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  Car buyers: What to bring to the car dealership  

Most women look forward to car shopping for themselves about as much as men look forward to buying lingerie gifts for others. Not to worry. A little advance planning will increase your confidence tenfold and insure a smooth and painless car purchase, even if you don't know a lug nut from a cashew.

The key to successful car buying is to do your homework in advance and ask lots of questions before ever leaving your house. You may find it helpful to bring the following items with you the day you intend to buy:

1) The name of the car salesperson you intend to work with. Better yet, ask around for recommendations and set an appointment in advance. Successful salespeople get clients largely by word of mouth. They can afford to be low key and personable because they have already built up a network of leads in their community.

2) A notebook, pen, and pocket calculator. You will be bringing some information to the lot, and you will also be jotting down information and notes on your test drives. Don't rely on memory, have these tools ready and at hand.

3) A list of vehicles you want to test drive. Spend lots of time researching this list before you ever step onto a car lot. Even if you don't have any definite ideas, read as much as you can about what is available in your size and price range. That way, if your salesperson has a "great deal" that you hadn't even considered, you will know if it really is a great deal or just something the dealership needs to unload.

4) Pre-approved financing and the name and phone number of your financial institution. Sometimes you can get great dealer financing, but don't rely on this. Having your financing already arranged gives you a bargaining edge. Don't be pushed into dealer financing until you've had plenty of time to compare it to the financing you already have.

5) Driver's license and insurance card. You will need these items for the test drive. Decide in advance if you want to take the test drive with or without your salesperson, and take your time making up your mind. If you can't make your decision in one day, then don't. The salesperson will still happily sell you a car if you have to take more than one day to finish your test drives. Don't be pressured.

6) Your trade in, if you have one. Make sure it is clean, in running order, and everything has been removed. If you own it free and clear, bring the title too, in case you do find your new car the first day out. Know what your trade in vehicle is worth. Good information on just about any car's trade-in value is readily available in a NADA guide (an inexpensive paperback available at any news stand), or at any number of websites including the NADA.com, KBB.com, cars.com, and vehix.com.

7)Your insurance agent's name and phone number. It's a good idea to talk to your agent before you shop, to get an idea of what you will be spending on insurance before you make your decision. You will have to carry comprehensive coverage on any financed vehicle, and even though technically you have thirty days to report your change in vehicle to your insurance agency, the dealership will not let you leave with the new car until coverage is bound on that specific vehicle right then and there.

8) A cashier's check for your down payment, if you are making one.

9) Your cell phone. When you find the car of your dreams, you will be making TONS of calls to friends to brag about what a great deal you made. Make these before you are actually driving, and do NOT tell them what your terms were specifically, since each of them will tell you that they could have done better for you, no matter what you say. (This is Murphy's Law of new bragging, so be cagey and sly.)

Your friends will think you are a genius. You are a genius. Enjoy your new car.