Purchasing a car can be a stressful ordeal. The negotiation process can feel like a chess match.
So you may want to know six secrets that can help when you're buying a car, so you don't waste your money.
Caution: Wallet at risk
When you walk onto a car lot, your wallet is at risk.
How it turns out depends on whether you're prepared, as Steve Petersen of Cincinnati's Clifton neighborhood knows too well.
We found him test driving cars at Courtesy Automotive in Oakley, refusing to make a rush decision.
"There's a lot of competition out here, and trying to find the best deal takes time," Petersen said.
Smart move, according to professional auto purchaser, Steve Sternberg, who shared six secrets to get the best deal, things the dealer may not want you to know.
"You don't want to divulge too much initially. You always want to have something behind you to put out on the table," Sternberg said.
1. Don't divulge finances
Sternberg's first tip: Don't blabber about your finances, but know your credit score before you start negotiating.
Special interest rates, like 0 percent, are offered only to buyers who have a good credit rating.
Sternberg said, "If there's some problems with your credit, know ahead of time so you can discuss it frankly and see if something can be resolved."
2. Know the real value of your trade-in
Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com give you a price range.
Know what the car should be selling for.
3. Bring a smartphone, to compare prices on similar cars
If you can show the dealer a lower price for the same car, he may lower his offer.
4. Don't talk about monthly payments up front.
If you tell a dealer you can afford $300 a month, they can lengthen the loan or raise your APR, and boost the final price.
That means you should not go by the monthly payment. You want to know the APR and the final cost you'll be paying.
5. Get the offer in writing
Sternberg said while some dealers might not want to do it, you should always get them to put it in on paper.
"Many dealers won't write down their offer because they're concerned about taking that to someone else and showing them, 'Well, I got it in writing. What are you going to do?"
What the dealer tells you in the showroom might not be the same deal you get later in the back office.
6. Politely decline extras
Finally, tip number six: Say no to rustproofing and fabric protection.
Consumer Reports magazine says it benefits the dealer more than you, and says a $7 can of Scotchgard can offer similar fabric protection, so you don't waste your money.