The public transport system in the USA might need some getting used to for an Indian, and this makes a personal car an automatic necessity. Some important decisions need to be made. Should you buy a new or a used car? What features (in the car) are absolutely necessary for you? From where do you buy it? You obviously need a loan. From where do you get it? How do you get insurance for your car? For a new comer, all cars look the same.

The choosing process is confusing, to say the least. We found many people saying that they bought their particular model since their friends also had the same one! And then there are the smooth car sellers in their glitzy auto showrooms! They make every model look like its what you want. You are prey to some subtle psyching. And before you realize, you are the confused owner of a car that may hardly suit your needs!

Examples abound. A person paid $22K for a car when it actually cost just $14- 15K. Why this nearly 75% price inflation? Because the buyer was tricked into buying some unnecessary options like Life Time Maintenance, Paint Insurance, Free Towing, etc. These options are not really of much help. Beware and don't fall for them.

Also, there are a lot of discrepancies in car sales rates, services and support offered, etc. It might be helpful to consider the following deciding factors before choosing a car.

  • What is your budget?
  • Are you single or married? (Do you need a family car?)
  • What is your plan to stay here in US?
  • What is your total commuting distance every day?
  • How often would you go on freeways (Highways)?
  • What basic facilities you need in the Car?

Some basic features you should look for; while buying a car

  • Mileage: It should be a car with a good mileage.
  • Safety: Look for safety features like safety air bags, etc. ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) is must for places where snow/ice is a dangerous factor.
  • Car Weight: The weight of the car affects the proper balance of the car while at high speed, especially on the highways.
  • AC: An AC system is a good investment in warm states like Texas, Arizona, California, etc.

Buying a used car: Tips

If you get a good deal on some used car, you can go for it. Only risk involved is, since it is an old car, chances of frequent maintenance is more. Also a physiological tag with the car "God knows how the owner has handled it?". For this you can go to Carfax.com , where you can find the complete history of any car. They will charge you some fee around $25 for this service.

Tips for buying a used car

  • Check the car history, either from your local DMV office, or Carfax.com
  • For used car, smog check is required. This can be either done at DMV for free of cost (in few states and places only), or you may go to some certified garage. This check ensures the car's non pollution efficiency.
  • There is a paper called "Title", which will be signed and transferred on your name. Get this paper from the owner.
  • In order to get the registration done on your name, you need to show the "Title" and "Smog check certificate" at the DMV office. Complete the formalities and submit the fee.

What all you need to buy a new car?

Driving license: You need a valid driving license to buy a car.
Insurance: You can contact a car insurance company agent over the phone and discuss, about the car you are buying, and get the insurance. It's instant and you can get it over the fax.
Loan approval: If you are taking a loan from any Bank or a Credit Union, then you need an approval from them.
Down Payment: The payment you are putting from your pocket in cash or by check. It depends how much you want to pay, normally 10% of the total price has to be paid in the beginning.

Tips

  • Surf the internet to understand different types of cars, models, facilities, and their meanings. Discuss it with your friends, to find out which is the most suitable for your need.
  • In any case whether a new or a used car, make sure that you are not paying extra. Surf the internet to verify the recommended price for the car. There are many web sites, best is the Bluebook site, which is popular and is perfect for such information.
  • Before buying a new car, select a proper dealer. Ask few friends for the dealer's recommendation. If possible accompany a person, who has some good idea about cars, and has good bargaining skills.
  • Also consult your friend, for the car insurance agent. To get the best rate of insurance for the car. Try to talk to 2-3 different insurance company agents.
  • Remember!! the more you bargain, the better deal you will get.
  • Normally, during holidays time you can get very low rate finance through the dealer himself. If you are not in a hurry, wait for such occasion, when you can get benefit from such a scheme. You might find a deal with 0-5% interest rate.
  • If you are applying for a loan through any Credit union, try to get the quotes from 2-3 different credit unions.
  • Take your insurance before going to the Car dealer, as without insurance, you can't buy a car, and taking the insurance at dealers place could be costly.
  • Remember, while buying a new car, you pay the registration charges to the dealer. Hence it is his duty to get it done. Normally you will get the registration in 2-3 weeks, via mail. If there is a delay, contact the local DMV office.
  • In case of any problem, or any complaint against a dealer, talk to the customer relations manager, or make a written complaint to the Customer Satisfaction Care Department.
  • Don't agree for any scheme, or accessory which you don't want, or are not sure about.
  • Make sure that you are taking a simple interest rate plan, where in case you want to pay off all your loan at one time, you are not paying any extra interest or penalty.
  • It is advisable, not to buy the car in the first visit at the dealers showroom. Keep some time for discussion with your friends, before making a deal.
  • Never leave your Driving License or Credit Card with the dealer. It has happened that people have faced problems in retracing their card and license.
  • If by any chance complaint is unheard, then immediately go to "The State Consumer Council". Inform the dealer, that you are taking up the matter with the State Consumer Affairs.

Where to Complain ?

The web site of The California Dept. of Consumer Affairs is
http://www.dca.ca.gov/, or go to
http://www.dca.ca.gov/consumer/complaints.shtml
Likewise for all other respective states.

Useful Links

Most Known name: CarsDirect.com
This website offers online, car buying facility which is really excellent.
Other useful website :
http://www.cars.com/
http://www.automallusa.net/index.html
http://www.edmunds.com/
http://www.autobytel.com/
http://autos.msn.com/
http://www.carprices.com/
http://www.autoweb.com/

AAA membership

AAA is American Automobile Association. Membership of this organization, offers you facilities like, maps and traveling guides of which ever place you want to visit, free towing, help in case your car door locks and you get locked out, discounts with few car rental companies, hotel and motels, free notary service for members etc. In some places its also facilitates driving classes, international driving permit, auto insurance etc.
There is an yearly fee (around 60$) for its membership and services.
Website : http://www.csaa.com/portal/site/CSAA and
Toll-free number : 1-800-AAA-HELP.