Here’s How to Beat the Dealership at Their Own Game


If you’re like most Americans, you probably find buying a car as thrilling as it is frustrating. And, like most Americans, you probably find that the bulk of the frustration comes from dealing with manipulative or just plain dishonest salespeople.

Worse? Buying a car is not the investment that buying a home is. Cars immediately depreciate in value, which makes it even more crucial that you get the best deal you can.

The good news is that staying informed about dealership sales practices is pretty easy if you know where to look. While you’re still bound to get the best price if you’re on friendly terms with someone on the sales team, a bit of research can still turn up plenty of opportunities for you to beat them at their own game.

Here are some tips to help you get the most bang for your buck next time you find yourself looking for a new car.

Do the Homework

Doing research before going to the dealer is a no-brainer. 90% of prospective car buyers conduct online research before making a purchase. In fact, 48% of people take anywhere from one to three months to research their options before setting foot on a lot.

Unfortunately, a further 38% of car buyers make a purchase within four hours after they’ve committed to buying a car, which probably indicates that people aren’t weighing their options as thoroughly as they should. The same goes for buying insurance: most drivers are unaware of just a few basic changes you can make to shave a considerable chunk of change off your premium. For example: combining auto insurance with homeowner’s insurance could net you a savings of up to 15% on your bill, for an average total savings of $285 every year.

Likewise, research will tell you not only what kind of car might fit your lifestyle, but also show you the full range of financing options. Take your time and get the full story.

Look Out for Interest Rate Mark-Ups

Would you be surprised to learn that dealerships regularly mark up the interest rates that they offer their customers? It’s true. Research suggests that the average mark-up is about 2.7%. What does this mean for you? It means that you’d be better off dealing with your financial institution directly instead of relying on the dealership to be the middle-man.

According to the Center for Responsible Lending, about 79% of all auto loans are made through third-party lenders that partner with dealerships. That’s a lot of money that American drivers are leaving on the table: a cumulative $25.8 billion paid in interest each year. If that’s not reason enough to start thinking differently about how you finance your next car, I don’t know what is.

This probably means that you’ll want to commit to a phone call or a visit to your bank or credit union before you even make it to the dealer. To put it another way, anything that makes you less reliant on the dealership will give you an advantage.

Beware the Bait-and-Switch

For another example of a time-honored dealership “technique,” let’s look at the bait-and-switch. This tactic is almost too simple: it involves the dealership advertising a highly attractive price to lure in potential buyers – but when they arrive, that wonderfully low price they’ve been promised is nowhere to be found.

To be honest, I’m as guilty of falling for this tactic as the next person. Last time I was looking for a new car, I got swept up in the aggressive marketing spread throughout the Sunday paper, courtesy of the many car dealerships in my area. When I got to the dealership, though, all of their too-low-to-be-true prices and rates were nowhere to be seen.

As with anything in life, buying a car is another example of a situation where skepticism is your friend. Again, do the requisite research, and take the time to study valuable resources like Kelley Blue Book to get a more realistic idea of the prices you can expect.

Negotiate Each Expense Separately & Know When to Shop

Dealerships also tend to make use of a tactic known as the Four Square Method. The simplest explanation of this tactic is that they choose to lump together each of the major expenses associated with car buying, including the actual price of the car, the down payment, the trade-in value of your current car, and the monthly payments. You’re well within your rights to negotiate each of these elements as their own transaction; in doing so, you’re very likely to save money versus combining them into a single expense.

Finally, knowing when to visit your dealership could be the difference between a middling deal and the deal of a lifetime. Holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day can offer great opportunities to save—just be prepared for the usual holiday traffic, and a higher-than-usual chance of a fender-bender.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this brief look at a few ways to save money at the dealership. If you’ve had success with techniques of your own, feel free to let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Daniel Faris currently works as a freelance blogger, journalist, and ghost writer. He writes about technology for The Byte Beat and politics for Only Slightly Biased and The Sound of Progress.

How to Make Driving More Affordable

Let’s face it, driving isn’t cheap these days. However, like lots of people, you might rely on a car to get around. The good news is, as long as you’re savvy, there are ways to control your spending. By following these simple but effective tips, you may be able to bring your motoring costs down.

