From the Magazine

4 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Car

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Buying a new car can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be — if you ask the right questions, that is. So what should you be asking the next time you head to the dealership? Car gurus reveal the secret questions that can lead to you saving thousands on your next car (new or used!). Keep reading to learn more about their four must-ask questions. 

To nix sneaky fees

Ask the dealer: “What’s the out-the-door cost for this car?” You may bargain down the window sticker price, but dealers can charge other fees that drive the cost right back up. “These can include a documentation fee that covers administration costs, advertising fees and shipping and handling among other hidden fees that can add $300–$400 to the MSRP,” says Carlton Wolf, president of AutoCheatSheet.com. “Knowing what they plan to tack on, and negotiating accordingly, before signing any paperwork, can save you anywhere from $75–$799!”

To nab special discounts

We already know that working for a certain corporation or having attended a certain school can get you a discount on car insurance, but car dealers take those same types of associations and groups you’re a part of into account to lower prices! Simply ask: “Do you offer special discounts?” says Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor of Kelley Blue Book. He also suggests checking the manufacturer’s website for additional incentives for which you might be eligible. For example, if you’re a first responder, several vehicle brands offer discounts of $500 or more! Many brands, like Hyundai, Honda, Ford, Subaru, Toyota and more, offer a $500 rebate to active and retired military personnel.

To score a secret deal

Buy the same make of car more than once, and the dealership is likely to offer you a repeat customer discount. Even better? You can slash even more money off the top by switching brands! Simply go to a different manufacturer and ask, “Do you offer a ‘conquest’ discount?” says automotive analyst Lauren Fix of The Car Coach (CarCoachReports.com). “These are rebates offered to lure you away from the manufacturer of your current car.” Say you currently own a Toyota, GM may offer you $500 to buy from them!

To save big in the long run

We all have a budget to stick to when buying a car, so the bottom line is important. When deciding between cars ask, “What’s the long-term cost to own this car?” You might be surprised to learn that one car may be cheaper up front, but cost more down the line. How it works: The sticker price on a 2018 Chevrolet Cruze sedan may be $18,897, but according to the five-year “cost of car ownership” calculator at Edmunds.com/tco.html, (it takes into account how much value your car loses plus repairs and maintenance over that time) the five-year cost is $31,506. On the other hand, a 2018 Ford Focus sedan may cost $18,033, but adds up to $32,582 over five years. The end result? Chevy’s initial price tag is higher, but you’ll save in repairs and maintenance and depreciation costs, which also means a higher trade-in or sale value when it’s time for your next new car.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine. 

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