In an ideal world, a car dealer helps you find the perfect car for you at the perfect price, and you drive away with a smile on your face and many happy years ahead of you. And that’s how it does work for many of those looking for a new car, who did their homework in advance, learning how to navigate the process and how to work with dealers.

Because some dealers put more emphasis on their profits than on their customers’ satisfaction, an educated car-buyer looking for a new car must know what he wants and for how much, so that he makes the transaction smooth and comfortable with no regrets as he leaves the lot.

Know what you want

The more clearly you know what you want, the less likely you are to be steered toward something you discover later you don’t want, or can’t afford. This includes the various options that come with a vehicle. If you don’t know exactly what you want, at least have your preference narrowed down to a few choices.

Research the vehicles on dealer Websites or automaker Websites. Also check out consumer publications such as Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and Consumer Reports‘ annual car-buying issue. Internet sites like are also valuable sources of information on looking for a new car.

Check the selection and pricing of several dealers in your area.

Know how much you want to pay

How much can you afford to pay for a new car, truck, minivan, or other vehicle? Factor that in so that you don’t get sold on something you can’t afford. The dealer will most likely ask you how much you can afford so that he or she knows what to offer you. Having a specific number handy can help you when it comes time to negotiate with a dealer.

A popular recommendation is that your total monthly car payments should not exceed 20% of your take-home pay.

Have your financing in advance

If you can’t pay for a vehicle in cash or have someone else pay for it, are you preapproved for a loan? Compare the financing options offered by the dealer (if it offers financing) against those offered by your financial institution.

Mid Oregon can be your resource for financing when looking for a new car or truck. Review our Auto loan webpage, or contact a loan officer by email, phone (541) 382-1795, or in person at one of our seven Central Oregon branches.

Learn the pricing language

Several different prices are used in new-car dealings when you are looking for a new car.

Invoice price. This is the price that the manufacturer charges the dealer for the vehicle. It may actually be higher than what the dealer charges you because dealers get rebates, allowances, and various incentives from the manufacturers. In addition to the price of the vehicle, the invoice price should have the destination and delivery cost built into it.

Base price. This is the cost of the vehicle without any options.

MSRP. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is the price that the manufacturer suggests the vehicle be sold. This price includes the manufacturer’s installed options and the factory warranty. This price is also known as the Monroney sticker price, after the US senator who sponsored legislation to require disclosure of information on new autos. By law, a sticker with the MSRP and the fuel economy information must be affixed to the car window.

Dealer sticker price. The dealer sticker price is the MSRP plus the suggested retail price of any dealer-installed options and any dealer markups.

Ordering a car

Sometimes dealers don’t have exactly what you want, so you can work with a dealer to order a car directly from the automaker and have it delivered to the dealer, where you can pick it up.

Buying on the Internet

You can also buy a new vehicle on the Internet, in which you will work with a dealer by email or phone.

Mid Oregon’s financial workshop, “Take the Wheel, Get The Best Car Deal”, can provide additional information to help you buy the right vehicle for the right price. To see upcoming Mid Oregon workshops, visit

Watch the recorded webinar version.

See workshop handouts and other available webinar videos and handouts.