Choose an efficient car

First and foremost, make sure you’re savvy when you’re selecting your cars. It’s not only the initial price you must take into account, but the ongoing running costs too. As a general rule, small cars with small, efficient engines are the cheapest to use. These vehicles also benefit from lower road tax charges.

Keep your insurance costs down

Regardless of the type of vehicle you purchase, you’ll need to keep your insurance costs down. Lots of people make the mistake of renewing with their existing cover providers year after year without seeing if there are better deals available. Bear in mind, you don’t have to spend hours trawling the web to find competitive premiums. You can leave the legwork up to brokers like Chill, who will search the market on your behalf to turn up the best offers.

You may also be able to reduce your cover costs by fitting approved alarms or immobilisers, and by using off-street parking.

Think before you refuel

Another money saving tip is to choose the cheapest garages when you need to refuel. If you simply wait until you’re nearly out of petrol and then head to nearest fuel station, you could end up paying much more than you need to, especially if you find yourself in motorway petrol stations. Pump prices can vary considerably, and it’s a good idea to get to know the cheapest in your area, and to shop around when you’re away from home.

Service your car regularly

Although services themselves can cost you money, it’s important to get your car checked out on a regular basis. This will help to maintain engine efficiency and therefore keep your fuel consumption down. Keep a close eye on your tyre pressures too.

Drive carefully

Then there’s your driving to consider. To reduce your fuel use, try to drive smoothly and change gear as soon as possible without labouring the engine. Also, stick to the speed limit on the motorway. Travelling at 80-85 miles per hour on these roads can raise your fuel use by a quarter or more.

Also, remove any roof boxes when they’re not in use and don’t store unnecessary items in your boot. This will increase the weight of your vehicle and cause you to burn more fuel.

Driving may never be cheap, but by following advice like this, you can at least keep your expenses in check.

London vs The Rest of The UK – The Housing Difference


London House Prices

Infographic credit:

Three Tips on Saving on Fuel

One of the costs impossible to avoid in our days is the one with the fuel our cars burn day by day. If only there was a way to reduce this cost – which, even with the pronounced reduction of gas prices across the nation – make up an important share of what we spend every month. But wait, there are some things to consider that can vastly improve our cars’ fuel economy, reducing the amount we spend at the pump. Here are some tips to help.

1. Keeping a car in a good shape improves fuel economy

A car with a faulty engine, with dirty filters and dirty oil always consumes much more fuel than one that is maintained in a good shape. Engine troubles can reduce its performance, making it require much more fuel to offer the same performance. Dirty oil reduces friction, again contributing to the heightened fuel consumption. Not to mention the dirty air filter and the partially blocked exhaust, that also contribute to the car running on more gas.

I know that a periodical visit to a mechanic can be costly, but in the long run it costs much less than the loads of fuel consumed by the faulty engine – especially considering that some things – like changing oil or replacing dirty air filters – can be done at home. Maybe by a handy boyfriend or nice neighbor…

2. Keeping your tires well inflated reduces fuel consumption

According to a study, every five pounds per square inch (psi) of tire pressure you lose can translate into a two per cent loss of gas mileage. Translated into more “human” terms, this means that keeping your car’s tires inflated to their recommended pressure will help you save on gas in the long run. Don’t over-inflate your tires, though – besides not helping you at all with fuel economy, an overly inflated set of tires reduces the car’s handling and poses the risk of them blowing out on the road.

3. Keep your AC off while driving at low speeds

Air conditioning can increase your car’s fuel consumption by up to 20%, so when driving around the city at low speeds it’s the best choice to keep it off and travel with your windows down. Things change when you travel at high speeds, say on a highway – the drag caused by opening the windows at speeds of over 60 miles per hour reduces the car’s performance, so there is no significant difference between driving with your windows down or driving with your AC on.

