New Way to Shop for a New Car
Edmunds' home page


Edmunds.com's 8-step plan


Edmunds.com's True Car Value search engine


Sample of an Edmunds Price Promise Certificate


Kelley Blue Book, the trusted resource (that dealers will swear nobody uses)


Cars.com, Sell Your Car - Get Started


Thomas Computer Services Web Site
The price of a new car these days can be a heavy penalty for a person who buys on impulse. Selecting a manufacturer and model, and then negotiating with a dealer calls for a well thought-out plan. Consumer Reports is always the best place to start when choosing a new car. Their April issue features ratings of the current model-year cars grouped in comparable body type and size classes. These group lists also feature multiple recommended models for each group. This recommendation is based on value, predicted reliability and customer satisfaction, and on crash-test ratings. 

Test drive and then select your model
Print out Consumer Reports' list of cars in the size class you have in mind and identify recommended models based on qualities most important to you. Visit local dealerships and test drive the chosen few. Request their best offer in writing or make a note of it in case they won't do that for you. Resist dealers' attempts to get you to negotiate at this point. Make sure they understand you are shopping around and that you're not sure if you want to trade in your old car or sell it yourself.

Get your loan approved
Once you have an idea how much you'll be spending, focus on your financing options. If you need a loan, use bankrate.com to shop for the lowest interest ones in your area. Have the bank pre-approve your loan and then issue you a bank check that you can fill out later at the car dealership you choose after you close the deal there. You can still go with the dealer's financing if they can give you a better rate than the bank.

Prepare to get the most for your trade-in
Visit cars.com or kbb.com to find out what your old car might be worth. Clean it up, and if the tires are worn and you can replace them for $500 or so, do it. After you negotiate a deal for the new car, be ready to negotiate your price for your old one, and be ready to walk if you don't like a dealer's offer. For you, this attitude is the most important part in the entire process.

Get dealers to compete for your business
After you settle on a particular make and model, visit edmunds.com. One of their free services is a web site that shows the average price paid in your area for any given model. You can also scroll down on their home page to an area labeled "Get a Free Price Quote." Use the drop-down menus to select the exact car you want and to discover its availability. Edmunds has enlisted only the hungrier, "we won't be undersold" dealerships, and each one within 50 miles will email you an offer sheet certificate with a solid, bottom dollar price. (See the link below to a sample certificate.) Use these pages to get the dealers in your area to compete for your business even if the term of the certificates has expired. Choose a dealer and then negotiate the lowest possible price with the sales rep, and only THEN mention your trade-in if you have one.

No extras, please
Dealers have a way of padding their bottom line by trying to sell you extras like fabric and paint sealants, undercoating and VIN etching. Be ready to reject them all. They will also try to sell you a service contract or extended warranty. Think twice about such offers also because you've already selected for reliability. (You have selected for reliability, haven't you?!) There are also costs and fees that MAY be negotiable: sales tax, state registry fees, and a delivery fee that covers the dealer's cost of preparing the car for you. Ask for a breakdown of all the fees, and ask the salesman if you can have the car driven to your home or office: possibly a better, more relaxed place to take ownership.

For the first weeks, keep a list of questions about your new car.  Email them to your sales rep whose employment likely depends on your satisfaction. Enjoy your new car and relish your efforts to get it.
August 7, 2015


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