How To Buy A Car

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Buying a car can be stressful. Jon Yates, the Chicago Tribune's "Problem Solver," offers car shoppers tips on how to make the experience a little less unnerving, on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.

Two Chicago Tonight staffers blogged about their experiences car shopping. Associate Producer Christine Hurley purchased a 2012 Chevy Cruze Eco, and Interactive Content Producer Yasmin Rammohan bought a 2008 Toyota Camry. Read about their car shopping adventures below!

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Christine Hurley

Buying a new car. The first majorly adult thing I did in my 20-something life. Was I scared? Yes. Did I have a minor panic attack before signing the contract? Possibly. But all things considered, I think I had a smooth experience. I started looking for a new car last November. I had a sinking feeling that my 2003 Saturn was on the outs. So, I began to research. I know very little about cars, and was intimated by the information I was finding. I asked friends and spouses of friends for major help.

Before even stepping into a dealership, I wanted to narrow my selection. I picked four cars that had the features I wanted. So that was step one. For those of you who watch Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo, you know Patti Stanger talks about non-negotiables in finding a mate. My non-negotiables were Bluetooth and some serious fuel efficiency; I work 30 miles from my house, which also means I need to be able to spend hours in my car on the Dan Ryan, and not want to drive into a median.

The next step was to actually go to each dealership and check the feel of each car. This was extremely helpful because it helped me remove two of the cars from my list without even test driving them. I went to the dealerships by myself, and I suppose the salesman could sense my level of unease. I just wanted to go, sit in the car and grab some information. But at one of the dealerships, I felt like chum. Calling me sweetie and honey will not help you get my business. I became increasingly agitated by the way the salesman was treating me. Do they actually think high-pressure sales work? I just wanted to leave and never return. After weeks of unreturned messages, the salesman finally relented.

When it was time for me to take the plunge, I brought my friend’s husband along. I’m not sure if I would have been taken advantage of had he not been there, but it made me more comfortable. He saw when I was starting to feel stressed and told the salesman to give us a minute to regroup. Once we came to a price I could manage, I was ready to sign the agreement. This is where things can get slimy. I say slimy because of the deceitful tactics some dealers may try. While looking over the price agreement, I noticed that the price was not as low as we had verbally agreed. The price for my trade-in was lower. The salesman tried to give me some baloney that the number worked out in the end, but it didn’t. Customers need to ensure that before they sign, that number is right, because there is no whiting out a contract…unfortunately.

I further negotiated with the finance manager. This was mainly because I didn’t know what was negotiable and what wasn’t…so I tried everything. I was able to bring down my APR and the cost of an extended warranty. This alone saved me nearly $2,000!

My first payment was due last week. Few tears were shed. No buyer’s remorse. I’m on to my next challenge -- buying a condo -- which I expect will cause more than one panic attack.

Yasmin Rammohan

A few months back, I was in the market for a new car. I had been driving my 2000 Dodge Neon (which I bought used in 2002) for 9 years! It was definitely time for a new ride. I wanted a larger, more reliable vehicle and had a few types in mind, like a Toyota Camry and possibly a RAV4. I love SUVs, even though they are gas guzzlers and not environmentally friendly. Something about sitting up high and looking down on everyone is rather appealing to me. Anyway, I started the process by doing some research online. I visited several websites to get an idea of the price range, features, new vs. used cars, the works.

After sending out a few e-mails and making some phone calls to set up appointments at dealerships on a Saturday, I made the trek out to the suburbs with my mom and a guy friend. I’ve always been told, as a woman, that you should bring along a male to accompany you while car shopping or you will be taken advantage of. Sad, but probably true!

As soon as we hit the parking lots at the dealerships, salesmen swooped, asking us what we were looking for and hustling us to various cars. I felt uncomfortable with them breathing down my neck. I prefer to look around on my own without feeling the pressure!

I spotted a few Camrys and RAV4’s at one specific dealership and headed in for an appointment that I had with a female salesperson I had made over the phone. When I walked in and asked for her, I was quickly hustled to a desk with a gentleman who proceeded to try to get me to lease a car, when my intention was to buy. After politely listening to his spiel for several minutes, I grew restless and tired of the antics. I want to buy, not lease, I said. But we are offering you this great deal, he said. I don’t care, I said. And back and forth it went, until my politeness turned into anger and I stormed out!

We ended the day at CarMax where I had my eye on a 2008 black Toyota Camry. I was able to look up the features on the computer and see the car’s history report, without a salesperson shadowing me at all times. I liked that they offered no-haggle pricing (I hate negotiating!), a fair trade-in value for my Neon, and that they don’t sell cars that have previously been in accidents. I asked to test drive the car and it was a perfect fit! I signed the paperwork, made my down payment and got my loan set up quickly and efficiently.

I drove home with my new (used!) car that very same day. So far, so good. I love my Camry!

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