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How to Buy the Car You Want

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Decisions, decisions, decisions. If you’ve ever purchased a new car, then you know there are a ton of decisions to be made. Even after you’ve done all your research and determined the vehicle model that you want to purchase, you’re still not done. You still have to decide on the interior color, exterior color, trim packages, options, audio, navigation, manual or automatic, material for the seats and much more.

It's always a useful step to visit the vehicle configurator for any particular make to custom build your car online -- it's a great way to see exactly how your car will look in the color you've chosen with the special wheels or trim options you’ve chosen. Many of these manufacturer’s "Build and Price" sites also show you what your monthly payment will be based on the manufacturer's suggested retail price for that model with the options you have selected and any manufacturer financing incentives or offers.

It's an easy way to evaluate features and pricing, and when you get to the end, the manufacturer "Build and Price" sites will often offer to find the car for you based on a computerized search of local dealer inventory. The only problem is that the search will almost never find the exact car you configured. It's not a bait-and-switch scam or a ploy to trick new car shoppers. It's just that given the extensive range of options available for most vehicles, you could theoretically build one of a hundred -- or even a thousand -- different configurations. Surely you can’t expect your dealer to carry them all.

The same dilemma is faced when configuring and selecting a new car using the Price Protection Certificate available on the Auto Buying Center: We can't guarantee that exact model will be available at the dealerships recommended to the shopper. While we make every effort to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date pricing information, only your local dealer can provide you with information regarding actual vehicle availability.

Why is the New Car I Want Not on the Dealer’s Lot?

Dealerships are a business and, like any business, their goal is to make money. As such, when they order the new cars they want to put on their lot, they are more likely to choose a selection of models they think are most likely to please the broadest variety of consumers.

If you desire an unusual color, want a more basic trim level, or would prefer to purchase a manual transmission, you might find it challenging to find exactly the car you want. In fact, even if you're not looking for anything unusual, but are shopping for a particularly popular model, you might still have trouble locating the vehicle at a nearby dealership.

Say you are shopping for a blaze yellow Ford Focus sedan with a manual transmission, you're going to be very frustrated because it's not a very popular selection. (In fact, when creating our own car search for this article, Ford's own "Build and Price" site delivered 27 Focus models at dealerships near the given zip code. However, only one of them was the correct color, and only one of them had a manual transmission.) On the other hand, if you want a black, silver, white, or blue Focus hatchback with an automatic transmission, you'll be happy to discover a broad selection at the Ford dealerships nearby.

If you're shopping for a brand-new model (such as the new Toyota Prius V), something extremely popular (such as the Hyundai Elantra), or something in very short supply (such as the Lexus CT 200h), you might even be asked to sign up for a waiting list to purchase a model when it becomes available in future inventory -- and you might not be given much choice regarding color or trim when it arrives. Inventory can be in short supply for a variety of reasons: for several months after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in early 2011, new car buyers nationwide had a very difficult time finding the models they were shopping for because parts suppliers and manufacturers of both domestic and import brands were strongly impacted.

While it's very important to know what make and model you want to buy, it's more important to be flexible about colors and minor cost options; you're far more likely to find a close match at a dealership nearby. Even though the price offered by a Certified Dealer was $1500 less than the price quoted at Ford's site, the Focus we configured is simply not available in the Dealer’s inventory, though there were plenty of other colors and configurations available, for a new car shopper who might be willing to compromise. If you're looking for something very particular, save yourself some mileage by calling dealerships ahead of time to find out if they have a matching car in their inventory, and whether they are able to trade for it from a nearby partner dealership. Your Price Protection Certificates will protect the guaranteed no-haggle price for all in-stock vehicles at the recommended Certified Dealer -- even if you choose different colors or options -- but it does not guarantee that the exact car you configured will be in stock.

If you want to purchase something very specific, you may also want to consider custom-ordering it from the dealer. You will have to wait several weeks to take delivery of your new car, but it when it arrives, it will have been built with exactly the trim and options you requested.

What Does the Price Protection Certificate Guarantee?

Your price relative to Factory Invoice is guaranteed at a Certified Dealer when you buy any matching trim for the same model year, regardless of your options. If the vehicle trim at the dealership is not exactly the same as the one displayed on the Price Protection Certificate, you can ask your dealer to see the vehicle's factory invoice to calculate your final purchase price, or you can reconfigure the vehicle on the Auto Buying Center. Simply ask the dealer if you can use their computer, or call our friendly staff at (855) 853-2358 to configure a perfect match for you. They can e-mail you a new Price Protection Certificate while you’re still at the dealership.
• Adding & Removing Options: If you choose different options from your currently configured vehicle, your Price Guarantee relative to Factory Invoice will not change. • Additional options are priced at the Invoice Price – not MSRP, so your selling price may change but not your price relative to Factory Invoice.
• Included Fees & Incentives: Your Price Protection Certificate includes destination and all other manufacturer fees plus incentives. Your TrueCar Certified Dealer will confirm incentive eligibility and compatibility with Manufacturer Lease/Finance offers.
• Excluded from Price: Your price does not include dealer documentation (processing), tax, DMV, registration, title, license, other government fees, or dealer-installed accessories.
• Availability: Your price relative to Factory Invoice applies to cars in stock for this year, model, and trim.
• Special Conditions: Navigation/Limited Availability packages and Diesel/Hybrid engines may be priced differently.

Are You Shopping For a New Car?

Before you head to the dealership to buy your next new car be sure to visit the Auto Buying Center for fair and haggle-free pricing. We use data to show you what other people actually paid for a new car (by make/model/options) locally, regionally and nationally then show you great upfront price offers from Certified Dealers near you - buying a new car has never been easier.