With fossil fuels running low, not minding fuel efficiency is like betting blind in a microgaming casino – it will surely cost you money in the long run. Keep your dollars in your wallet, don’t let them fly out through your car’s exhaust…

How a Shopping Addiction Can Get You Into Legal Trouble

Once upon a time, shopping addictions were confined to grocery stores, malls, and outlets. With the advent of the internet, and the smartphone, both men and women have found that they can get a “rush” by buying online. People now have the opportunity to buy anything at the tip of their fingers. As shopping habits have increased, the number of high paying jobs to fuel these shopping addictions has decreased, helping result in a rise of shopping addictions.

Shopoholism, much like drug and alcoholism, can be destructive to oneself and those close to them. Where an alcoholic will try and hide their bottles, a shopaholic will likely hide their purchases from others due to guilt. If you are unsure if you are a shopaholic, you may want to look at these signs:

Over Spending – Do you go out shopping or online, and spend more than you have allotted?

  • Keeping the Problem Secret – Do you get home from a spree and bury your purchases? Do you also conceal purchases from others?
  • Isolation – Do you hide from others to keep from being criticized?
  • Circle Spree – Do you feel guilty about your purchases and return them, just to go on another spree?

These can be serious signs that you have a shopping addiction.

In some cases, these urges mixed with a lack of income to fuel the addiction can lead one to break the law to fill their rush. Whether it’s charging more than you have on your card or writing a bad check, or stealing someone else’s card to make your purchases. By stealing someone else’s credit, identity theft felony charges can result in a $10,000 fine and up to 3 years in prison, and a misdemeanor may also lead to a $1,000 maximum fine and up to 1 year in county jail.

If you are caught shoplifting, you could face the following financial charges depending on where you live:

  • You must pay full restitution.
  • A civil penalty, which could be a formula that includes the cost of an item plus an additional fine, consisting of double the value or $500, whichever is higher.
  • Reasonable court costs may also be added to your fine.
  • Depending on the value of the item and your record, you could face anywhere from 3 months to 3 years in jail.

In one situation, a woman went on a killing spree to fill her shopping spree needs. Dana Sue Grey killed three elderly women and went on a shopping spree with their credit cards. One of the victims luckily survived Grey’s attack and was able to alert the authorities. Grey’s little spree landed her in prison for life.


People who steal, usually do so for the emotional “rush”. In other words, they like the feeling when they get away with it. The sensation of adrenaline running through their body. Many people in this situation may be depressed, and not even realize it!

If you or someone you love may suffer from a shopping addiction, you should look into getting some help. Whether you get some self-help, find a counseling group, or check into a rehab center, you do have options. As you way your options, you can start your recovery with some of these simple tips:

  • The first step to any addiction is admitting you have a problem.
  • Remove any check books and credit cards. Studies have shown that people, who carry a limited amount of cash, are less likely to spend more.
  • Find ways to fill your time in a meaningful way outside of shopping.

It is highly recommended that a psychiatric evaluation be done to better understand the degree of addiction to better help you, a friend, or relative repair their lives. If you or someone you know if facing criminal charges, you should also look for a criminal defense lawyer in your area as soon as possible to better understand your legal options.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Payday Loans

Getting the most out of your payday loans will allow you to secure the funds you need for resolving your current cash flow issues, without creating legal and financial problems that you’ll have to deal with in the future. Although these products can be very handy when you’re low on cash, it is important to note that they are commonly offered by companies with higher than average interest rates, hidden fees and guarantees that might not pan out. Companies like these must be diligently researched before consumers choose to use them.

Make Product And Price Comparisons

One of the first and most important steps to getting the most out of your payday loans is to carefully compare the costs of different funding products while taking a good look at the companies that are offering them. Each payday loan can be structured quite differently from the next. Application processes and approval times can be easier and much less time-consuming with some companies as opposed to others. Some payday loans direct lenders can also have lower interests rates and fees than their competitors. Shopping around will allow you to find the best value and the best loan types for your current needs.

Contract Stipulations

Be wary of contract stipulations that are designed to protect lenders from their customers. By signing these, you will be waiving your rights to take legal action should you feel taken advantage of. It is far better to look for companies that offer straightforward contracts and loan agreements.

