't buy until you get that price.

Good luck. An Internet car buyer

Hi there...we just bought a Civic Hybrid and on the recommendation from a friend used an auto broker - Auto Advocates ( They are based in Marin Co. If you are a AAA member the cost to you is $99.00 (I think $250 otherwise). You research the car you want (in this case I presume a new Prius), let them know what you want and your top price. They locate the car w/in approx. a 50 mile radius and you go and test drive it. They will take care of negotiating w/the dealer and doing much of the up front paperwork. We bought from Marin Honda and if we had wanted the paperwork was all ready when we got there to sign(we thought about it and went back the next day). The only sticky point we met was w/the finance guy at the dealership who tried to sell us their additional warranty (on top of what Honda already offers), but we refused. This apparently is where they make lots of $$, but it isn't always worth it. Anyhoo, all in all, with an 8 mo. old, it saved us a lot of haggling...and we love our new car! Good luck and hope it all works out....Paula Paula

How to Get the Best Financing at a Car Dealership

June 2007

We are buying a car and we would like advice on how to get the best interest rate on a loan from the car dealership. We already were approved for a loan from an online lender but we would like a lower rate.

We have heard of people asking the car dealership to beat the rate they have. The only problem is that the dealership only offers a slightly lower interest rate.

We were wondering if it would be better not to say anything until after the dealership makes us an offer. Then we could mention the interest rate we have.

We plan to negotiate the price of the car before we mention financing. We just don't know the best way to go about doing this.

Any advice or personal experiences would be greatly appreciated. Anon

Unless you have a credit rating of 750 or above, you will not get the best interest rate. If you do have 750+, there may be a promotional rate that will be really low.

The best way to get the best deal/loan interest rate is take a loan from a credit union and bring your letter of credit to the dealership.

Other than that, you are at the mercy of the F person at the dealership, and (I'm giving proprietary info here, so heed it well), they get kickbacks for getting higher-interest loans approved.

I'm in the industry, so I know this to be true. -- Want you to get a good deal

Your instincts seem good to me! Wait until the dealership makes you an offer before you ask them to beat it.

Among the most useful things my father ever taught me was negotiating with the car salesman at a dealership. He is an utter genius at it, and if I've picked up any of his tips, I'm better off for it. Thanks, Dad!

His strategy was to let out one piece of information at a time. So you'd select the car, go into the office, and sit down to discuss the first offer.

1) Once you have the first offer, tell the salesman that another dealership will give you the same car for $xxxx less. (Note this will only work if you have called another dealership in advance to get their price. Just in case the salesperson you're dealing with face-to-face calls your bluff, you should be able to prove you can get the car cheaper elsewhere. If they ask why you're not at the other dealership, claim convenience.) When the dealership makes a counteroffer, call the other place and ask them if they can beat it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

2) Once you have a price you're satisfied with, you can discuss payment. If you are trading in a car, now is the time to bring it up, NOT before you have an agreed upon price.

3) Bring up financing and let them make an offer. Tell them what you're getting from another bank and let them make a counteroffer. Lather, rinse, repeat again.

It's just like job negotiations in that you want to let them state a price first. Better leverage for you. Good luck! -- a happy car owner

What time of year is the best time to buy a new car?

Dec 2004

I need to purchase a new car, which I would prefer to do in January. However, I notice that many dealers are trying to sell their 2004 models now (I want to purchase a 2004). Does anyone know if 1) it is cheaper to purchase in October or January and 2) if there will be anything to choose from in January? Thanks! Eileen

whatever you do, you should do yourself a favor and check out before you buy a new car. I bought their 40-dollar package and followed the instructions and bought a brand new Honda Element for under invoice over the internet and then walked into the dealer and drove home with it in less than 1/2 hour. Also good is Fighting chance will give you ALL the research you need on the models you are interested in, and if there are specific times to buy that are better than others. (it varies by model) p

Buying a Car Online

victoria 10/99
There are lots of web sites where you can find MSRPs and invoice of new vehicles. For instance,, or if you like Microsoft.

However, I'd like to recommend two surprisingly good web sites for car buyers. One is

In addition to price info, technical info, and reviews, this site hosts a number of very active forums of consumers (and occasional dealers) exchanging information about vehicles. As you can imagine, one topic that is heavily discussed is what kind of price people have been paying for various models, including the Honda Odyssey. (It turns out that I am also interested in the Odyssey, and the best you can do with it is roughly MSRP).

The other site,

lets you buy new vehicles at heavy discount without negotiation. Most other car buying services (including CarPoint) only put you in touch with a dealer and are utterly useless, since you still have to talk to the dealer. I have checked a couple of carorder prices and they seem to be pretty much the bottom.

For instance: the CarPoint dealer quoted 2% over invoice for a Mazda MPV 2000 after three calls and a good workout to my spleen. gave me 0% over invoice in 2 minutes. The MPV discussion group also reports 0% over invoice in the best case.

The only limitation is that Carorder doesn't seem to deal with hard-to-get vehicles, including the Odyssey.

Good luck (and take a good look at the Mazda MPV 2000 before you buy the Odyssey). ---Luigi

January 2000

We have recently found that you can actually order a car from the internet, and the web site is (there may be others) It seems like the ultimate way to buy a car: no pressure, no negotiation games and you get exactly the color/options you want with a price typically lower or equal to the invoice price. However it sounds a bit too good to be true. So I would like to hear from you if you have any experience with such companies. How was it, is there any hidden catch, etc. thank you!

Recently my father had to buy a new car. He and my husband went to all the dealers in the area to try out different brands and models and get information on pricing. Then they came home and started looking up online car dealers. They were very impressed. The online dealers told you what the invoice was and the markup, and you could pick all kind of options. They even had better financing through the website than that offered by the credit union, but the catch was it would take 4-6 weeks for delivery (I don't remember which of the online dealers they were using) and my dad needed the new car right away. So they took the price quote from the web to one of the dealers, as a bargaining tool. It turned out that the dealer was quite willing to match the price quoted (a small percentage above invoice) and my dad was able to drive his car home that day.

First of all, I do not have any personal experience with this type of service. But, my sister and her husband purchased a car off the web. They used another site, though (I think it was They had a great experience. They ordered a 2000 VW Jetta and got everything they wanted. The car was delivered on a flatbed truck within a couple of weeks. In terms of the cost, they saved only the sales commission--which could amount to a couple thousand dollars. don't get me wrong--2k is quite a bit of money to save. It's just that some people expect to save a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately, you still pay state tax (which is considerable) Most of the sites will also allow you to apply for financing online. But, I have no experience with this aspect of the business (my sister and her husband paid cash). Personally, when it's time for my husband and me to buy a new car, we intend to use the internet. As far as I'm concerned, the lack of sales pressure is a MAJOR plus. Good luck.
Jeanette (1/00)

Apparently there is no catch. Check the discussion groups at by far the best source of automotive information. Other well known companies are and . A lot of people consult these sites to see what price they can get, and then they use the information to negotiate directly with a dealer. That seems to work well too. The only problem is that they don't deal in cars that are hard to get---for instance, I couldn't use them to buy my Honda Odyssey.
Luigi (1/00)