I sold Jeeps for 6 years and I am still uncomfortable with the car buying experience. I could post all kinds of stories but I will post my own personal guidelines for buying a car.
1. Only buy when you are not desperate. If the need is not urgent or you are not impulsive you will likely get a better deal. The more times you can walk away the lower your price or payment will be.
2. If you feel unfortable at all......LEAVE. There are some good dealers out there who won't manipulate you or make you feel like an idiot.
3. Car buying is easier if you don't have a trade. A trade throws a whole other dimension to an already dicey situation. At this point you are negotiating price, trade in and payments. Even worse if you owe money on your trade.
4. Research. Find the car and model you like and watch the ads. I knew when I went into the dealership which car was the ad car and that the dealer had many of them. Actually they FINALLY matched an ad that another dealer had. Be prepared to buy the ad car or else the price on a similar car could be much higher. Or you could also pay $500 on pinstripes or $799 for the "environmental protection plan" blah blah blah. I got the already installed tinted windows on my car for free.
5. Buying verses leasing. I've leased the last 2 cars we've bought. My payment difference between a 3 year lease and a 5 year payment was about $130 a month cheaper by leasing. I simply turn it in after 3 years and get another vehicle. There are mileage restrictions so beware. A lease is just another way of financing. You still have a payoff, the bank owns it, and you can actually trade it before the 3 years is up. Leasing could fit the budget and you can often buy a better quality car since the lease payment is based on it's future value. Think future value of a Honda Accord vs. Chevy Malibu.
6. New verses used. I have a hard time paying $15,000 for a used car with just a little bit of warranty left when I can get the same car brand new for about $20,000 and a full 3 year warranty. The story is different if you are looking at a $3000 used car verse a brand new car.
www.kbb.com kelly blue book
Warranties? If you are going to for SURE keep a car for more than 4 years and put as many as 100,000 miles on it you may consider a warranty. Dealer cost on a warranty is about 1/2 the retail price. Dealers can negotiate on this too!
Color? I see these crazy bright yellow or funky off colors and it does affect resale. Not as much on a lease, but you severely limit who will look at buying your car if it has an odd color. Don't do it!
Feel free to ask questions since this is not all inclusive!