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Shop now for best car deals

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NEW YORK (11/17/08)--It’s a buyer’s market on automobile dealer lots right now, thanks to too many 2009s, too many leftover 2008s, and a glut of used vehicles. But if you wait too long, you may miss out on the short-lived perfect storm benefiting buyers (MarketWatch Nov. 5). As automobile dealers struggle to stay in business during tough economic times, now is the time to bargain. Before you head to the lot, lay out your game plan:
* Check your credit. A good bill-paying history and a credit score higher than about 720 will give you an edge over customers without them. * Understand your choices. If you want a small vehicle, you won’t have much negotiating power--they’re in short supply and the dealer has leverage. Large cars, on the other hand, will yield the best deals, but you’ll pay at the pump for poor gas mileage. * Consider certified, pre-owned vehicles. These used cars have warranty protection, and they also have the most costly years of depreciation behind them. * Set your strategy. Once you decide on a model, use one dealer against another. J.D. Power & Associates recommends you get a price from Dealer A, then use that price to bargain with Dealer B (BusinessWeek TV Oct. 10). Be prepared to go back and forth between the dealers. * Understand financing options. Despite the lure of 0% financing and rebates, have a credit union loan officer run the numbers before you sign on any dotted lines.
For more information, read “Are You Ready for a Really Small Car?” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.