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Between buying a car, insuring it and maintaining it, you'll likely spend tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your vehicle's life. But while car ownership may be one of your biggest financial obligations, here is how you can make sure you're always getting the best deal.
Be an educated buyerBefore you hand over the down payment to a dealer, check online car-buying sites like Edmunds.com and KBB.com to see whether other local dealers will charge you a lower price. Edmunds.com even provides True Market Value (TMV) numbers for cars, which is the average price that a certain model is selling for in a specific region. Armed with that information, you'll know immediately if a dealer is trying to rip you off, and by letting the dealer know that you can get a better deal elsewhere, you can start negotiations off at a lower price point.
Price isn't the only thing you can negotiate for. When you're coming close to an agreement, ask the dealer to throw in accessories such as designer car mats. You may be surprised at what you get.
Get the best car insurance ratesCar insurance is your next major car purchase. Always shop around for multiple quotes, says Amy Bach, executive director of consumer advocacy organization United Policyholders. And don't be afraid to let each insurer know that they're competing for your business. If you already have home insurance, your home insurer may offer you a discount for buying your car insurance policy from them too. For example, Nationwide offers up to 25 percent off when you bundle multiple policies.
You may also get a discount for insuring multiple cars; GEICO offers up to 25 percent off certain portions of your premium for insuring more than one car. Many insurers will offer a discount if you have a new car with safety features such as an anti-lock brake system (ABS) or anti-theft system such as a car alarm or a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device. If you have a good driving record, you may be able to strike an especially attractive bargain since insurers will like the fact that your risk of having an accident – and filing an insurance claim – is likely to be low.
Avoid overspending on car reparsUnfortunately, there will be times when your car will break down. While it may seem that you're at the mercy of the mechanic or repair shop owner, you actually wield the power with the proper knowledge. If you're not sure what's wrong with your car, take it to a repair shop and pay the diagnostic fee to have them identify the problem. Once you know what's wrong with the car, call various repair shops to see what they would charge to fix it, or turn to the internet.
The website AutoMD.com lets you submit information about what's wrong with your car and it will provide estimates of what it will cost for you to have it fixed at the dealer, at a repair shop or if you do the work yourself. Another site, RepairPal.com, lets you determine what repair shops in your region will charge for the work. Either take your car to the shop that charges the lowest rate, or use that information to negotiate a lower price with the shop you'd prefer to use. Before leaving your car at a repair shop, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends that you ask for recommendations or check the BBB's database to check for complaints.
The more you know about what a car or car-related service is worth, the more power you have to get the price you want.
Laura Adams is senior insurance analyst for a popular insurance website that provides online services to consumers seeking Auto Insurance knowledge and savings on their car insurance policies.