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  • Tips for prospective car buyers

    Shopping for a car can be stressful; we can make it easier for you with these tips.

    You'll want to weigh your options when purchasing a car.With so many potential pitfalls, you'll want to do your research before you make a purchase. Not only are you looking for the best value, but you want to find a reliable, long-lasting automobile you can enjoy for years to come.
    Langley Steinert, founder of CarGurus, a search engine that lets a user know if the car they're looking at is a great deal or a bad one, understands shopping for an automobile better than most. Here are a few tips to consider when buying a car.

    Get of out your comfort zone
    Steiner told U.S. News and World Report that many consumers spend more money at the time of purchase because they don't look for cars farther from home.

    "Sure, it may take 90 minutes to get to a dealership farther away, but if you can save $2,000 on a car, new or used, it's probably worth it," Steinert said. "We've done a lot of analysis that you can get substantial savings by going beyond your typical zip code."

    Surprisingly, Steiner also noted that dealerships in rural areas tend to be more expensive than dealerships in the city. That's because metro dealerships have to compete with each other for your business, driving down prices a la supply and demand.

    Get your financing in check
    The average cost of buying a car last summer was $31,252, according to car-buying website TrueCar.com. That makes shopping for a new car one of the most expensive purchases for the average American, and many don't have that kind of money tucked away in their mattress or in a checking account, meaning they'll have to finance in order to buy.

    A slew of car experts, including Steinert, implore future car buyers to get their financing in order before talking with a salesman.

    "I would go to the local banks to try and get your financing there first," Steinert told U.S. News. "If the dealer can beat that, great, but at least you've done your homework first."

    What to consider when buying a used vehicle
    If you decide your price range is more suited for a used vehicle, make sure you check out the vehicle's accident history. By spending a few bucks on a CARFAX report, you might be able to save yourself from major problems or repairs down the line. It's a tactic many dealerships and salesmen are deploying around the country when they take trade-ins.

    "We estimate more than 1 million cars are on the road right now with an odometer rollback," Chris Basso, a CARFAX spokesman, told U.S. News and World Report. "The cost of buying one of these cars is, on average, $4,000. That figure represents a combination of lost value and, perhaps more important, repair costs that the buyer will likely incur sooner than expected."

    Households throughout the country spend an average of $2,132 a year on car repair and maintenance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you buy a lemon, you could be spending much more than that.

    Watch out for add-ons - one in particular
Michael Caudill, an auto expert who owns Driven Public Relations, told U.S. News and World Report that buyers should be careful about what kind of fees or add-ons they agree to at the time of purchase. Caudill said one, in particular, should always be avoided.

    "Never, I repeat, never buy an extended warranty on a new vehicle," Caudill said. "You're already covered bumper to bumper at three years or 36,000 miles [whichever comes first]. Wait to see how the car operates. If it's a lemon, you'll be able to file a claim. If the car runs like a top, you can option for an extended warranty toward the end of your loan, and sometimes it may be more affordable. And don't prepay oil and tire rotation fees as well. I have found them to be too expensive even when bundled."