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My dad was truly a master of all trades, especially when it came to cars.  He always had one or two in the shed that he was working on at any given time.  His favorite 'tinkering' machine was the cantankerous and finicky Corvair.  As a little girl, I spent hours watching my dad tinker with old cars, and I learned a thing or too.  He planted early seeds of appreciation for a well-maintained, sparkling clean ride that anyone could be proud of.

When it came to buying a car, my dad was no less thorough in teaching me the salient points.  An event that occurred very rarely, buying a car was a really, really big deal.  He took me with him, and coached me on how to do my research and be prepared before I ever set foot in a showroom.

1966 Corvair
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For some odd reason, salespeople always sell differently to women than to men.  They don't expect us to have done our homework. Women buy 60 percent of all new cars and 53 percent of used cars, and spend $300 billion on buying used cars and keeping them repaired. Polling by CarMax finds that many car-buying decisions by women are prompted by life events, with a new job cited by 37 percent, retirement by 23 percent, and pregnancy/having an additional child by 15 percent.  

Buying a car shouldn't be a scary experience, it should be FUN!  Just because we don't think with our 'small head' when we're buying (like some men do), doesn't mean it can't be an enjoyable experience.  I've bought six cars in my lifetime, and my advice:

1) choose price range you can afford
2) choose features you absolutely must have, like size (sedan or suv), driving style (sporty or luxury), gas mileage, interior design (is it easy to operate inside, easy to reach controls, etc)
3)choose dealership/brand with location near you or work for servicing (do they provide a loaner)
4) determine how you'll pay (trade-in, finance, lease, or cash)
5) if trade-in, know the value of your car
Once you figure these things out, narrow it down to 4 or 5 vehicles that you like.  Then go test drive them.  NEVER buy a vehicle on the first visit!  You will pay the highest price on that visit.

Once you narrow it down to the car that you must absolutely have, then go and look, drive, and discuss pricing. Again, DON'T buy it yet.  Let the salesman sweat it a little.  Leave the showroom and come back.

For an all-around great vehicle with great gas mileage, I have several friends who like the Honda Fit. It comes with great features, like navigation, and sports handling for around $20,000.  I'm currently looking at the Lexus CT 200 Hybrid, with 43 mpg!

So, ladies, how do you buy a car?  

Good Luck!

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