"You shouldn't go out on a Saturday morning and try to buy a car by Saturday night," says Brian Chee, chief automotive analyst at CarsDirect.com, an online car-buying service. "Making sure you don't rush into a purchase is important."
"You'll never get a good deal if you don't know what you're doing," says Remar Sutton, a renowned consumer advocate, president and co-founder with Ralph Nader of the Consumer Task Force for Automotive Issues and author of Don't Get Taken Every Time: The Ultimate Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car in the Showroom or on the Internet. "If you have to ask many questions at a dealership, you're in trouble already."
"Size and efficiency are general topics to confront early," says Deanna Sclar, author of Buying a Car for Dummies and Auto Repair for Dummies. Sclar suggests people really question whether they need to drive in a big SUV, because the size and efficiency of your vehicle affects the world around you. "People really need to get the link between their cars and the environment."
"Don't buy the warranty," says Stephen Lang, who co-runs a site called Trade-In Quality Index, a database of information compiled by mechanics over the course of nearly 600,000 vehicle inspections. "Unless the car's seriously unreliable, it's never gonna pay off. Instead, the best deal is usually on cars that are eight to 10 years old. Most of the depreciation has already occurred, but there's still a ton of life left in the car."
Never say aloud you want the car. "You don't have to be a Vulcan," says Steven Lang, "but don't swoon. You don't need a poker face, but don't make it obvious, either. If you tell the seller 'I'm considering this', you show interest without showing overt pavlovian interest."