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How To Do Smart Car Shopping, Part One

by Joanne Brickman

Buying a new car can be a traumatic, unpleasant and intimidating experience. On the other hand, it can be exciting, fun and stimulating.  With proper preparation, you can control the experience and turn it from trauma to terrific.
      Unfortunately, many of today's vehicle salespeople continue to discount a female's "car smarts" and persist in using patronization and intimidation when dealing with women buyers.  Heaven help you if you're a senior woman car buyer.
     Fortunately, there is something you can do to make the experience rewarding rather than repulsive.  It'll take a little work on your part, but basically it's simply a matter of following a "to do" list that guides you through a thoughtful analysis and research process. 
     We're all familiar with "to do" lists.  Followed with a certain amount of discipline, they can ensure a successful project.  And so it is with the
car-buying process.  Following a orderly "to do" list can lead to a
successful car-buying experience.
     It's important that you make your "to do" list in a clean notebook.  Label it  'My Car' so it doesn't get used for the grocery list or something else.  By conscientiously performing  the "to do" exercises that follow, you will end up with information that applies specifically to your needs, not the needs of the salesperson or a well-meaning advisor.  The process of acquiring this information and its written result will not only help you
make an intelligent vehicle decision, it will help keep you on track in the
emotional dealership environment.


  • 1.  Begin by writing down the names of all the vehicles you can think of that you might like to buy. You've probably owned a number of automobiles in your life.  There are likely a few you'd like to own again -- or maybe some of the new offerings have caught your eye.  Write them all down.   Today's leading sellers are sport utility vehicles, but don't forget to consider a minivan or station wagon if hauling things is a requirement of your lifestyle.  If you're interested in a car with four doors, there are a large number of interesting sedans out there, including a number of attractive and fun sport sedans.  If you're outgoing, or simply enjoy going out with the wind in your hair, there are several outstanding convertibles awaiting you.  The list goes on and on.  Be sure to include as many as you can think of so you don't miss anything.
  • 2.  Now for a little self-analysis.  How does a vehicle fit into your present lifestyle?  Do you enjoy taking the grandchildren with you when you're behind the wheel?  Are you a driving enthusiast -- an avid outdoor woman?   Do you have things to haul?  Golf clubs? Friends?   Match your life-style with the vehicle type that suits you best.  Active grandmothers may find a minivan or station wagon has the room needed for the kids and their stuff.  Outdoor aficionados will want to consider the wide variety of sport utility vehicles -- they come in all sizes and prices.  If you love driving, a sporty coupe or a great sports car will make it onto your shopping list.  Whatever your likes or needs, there's a vehicle out there just for you.  Apply this lifestyle analysis to the list of cars developed in Step 1 and create a list of vehicles suited just for you.

  • 3.  This is the information-gathering step for the vehicles on your shopping list.  All of you reading this are at least reasonably knowledgeable about the Internet and know how to get at the phenomenal amount of information you can find there.  New automotive sites are springing up daily, though, and it's hard to decide which are best by using the normal "search engines." An easy way to decide is to surf to  On the left hand menu under "NetLinks," click New Car Buying and allow Philip Powell to guide you through a complete list of sites, each accompanied by a quick explanation. 
     There are even a couple sites directed at the woman buyer.  One of them, Woman Motorist, offers buyer's guides for both new and used cars. 
     Two Internet sites offer an easy way to compare the vehicles you are
considering. If you're looking at station wagons, for example, and want to compare a couple of them, surf  to the auto section of Yahoo! or
Excite .  Both sites offer a side-by-side comparative of the vehicles of your choice. On Yahoo!, click on the link to new car guide and then the 'search and compare' button.  On Excite, there is a 'compare cars' link on the home page.
      You may also want to use traditional research sources.  If so, be sure to include the April issue of Consumer Reports (or if you are an online subscriber,  Consumer Reports Online) in your search. Include all the information you find pertaining to the vehicles on your shopping list in your 'to do' notebook. You may find yourself in information-overload, but if you've done a good job of choosing only those vehicles best suited to your needs, the list should be reasonably concise. The more you know about your vehicle needs and the more information you have about the vehicles that meet these needs, the stronger you'll be at the dealership.  The information you're accumulating is powerful ammunition for the negotiating portion of the new car buying process.
     There are, however, several more 'to do' steps before you're ready for the dealership experience.  You need to decide on your financial strategy (how much you're willing to pay and whether to lease or buy) and get out there and kick a few tires before you're ready to sit down at the table and deal.
     We'll cover these steps in Part Two of  "How 'To Do' Smart Car Shopping."

 Part Two >>


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