Keep Your Borrowing To A Minimum

Payday loans have far higher interest rates than most credit cards and bank loans. People like using these product because they are accessible, but it is vital to consider the long-term impact that over-use of payday loan lenders can have on your finances and on your overall financial health. If an emergency arises and you do not have emergency funds stashed away, borrow what you need and pay it back as quickly as you can. Using these products only when necessary will help you to avoid falling into a cycle of borrowing and repaying payday loans.

Consult With A Credit Counselor When Necessary

Your are not getting the most out of your payday loans if you are relying on these products to get you from check to check. It is important to consult with a credit counselor when you find yourself using these products too frequently. A credit counselor can help you improve your spending and saving habits so that you have a much lesser reliance on payday loan lenders.

USDA Loans: The most affordable home loans in America

Very few Americans know that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is involved in the mortgage business. That’s too bad because USDA loans are the best bargain out there if you are strapped for cash and want to buy a home with little or no money down. You do not have to be a first-time home buyer to qualify, you don’t have to have fantastic credit and USDA loans cater to both low income and moderate income borrowers.

While the USDA does not directly make loans to home buyers, it does issue special financial guarantees to insure loans that those mortgage lenders make. That means that the lender assumes less risk because if you default on the loan the USDA will help to compensate the lender for losses. In exchange, the lender agrees to offer you, the consumer, more lenient terms including such things as highly competitive interest rates and no down payment.  USDA loans are fixed-rate mortgages. While most are for 30 years, the USDA is expected to start also offering 15-year loans in 2014.Top of Form There is no down payment requirement for USDA loans, but the more you choose to put down the lower your payments will be – which can qualify you for a more expensive home.

Borrower Qualifications

  • Applicants for loans may have annual income of up to 115% of the median income for the geographical area in which they are buying. You do not necessarily have to buy a lower-priced home, however, because many USDA loans are used to purchase relatively expensive properties.
  • Another attractive feature of the USDA loan program is that the mortgage insurance premiums are much cheaper than those charged for FHA mortgages. The mortgage rates themselves are also often lower than what you’d have to pay with an FHA, VA, or conventional mortgage.
  • Rather than impose loan limits the USDA is more concerned that you have enough income to make your mortgage payments. If you are self-employed, you’ll need to provide tax returns for the most recent two years and your eligibility will be based on your income.
  • Generally speaking your credit score has to be around 620 or above, which also favors borrowers who may not qualify for other types of mortgages.
  • Even buyers who have been through bankruptcy can qualify. Those who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy at least three years ago are usually eligible, for instance, as are those who filed Chapter 13 and have been making their court-ordered payments in a timely fashion for at least a year.

Property Location Criteria

The home being purchased must technically be in an area defined by the USDA as “rural,” but many homes that meet that criteria are quite close to vibrant metropolitan centers and are definitely not out in the middle of nowhere. There are properties located in counties that include, for example, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Honolulu, and King County (the county Seattle is located in). Generally speaking, the home needs to be located in a town of about 20,000 residents, but that definition often includes many suburbs and other enclaves that consumers do not typically think of as rural because they are within a short drive of a major urban center.

To learn more or to apply for a USDA loan, contact an authorized USDA lender or mortgage broker in your area. You can also learn all about the program by visiting the USDA website where you will find helpful tools such as a map of eligible rural areas.

How to Prepare for the Next Stock Market Crash

The stock market is in an extended bullish phase that has seen the Dow hit all-time highs and then repeatedly break those records while going even higher. Inexperienced investors are thrilled and excited by that, pouring more money into the market as stock prices rise, hoping to strike it rich. Meanwhile, more seasoned investors tend to get a little nervous when everyone else is giddy and euphoric because they know that the stock market always retreats, and sometimes crashes, after a dizzying climb.

How long the bull market will continue is anyone’s guess, and right now could be a smart time to buy into it, but it could also turn out to be the wisest time to sell. We won’t know that answer until the future is here and we have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. For that reason it is a good idea to begin now to put some contingency strategies in place so that you are not caught completely off guard and overexposed if the market does suddenly shift direction.

