Car Buying Articles

Three-Day Shopping Plan for Holiday Weekends

  • Dealership


    Dealerships create a lot of fanfare around the three-day weekend and often trumpet special deals to entice buyers. But the smart shopper does their research and shops and buys on different days. | March 18, 2010

Many people set aside the long holiday weekends — such as Fourth of July, Labor Day and President's Day — to buy a car. Sure, it's usually busy on the car lots. But the three-day weekend is plenty of time to get the job done — if you go about it systematically and use the resources available on the Internet. To help you get the car of your dreams at a great price, we've put together a step-by-step plan to help you close a good deal.


  1. Initial decisions. Do you want to buy a new car? A used car? Do you want to lease? Your choice in these areas will lead you on three different paths. Answer these questions now and you can proceed with confidence.
  2. Determine your budget. Your monthly payment (whether buying or leasing) should not be more than 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay. If you have two car payments, the total should still be no more than 20 percent of your take-home pay.
  3. Read reviews. If you already have a car in mind, read reviewsof the vehicle by expert road test editors. Take a moment to see what other cars compete with the car you have selected. Build a list of three "target cars" to test-drive.
  4. Check incentives. Check to see if customer cash rebates, manufacturer financing or dealer cash (marketing support) is available for the cars you are considering. If the car is offered under an employee discount program, get the price online and print out a copy of all the figures.
  5. Contact dealers. Using "Dealer Locator," contact your local dealers and ask them for a test-drive. You will likely get a prompt reply furnishing you with the name and phone number of the Internet manager. If necessary, follow up with a phone call to arrange for a test-drive. Tell them that you will be test-driving only and making a decision later in the weekend.


  1. Test-drive your target cars. Arrange to drive the different models back-to-back. In this way, the differences in the cars will become very apparent. This will allow you to make a more informed decision. Test-drive the car the way you intend to use it. If you go into the mountains, make sure you climb a hill. If you do a lot of highway driving, do so on the test-drive. Make sure the car fits your needs and your wants. For more information read "The Feel of the Wheel — How to Test-Drive a Car."
  2. Leave the dealership. Tell the salesperson that you are test-driving competing models and must leave. If you like the way you've been treated, tell them you will contact them if you decided to buy this make of car.
  3. Follow up research. Some questions might have come up during your test-drive. Do you want to do more research on safety features? Do you need to consider other financing and pricing issues? Now is the time to take care of those questions by visiting
  4. Locate your car. By now you should know the make, model and trim level of the car you're going to buy along with the options you want on it. You will also need to know your first and second color choices. With this information, you can submit requests to local dealers to get quotes for the car, if they have it on their lots. You can also check the inventory of dealer Web sites to see if they have the car you are searching for.


  1. Compare quotes to TMV. Take the quotes you got from the local dealers and compare them to True Market Value® prices. If the price is below TMV, you are getting a better deal than most other buyers in your area.
  2. Maximize incentives. Confirm that whatever incentives are available are factored into your final price.
  3. Push for deeper discounts. If you want an even lower deal, call competing dealers and play them against each other. But keep in mind that there might only be an additional savings of about $200-$400.
  4. Arrange delivery of the car. Set a time to pick up your new car so they can have it gassed and washed. In some cases dealers will even prepare the paperwork ahead of time to speed the transaction.
  5. Inspect and test-drive the car. At the dealership, test-drive the car once more. Inspect it to make sure there are no scratches or dents from the shipping process.
  6. Review the contract/be smart about extras. Make sure the terms you agreed to are included in the contract. Be ready for the sales pitch on aftermarket items and the extended warranty.
  7. Drive away in your new car! Enjoy your new car knowing that you did an excellent job researching and negotiating a great deal all in one weekend.

For this, and other buying and leasing strategies, pick up a copy of STRATEGIES FOR SMART CAR BUYERS, by the editors at

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