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Buying & Leasing a Car

Your 5-Step Game Plan For Buying A Car

Use this tip sheet to help make the process a bit easier.

1. Your top price. Run the numbers with our monthly-car-payment calculator at kiplinger.com/tools to figure out how much you can spend. Never reveal to a dealer your top monthly payment.

2. Financing. Get preapproved by your bank or credit union and know what rate you qualify for so that you can compare it with the rate the dealer's finance office offers you.

3. Target price. Look up dealer retail prices on Edmunds.com for each model you'll test-drive. Be sure to factor in options, mileage and the condition of the vehicle.

4. Competing deals. Arm yourself with printouts on similar vehicles from AutoTrader.com, Cars.com or the local classifieds. A competing offer is probably the best motivator for a seller to lower the price.

5. When to walk away. If something feels fishy or the price is too high, go to the next seller on your list. If you've done your homework, you'll know when the deal is right.