Shopping for a Car Alone? 5 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Get Taken for a Ride

Shopping for a Car Alone? Five Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Get Taken for a Ride

By Cara B. Newman



Avoid Common Car Scams

There are few decisions that can produce such a mix of emotions as buying or leasing a new car. According to a recent USAA Auto Circle survey, most people are excited at the prospect of buying a car, yet, at the same time they wish the process was easier. In fact, even though most people love driving a new car, the survey found that many people find the experience time consuming, exhausting, and even intimidating.

It’s no surprise that few people want to do it alone. And, if you have a partner, big decisions are usually joint decisions. In fact, this is the number one reason that nearly half of all military spouses surveyed would not buy or sell a vehicle while their spouse is deployed. Furthermore, two out of five military spouses say the hardest part of navigating the car-buying process alone is deciding which car to buy and negotiating a good price. Military Spouses aren’t the only ones—almost no one seems to enjoy negotiating, however most people feel they have to do it to get a good deal. The only thing people seem to dislike more than negotiating is doing it alone. Unfortunately, if a spouse is deployed, you may have no choice.

If you are buying a car by yourself, how can you make sure you don’t get taken for a ride? The Car Coach, automotive expert Lauren Fix, has some tips:

1. Be prepared. Make a list of things you need before you walk into a dealership, and line up your own financing with your bank in advance. Remember, you’re being approved for an amount, not a specific car, so being pre-approved for an auto loan doesn’t mean you have to already know what vehicle you want.

2. Look around. After finding a vehicle you like, use a site such as to look up the price at different dealerships in your area. Some sites such as offer consolidated research from multiple sources to make this process easier.

3. Skip the negotiating. You can bypass the negotiating process if you want to. There are car-buying services that provide an upfront, no-haggle price you can take to a pre-screened dealer who has agreed to honor it. Typically you can access these services through an organization you belong to or subscribe to, like USAA or Consumer Reports.

4. Use time to your advantage. The first day of every month car dealerships have to pay for every car they have on the floor, so they are more anxious to get rid of cars at the end of the month. Typically, you will find the best deals during those last few days on the calendar.

5. Check insurance costs early. Research shows that most people don’t check insurance costs in advance, but some buyers decide against a purchase once they have those costs in hand. Save time by getting a quote from your insurance provider either over the phone, online or even on your mobile phone. Most people don’t shop around for insurance when they buy a car, but it can be a good time to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

While buying a new car can be difficult, it’s not impossible. Just remember to take a deep breath and take your time. As a rule of thumb it’s never a good idea to buy a car the day you start looking, so don’t be afraid to walk away. Finally, stay confident, with a little research and some planning you can get the car of your dreams at the price you want.

USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates.

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