Few purchases can be as nerve wracking as buying a vehicle. Short of buying a house, buying a car is the biggest purchase many people ever make. Such a large financial commitment makes it no great surprise that many car buyers approach the process with a degree of trepidation.

Such anxiety with respect to car buying has only increased as the country’s economic woes have led many people to exercise greater caution before spending their money. That said, the car buying process does not need to be stressful. Before purchasing your next car, consider the following tips that can help make the process go more smoothly.

* Time your purchase properly. Unless your current vehicle is completely unreliable, it can behoove you to wait until certain times of the year to buy your next car. For example, auto dealers often see the end of the calendar year as a chance to establish sales records. As a result, many auto dealers slash the prices on their vehicles throughout the month of December, providing prospective auto buyers an opportunity to save a significant amount of money.

Another good time to buy is late-summer and early fall. That’s when dealers start receiving the coming year’s models on their lots, motivating them to sell the current year’s models, typically at discounted prices.

* Bring something to the table. Entering a dealership empty handed can be akin to painting a bullseye on your back. Without doing your homework, the dealer will be negotiating with you on the prices he has to offer. However, prospective buyers should comparison shop before driving onto the dealer’s lot. Many times, a dealer will match a competitor’s price if the dealer fears you will walk off the lot without buying a car. Bring your research with you to the dealer, and you will be able to negotiate on your terms instead of the dealer’s.

* Know your credit score. For buyers hoping to finance their next vehicle, one of the most influential factors will be your personal credit history. An individual’s credit history will determine interest rate when applying for a car loan. Examine your credit report before visiting a dealership to give yourself a better bargaining position. Also, a close examination of your credit report can determine if there are any errors that need to be fixed before applying for a loan.

* Be careful trading in a car you still owe money on. When trading in a car you still owe money on, you should get it in writing that the dealer will pay off the existing auto loan within 10 days. If you do not get such an agreement, the auto dealer likely will not pay off the loan on time, and you will be charged late fees that could negatively affect your credit history. If a dealer will not agree to pay off the existing auto loan within 10 days, do not purchase a vehicle from that dealership.

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