Respect History

An undeniable fact of any market is that what goes up must come down. The reason that stocks represent arguably the best, most profitable investment vehicle of all is not because they always go up, but because they always move in cycles of both upward price appreciation and declines in value. That may sound counterintuitive on the surface, but it’s those low-value valleys that make many, if not most, investors rich.

The poster child for that kind of wealth-building is the incomparable wizard of Wall Street, Warren Buffett. He became the most successful stock picker in history by buying stocks during bear markets. His focus is on quality, of course, and he wants to purchase top-shelf companies at rare, undervalued bargain basement prices. Then he holds them until market momentum shifts and the prices go back up again. Adopt that same risk-averse philosophy to enable you to buy low and sell high and you will also succeed as an investor.

Track the Russell 2000

You should also pay attention to the Russell 2000 Index. Although most people are not that familiar with the Russell 2000, investors should follow it closely. At times like these its performance may be a much better market barometer than the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) or Standard and Poors (S&P) 500.

  • The Russell 2000 Index follows the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity markets, so it is comprised of 2,000 of the smallest companies traded on Wall Street.
  • By definition, a “small cap” company is one that typically has a market capitalization of between $300 million and $2 billion. While that may sound like an awful lot of money, that amount is dwarfed by large cap stocks that are usually capitalized at $10 billion or more.
  • The performance of small cap stocks usually indicates the direction that large caps will soon follow. Historically the DJIA and the Russell 2000 basically move in tandem, while the Russell 200 typically moves slightly ahead of, and higher than, the DJIA in bullish phases.
  • When the Russell 2000 starts to fall, even if the DJIA is still moving upward, that can be a red flag that a serious correction is about to happen. Right now, in the spring of 2014, that kind of divergence is already happening as the DJIA goes up, but the Russell 2000 has fallen substantially.

An equities strategist at Wells Fargo Securities pointed this out recently on the CNBC TV program, “Nightly Business Report”; “Given that small caps have consistently outperformed the large caps for the last five years, and historically lead the large caps,” she explained, “it’s a little disconcerting.”

Limit Your Risk

To control the risk of a huge loss if the market experiences a substantial correction or a crash, you may want to place what is known as a “stop loss” order with your broker. Say, for example, that you buy a stock for $40 and want to hold it for capital appreciation, but do not want to risk losing more than 10% of your investment. In that case you can place a stop loss order at $34 (15% below $40). Should the share price ever hit that target it automatically triggers an order to sell immediately at the best available price.

As the old saying goes, “Nobody ever went broke making a profit.” In order to realize an actual profit when selling shares of stock, though, you have to do more than just sell for a higher price than what you paid for your stocks. That’s because you also have to consider sales commissions. Each time you buy or sell you incur those fees, so add them up and add that to the cost of your shares to find out exactly what price point represents a net profit.

Also consider the tax implications, because the capital gains taxes on short-term holdings can undermine your profit margins, whereas taking a loss on a long-term holding may provide you with a valuable tax deduction.

Don’t Resort to Panic Selling

When stocks continue to set all-time records and generate attractive profits it can be very alluring. In fact, bull markets usually have a contagious effect. People who may have never owned a stock see how much money others are making, so they jump on the bandwagon. Those same emotionally-driven investors are likely to panic if the markets experience a sell-off, however, and that guarantees a substantial loss.

To avoid getting caught up in the emotional roller coaster of the stock market, decide what your specific financial goals are for owning stocks before you buy them. Ask yourself things like:

  • What kind of stocks do you need to help meet those goals?
  • How long will you hold them in order to reap the most benefit?
  • How much cash do you need in order to capitalize on market sell-offs that offers a chance to buy quality stocks at a deep discount?
  • What is the best way to diversify your holdings so that if one industry or type of stock experiences a sell-off, then other stocks you own will balance out those weaknesses to insulate you from stock market volatility?

Consult with one or more financial experts and a qualified tax planner to come up with an appropriate game plan. Then stick to it, but also perform an annual review so you are able to navigate extreme fluctuations and maintain a steady investment trajectory toward your long-range financial goals.