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I still remember the ecstatic smile on my face the day I crawled into my 1999 Honda Civic (I'm 6' 4"...let that sink in.) I had paid a whopping $500 for the junker of a car and felt like I'd hit the lottery. Who cared that the speedometer didn't work? Who cared that I had to guess how much gas was in the tank because the meter was faulty? It was mine, and that made all the difference. 

Our cars tend to grow on us, but there always comes a time when the old girl's making too many strange noises and we need to hop into a brand new(or new to us) vehicle. And for those who've never set foot in a dealership, it begs the question: "How exactly do I buy a car?" 

Never fear, for I have also asked this question at a time. And having had next to no knowledge of the car industry, or how to "get a good deal," I'd found that the process is not nearly as complicated as the mainstream media or stereotypes make it out to be.

Step 1: Hit the Books(or the websites)
Macbook Pro On Desk
A smart man once told me, "never go into the world of cars set on just one." You want to choose at least two to three vehicles that peak your interest and learn as much as you can about them. What features do they offer? Does one have more rebates than the others? How about fuel economy? How do they handle snow? If my kid pukes on the seat, how easy is it to scrub out? Etc...etc...etc... 

Look at reviews. Are the majority of people who purchase that car utterly elated with how it's treated them? And always make sure you are hearing these reactions(good or bad) from reputable people/sources. Opinions are plenty, but well-informed opinions are few and far between.

Step 2: Test Drive Time

Black Jeep Suv on Black Asphalt Road Near on Snowy Grass Lawn
You never know for sure if a car works for you until you get behind the wheel and take it for a spin. I can't tell you how many cars I fell in love with through the computer screen, only to test drive them and find out the accelerator is more sensitive than a hair trigger on red bull(I don't like sensitive pedals.) 

Long story short, make sure what you want to drive feels right for you. 

Step 3: The Dreaded Price Negotiation
advertising, business, close-up
There's a well-known stigma with dealerships on the lines of "ripping people off." While this stereotype was thoroughly embraced in the late 1900s, the internet has alleviated most of this dishonesty by educating people on what a fair price is for a new/used car. In fact, research shows that dealership profit margins today aren't nearly as ridiculous as the stereotype suggests--marking clothing and electronic stores as some of the highest gross profit industries(spoiler alert! that HDMI cable you bought on sale for $12 was probably worth $4.) That's not to say that dishonest practices no longer occur in the car game(as they do in other industries); things are just more regulated and monitored than they were in the past, with customers having access to more information. 

 But seeing as I've trailed off on an economics 101 lecture, I'll get back to the point.

If the dealership you're visiting has any shred of integrity, odds are they know that you know what the car is generally worth. You would also get a straightforward price that includes all the rebates you qualify for and the best interest rate possible if you finance through the dealership. 

To summarize, as long as you know where the car you want is at as far as average price, you won't be getting swindled by that cliche 80's mustache toting salesman.

Step 4: Warranties
Two Person Shaking Each Others Hands
You've done it! You strolled into that scary dealership, took names, and squished that salesperson's hand to seal the deal! Now you get to go sign paperwork with the finance manager. Here's where you get to decide how much you love your new baby.

While new cars will almost always come with some kind of base warranty, there are additional warranties you can get that will further protect your car from malfunctions that can happen later down the line. These, of course, are voluntary. You can leave without purchasing any additional warranties, but it can come back to bite you down the line if something breaks and you have to pay out of pocket. The choice is up to you and your budget.

Step 5: Drive into the Sunset
This part's easy. Simply grab your new keys, give your old car a kiss goodbye(tears, if you were close) and drive into the great beyond with your brand-spankin' new car.

See? That wasn't so hard. 

Written by Tyler Wright