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The RAIN Method for Buying a Car

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The new year is right around the corner, which means this is the perfect time to be shopping for that “new year, new car” upgrade you have been waiting for. Whether you're looking for a brand new car or a reliable used ride, you want to get the most for your money. The process can be made easier by following the RAIN method: Research, Ask, Investigate, and Negotiate.

First, meet with a member of the lending staff at CES Credit Union to secure your financing through a pre approval. This will help you know how much car you can afford. Then begin the RAIN process:

Research - Check out Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book, and other sources to make sure the vehicle you want is reliable and right for you. Use the buyer’s guide to find the wholesale price -- the price the dealership paid minus any rebates, hold-backs, or incentives. That is the price you'll use to negotiate. For used vehicles, use sites like Autotrader.com or cars.com to get a good range of market prices for what you are interested in buying.

Ask - Ask the dealership for information about the average cost of upkeep. This information is critical as you examine the overall costs of the purchase. Insurance is another big cost. Contact your insurance company to find out the rates you can expect with the vehicle you are looking at before you buy.

Investigate or inspect - If you're thinking of buying a new car, tell the salesperson at the dealership that on this trip you will be test driving only and not ready to make a deal yet. This is your opportunity to get a feel for the car. Will it meet your needs? How does it handle? Will you be happy with it for years to come? Take a friend with you for the test drive. They can keep you grounded and provide support.

If you're buying a used vehicle, the inspection process is very important. Check out the exterior and interior. Take it for a test drive and see how it handles, how it accelerates and brakes. If everything looks good, take it to a certified mechanic for a full diagnostic check. It may cost you $100, but not only will you get a detailed report of the condition, most will provide you with a list of problem areas and the cost to fix them. This will be helpful for your last step.

Negotiate - Many people find the negotiation process is intimidating, but it's important if you want to get a good deal. Pick out two to three dealerships to visit.

Tell the salesperson that you're checking out other dealerships and the one that offers the best deal will be getting your business. Ask them "What's the lowest price you can offer on this vehicle?” Take that number and visit your other dealerships. See which offer comes in the best. If you still aren’t happy with the offers, tell them what you think is fair based on the research you have done. If they say no, move on.

Purchasing a vehicle can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Being prepared is key to feeling confident that you are getting the best deal.

All loans are subject to approval based upon creditworthiness, qualifications and collateral conditions. Copyright 2018 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

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