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The new car and truck market is crowded and competitive. To take advantage of this, seek out vehicle incentives and rebates. An often used incentive in recent years has been low-interest financing and even zero percent auto loans. Many of these attractive incentives are geared toward a particular model.

The first step in the car purchase process is having a specific idea of the truck or car you want to buy. This means knowing the make, model, trim level, options and the vehicle's color. The more flexible you can be about these things, the wider the range of the cars you'll find available for sale at the price you want to pay.

Car salespeople will usually point to a car's "sticker price" as the amount you have to pay. However, the price the dealership is willing to sell a car for is often well below the sticker price. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the "dealer invoice" is the same as "dealer cost." That simply isn't true because dealers get additional incentives that lower their actual cost.

Always get quotes from multiple dealers, preferably three or more. While storefront car lots have been the traditional way to buy an auto, you can now use the Internet department of auto dealers. Using the Internet saves you from having to negotiate face to face with a salesperson and saves time. In all likelihood, it'll result in savings on an auto purchase.

If you're seeking to buy at a rock-bottom price, get bids from four car dealers. Follow this up by taking the lowest price, contacting the three other dealerships and saying, "I've been offered this car at this price. If you beat it I'll buy it from you." They almost certainly will beat the price. However, keep in mind that you can't use this strategy forever. Eventually, dealers will make a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

If you use a dealer to trade in your old car, you'll almost certainly not get as much money toward the price of a new car as you would have if you sell the vehicle yourself to a private party. However, trade-ins provide some advantages. You can save the time selling an auto yourself, unload a hard-to-sell auto, and in some states, pay less in sales tax on a deal that involves a trade-in.

Be prepared to have additional products and services to be pushed on you. Watch for add-ons inserted into the price without your knowledge in the contract. These cost increases can include dealer add-ons such as overpriced car alarms, pin-striping, paint protection, window tinting, and an extended warranty. While many people like the peace of mind that extended auto warranties provide, they can be purchased from other sources, many times at less cost.

Avoid the "dealer prep" trick that can add $150 to $200 to the price of a vehicle. Dealers are already being paid by the factory for new-car preparation.

After the purchase price has been negotiated, ask the dealership to detail the car and provide a full tank of gas at no cost.

It's critical that you inspect the auto before taking possession. Walk around the vehicle and search for scratches in the paint and wheels, along with dents and dings. Make sure there are floor mats if they were included in the price. If there's any damage or something is missing, ask for a "Due Bill" to put it in writing.

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