Buying a new car can be stressful, but if you do things right up front, you’re setting yourself up for years of a better ownership experience and potentially thousands of dollars in savings. Here are some must-dos when you shop:

Choose carefully 

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Too many buyers select a single car without looking at the competition, and they’re likely missing out. Read reviews online from professional critics and owners to help guide you toward cars that might interest you, and then form your own impressions by test-driving those that seem promising.

The most helpful reviews knowledgeably compare a car’s pros and cons against its competitors instead of speaking generally or always being positive – you’ll find both types on the internet. And for your test drives, try to envision the way you’ll use your car and see how it would feel in those cases.

Pay attention to prices 

A car’s MSRP, or sticker price, isn’t reflective of what you’ll actually pay – a salesperson will give you a better deal on some cars than others, based on demand, built-in profit margins and various other factors. Visit to get a sense of the actual going rate so you won’t rule out a car for being too expensive without realizing that it’s heavily discounted.

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Shop around

Just like you shouldn’t buy the first car you see, you probably don’t want to buy from the first dealer you talk to either. Nearly every dealership will give you a price quote online. Seek out competing quotes from multiple dealers once you’ve chosen a car or even while you’re narrowing down which car to buy and want to see which one would cost less.

You can negotiate efficiently by email or over the phone, encouraging dealers to either beat each other’s prices or to explain what they offer to justify a higher price. Make sure, too, that the dealers include their mandatory fees in the price quotes your receive.

Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he’ll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for since 2008, publishing hundreds of car reviews, automotive news pieces and other features. His work can be found on

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