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Car shopping advice for women: What you need to know before you shop

Vicki Salemi is passionate about writing. As a regular contributor to AOL, MSN and numerous sites and publications she also blogs regularly for CNBC European Business, Women for Hire and Manhattan adventures on her website www.vickisalem...

Car buying tips and tricks

Ah, the dreaded idea of car shopping. You know the deal: You enter a showroom and instantly, the car salesman pegs you for prey. Well, not anymore! Knowledge is power -- and just as with any other big purchase, there's no need to be overwhelmed when you're equipped with it.

Woman Looking at Car

Make a list

Katie Rice Jones, an on-air style expert, learned a long time ago that going clothes shopping without a good sense of her goal could not only be dangerous to her look, but to her pocketbook, as well. She says, "The same thing is true about shopping for a car. Car shopping is a lot less overwhelming when you have a good idea of the kind of car you are looking for before you hit the showroom floor. I recommend making a list and rank the items by importance."

Several items should be on your list: price-point, year, make, models, power (hybrid, gas only, etc.), fuel efficiency, quality of construction, type of auto (i.e., SUV, hatchback, sedan), options (air conditioning, power windows, sunroof, cup holders) and color.

Here's the thing: Once you focus on car shopping, you won't need to do it again for a few years. And if you haven't purchased or leased in a while, you may have noticed that hybrids now rule the school. Katie adds, "Salespeople are actually nice now, and high fuel efficiency is the newest must-have. While all of these are good changes, they are new changes. If you think you are in the market for a hybrid or fuel-efficient car, do your research and come to the dealership prepared."

Negotiate with the best of 'em

Jim Camp, author of NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home (Crown Business) says the power is in your pursestrings. By using sites such as Edmunds.com, you can get a firm grasp on all models and prices.

He adds, "You can also Google Auto Wholesaler in your area and learn a great deal about price, availability and what the market is in your area."

He also recommends negotiating with a decision maker. "Open your negotiations with the owner, if possible, and if not, with the manager." He suggests asking the salesman to have the owner or manager tell you directly if your offer is rejected. "Always openly and clearly give the other party the right to say 'no' to your proposal." This will show that there's no need for a deal and will take pressure off the negotiation table.

Same thing as stiletto shopping

Experts such as Katie underscore the importance of doing your homework. "The salesguy's jig is up when you do your car homework. Comparison shop as you would for a great pair of expensive stilettos. You know -- try on the shoes at Neiman's, then do [online price comparisons]. It is best to visit a few dealers and check out the car deals online before you slap down your hard-earned cash."

Your car is an extension of yourself, she says. "If you're a Mommynista, you may want to drive a Land Rover Discovery or an Audi A3 station wagon. If you are a fashionista, you may want to drive a BMW Mini. If you are a frugalista, you may want to drive a Saturn Aura or a Toyota Yaris. Don't just drive in style -- drive in your style!"

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