Car Buying

Buying a Car: Tips For Buying Right Away

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author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2014

Sometimes, buying a car doesn't mean spending days doing research, test drives and online price shopping. That's because shoppers are often confronted with a situation that requires buying a car right away -- either an accident with a previous car, the theft of a previous car, a new job with a longer commute or a changing family situation. In these situations, what's the best way to approach buying a new car? We have the answer.

Easy Target?

If you show up at a dealership in a rental car -- or if you're being carted around by a friend or family member -- you might be seen as an easy target: someone who absolutely must purchase a car in the next few days. That's especially true if you explain your situation in detail, revealing that your car was stolen or involved in an accident and you need to buy a replacement right away. In these situations, dealers might not be willing to give you the best deal possible because they know your choices are limited.

Our suggestion: Don't become an easy target. While most dealers would never take advantage of a car shopper, it's still a good idea to conceal the need for your car purchase -- even if it means telling a few white lies. If you show up in a rental, for example, you might want to tell a salesperson that your car is in the shop. And if a friend or family member is driving you, suggest that you've brought someone along to help take you through the car-buying process. While a salesperson might sympathize with your story about a stolen car or a changing family situation, you're unlikely to get a better deal because of it.

Do A Lot of Online Research

Because you won't have much time to visit dealers in search of the best deal on the best car, we strongly suggest that you spend as much time as you can doing research online. Start your search by figuring out a budget and continue by reading lots of car reviews. Focus on qualities that are important to you: safety, cargo volume, reliability, practicality and fuel economy, for example. AutoTrader's own comprehensive reviews also include a section devoted to other cars you might want to consider, for shoppers interested in narrowing down their choices.

Once you've established a list of cars you might want, we suggest browsing AutoTrader's listings to find out which local dealers have the cars that interest you. Call the dealers to verify the cars are still there, and -- if you're looking for a used car -- ask for a detailed description of the vehicle's condition before heading out. Another used car tip: Ask to see the car's Carfax or AutoCheck vehicle history report to find out if it's ever been in an accident, a flood or any other type of catastrophic event.

Don't Focus on One Car

Although you may think you need a car right away, it's never a good idea to set your sights on just one vehicle. Even if you're pressed for time and you need to buy a car immediately, try to consider at least two or three choices. That gives you bargaining power and the all-important ability to walk away from a deal if it's not to your advantage. Without this power, you might find yourself agreeing to unfavorable terms just because you have to buy a car right away. In other words, try to convince that friend who's driving you around to hit two or three dealerships, rather than just one. If you must, take a taxi. The inconvenience is worth it, because it could save you thousands of dollars.

Don't Worry

It's never a good idea to make a large purchase, such as a car, on a tight schedule. But if you use our tips, buying a car right away might not be so bad. Just remember to do a lot of research online before you set out, don't tip off the dealership to your desperate situation, and -- most importantly -- don't be afraid to walk away and move on to the next car on your list.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Tips For Buying Right Away - Autotrader