Let Joe Know: Five things to know when shopping for a car

We all know buying a car is expensive and stressful. And, if you're not careful, you can end up spending a whole lot more than you planned.

The best way to protect yourself when buying a car is being prepared before you hit the lot, so says auto leasing expert Steven Sternberg.

I've heard from a lot of you about bad car buying experiences, so here are some tips from Sternberg for you so you know how to protect yourself when you're shopping for a car.

1. Know your credit score before you get to a dealership.

For special interest rates – like 0% APR – you usually need a score of 700 or above.

"If there's some problems with your credit, know ahead of time so you can discuss it frankly and see if something be resolved," Sternberg said.

And always check a credit union and other bank rates first, so you can compare with what the dealer offers.

2. Know the car's value.

The National Automobile Association database , Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com offer prices ranges for the car you want and the one you're trading in.

Consumer Reports even shows members how much the dealer paid and when you're getting a good deal.

3. Bring your smartphone with you.

It makes shopping easy. You can be at one dealer, emailing a dozen others in a 100-mile radius asking for a quote on the same vehicle you're considering.

4. Don't talk about a down payment or monthly payments up front.

Only concentrate on the "out the door" price at first. Otherwise, a dealer could modify the length of the loan, even raise the APR. So negotiate only the total price and then figure out your payments.

5. Get everything in writing.

That goes for buying a car as well as when you get an estimate.

"Many dealers won't 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?'" Sternberg said.

OTHER TIPS TO REMEMBER

You also want to make sure that all the lines are filled out on any contract you sign.

And, if you're buying a used car, ask the seller to run a motor vehicle report on it. It will show if there are any liens against the car.

If you need help or need to warn others about a consumer problem or scam, let me know at joe@abc15.com or by going to my  "Let Joe Know" Facebook page.

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