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Buy a New Car Like the Experts Do

Shopping for a car, and overwhelmed? You can find a sleek new ride with the help of some handy mobile apps.

If you've been wanting to break in a brand-new car, September is a great time to go shopping. As 2012's models arrive, car dealers are starting to think about moving their 2011 models off the lot. But before you walk into a dealership and try to haggle, do your research with the aid of car-buying apps.

The respected car-information site Edmunds.com provides free apps for Android and iOS that help you find new autos available in your area based on your desired make and model, the vehicle type, the price range, or a particular feature. Each app will also show you the sticker price of cars offered for sale at local dealerships (though regardless you'll want to go there in person to see if you can negotiate the quote down a bit). The Edmunds apps even offer a "true cost to own" figure that illustrates what a car should cost you over a five-year period if you factor in average depreciation, taxes and fees, and fuel and maintenance costs, among other things. That calculation should help you determine the difference in value between two closely priced cars if, for instance, one model gets poorer gas mileage or has a tendency to break down.

Similarly, a free iOS app called Car Factor lists the specifications of almost every model of car currently available, and shows pictures of them too. You can calculate an approximate car lease, as well as stay up-to-date with the app's car-news feed. In addition, users of the Car Factor app can post the prices that they paid for their recently purchased autos; equipped with that real-world data, you may be able to negotiate a better deal.

Calculate Your Costs

Finally, most mobile platforms offer some sort of car-loan or car-payment calculator. (You can find calculator apps for Android and iOS in our App Guides.) Before you visit a dealership, it's worthwhile to use such a tool to evaluate how much you can pay, after factoring in how long you're willing to make car payments. A calculator will give you a more realistic idea of how much it will cost you per month to enjoy your awesome new wheels.

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