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Just about everyone hates car shopping. Whether you’re buying or leasing, it always seems to end same way: The dealer does well and you lose your shirt.

If you’re tired of getting stung, maybe you need to become a more savvy buyer—the kind that dealers cry themselves to sleep over. We’ve compiled a few ideas that might help you. These tips apply to all buyers, but are especially useful to divorced women, who are sometimes among the most vulnerable buyers.

1. Thoroughly research the cars you want to buy via the Internet. is just one of many great car Web sites that provide outstanding resources to help buyers prepare. If you’re comparing different makes and models, try to equip them as similarly as possible. Get to know the various packages offered, dealer cost, MSRP and any special incentives being offered.

2. Know the true value of your trade-in. Use those same Web sites.

3. Shop with your head not your heart. If you “love the car” too much, you're already at a disadvantage. Moreover, the idea of buying a two-seat convertible might be a wonderful distraction for a while, but if you’ve got three kids, it just isn’t going to work for you.

4. Always remember that you’re the boss. Tell the dealer your terms. If they don’t accept them, you may need to walk out to prove that you’re committed to your position. If you do, they’ll reach out to you if your offer was in the ballpark. Except in cases of rare and hard to get cars, you should avoid paying more than 5 or 10 percent over dealer cost. On some cars your target should be between zero and 5 percent above dealer invoice.

5. Do your window shopping after hours. This way, you won't deal with salespeople before you’re prepared to negotiate. The car dealers are closed on Sunday in my area — that’s when I go.

6. Arrange financing prior to meeting with the dealer. Manufacturer's and dealer's financing has become so common that buyers sometimes don't realize that they aren't required to get financing through the dealer. If you arrange financing in advance, you'll know how much you're approved to borrow, and you'll negotiate with confidence that you can back up your commitment.

7. Never lie to the dealer. Some salespeople will do enough lying — you don’t need to add to the problem. That doesn’t include not volunteering more information than necessary. Example: Most buyers allow the dealer to arrange financing, and this is a big bottom-line contributor for dealers. Automotive salespeople prefer to quote you a monthly payment instead of discussing selling price. Doing so leaves them a lot of wiggle-room. Tell them that you certainly require financing to buy the car, so monthly payment is important, but that you'd prefer to negotiate based on selling price because you already know the range you want to be in. The dealer then knows that you intend to finance and might assume that he'll arrange the purchase money (and earn additional dealer profit on the back-end of the deal for doing so). With this in mind the dealer might agree to a lower selling price.

Once you agree and have signed a purchase agreement signed by the dealer , pull the bank check from your pocket (from your pre-arranged financing) and watch their jaws drop. (You didn’t say they were providing financing, only that you required financing). Capital One Auto Finance has a great program (as do several others). Apply over the Internet before you go shopping. Once approved, they send you a blank check which you use to purchase. Write out the check for the amount needed and Cap One sets up the loan for the amount of the check.

8. Sell your trade-in to a friend instead of "giving it" to a dealer. Be honest about the condition of the car, and recommend that they have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic so they know exactly what they’re getting. If your friend has college-bound children, buying your old car might be just what’s needed to avoid transporting students back and forth.

9. ALWAYS make an appointment to meet with the dealer and establish firm ground rules regarding time management. Let them know that you’re busy, that you’re watching the clock, and that you won’t stand for wasted time. Set expectations for any other specific concerns you have. If they try to bounce you from one salesman (or manager) to another, gather your things and walk out.

10. Read the fine print and ask questions. It’s not uncommon for salespeople to work at dealerships for only a short time. Salespeople might tell you anything just to make the deal — especially if they know they’re leaving the dealership soon.

Brian Kilroy is a FWW supporter and retired Vice President of MBNA America Bank, N.A. He directed the Financial Advisory Service, an employee assistance, credit education and lending unit servicing MBNA employees worldwide.

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