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Personal and Business Banking

Auto Buying Step by Step

Chapter 4: Research, Then Shop

  • Summary
  • Article

Chapter 4: Research, Then Shop

  • What to research
  • Places to look for information
  • If you are buying used

Chapter 4: Research Then Shop

Now, let's do a little research before you go shopping. Once you know how much Available Cash you have, you next need to know the hard facts about vehicles that fit your Available Cash figure. For instance...

  • What vehicles (with the features you want) fit your budget?

  • What do these cars cost the dealers?

  • What is their safety record?

  • What about the mechanical reliability of the various models?

  • What about maintenance costs?

  • Insurance costs?

Several sites can help you get answers to some of these questions. The CUDL AutoSmart and Edmunds websites have much of this information. Remember that Edmunds is paid for by auto dealers that participate with their sales program, so be careful. NADA Guides can help you price used vehicles. Simply do research at this point and don't buy! When you've done your research, come back here for some serious buying tips.

The ConsumerReports.orgTM website provides independent test results of most vehicles. There is a subscription fee to access information. You should also visit the The Center for Auto Safety website to check the safety record of cars you're considering. It's free.

After doing your research, it's time to shop for the vehicle you like!

Your first visit to a dealership or website poses the maximum danger to your pocketbook. Those new cars look great and you've waited a while educating yourself. Save the emotions for the moment you finally drive away in your shiny new car on budget, with an extra thousand dollars or two in your pocket. Now that's something to get excited about!

A StreetWise Tip: If you're buying used...

Buying used is one of the smartest things you can do because you'll pay less over all. Plus someone else gets to pay for that big drop in value when a new car leaves the lot for the first time. But buying used can also be expensive when people don't understand the specific problems used-car buyers face – on the web or at a dealership. For instance, did you know some dealers and online lenders charge you as much as 20% interest on loans for three year-old cars?

Our rates are always far less because our loan rates for used cars are the same as for new. We don't think you should pay more just because you prefer a used car. Here's an example of the difference...


Used Car Financing DCU Other Lender Savings
Loan Amount $24,000 $24,000  
Loan Term 48-months 48-months  
Annual Percentage Rate* 5% 9% 4%
Estimated Monthly Payment $454 $498 $44
Total Interest $3,172 $5,888 $2,716

*For illustrative purposes only. Actual DCU rates are determined by your personal credit history and are subject to change.

That's why, as a used-car buyer, you need more information than a new-car buyer. So what should you do? Finish reading this online guide, even though it deals primarily with new vehicles. The information here is priceless. And then, after reading the rest of this, click on the special StreetWise Used Car icon on the last page of this guide.


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