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YONKERS, N.Y. – Auto manufacturers are still using special incentives and rebates to help steer traffic into dealerships, but a recently released survey by Consumer Reports Auto Price Service finds that not all car buying consumers are being told about the incentives by salespeople at the dealerships. Findings of a nationwide survey of 13,716 adults conducted in 2004 showed only 60% of prospective car buyers were offered an available cash rebate, and only 40% were offered available special low-financing rates. In addition, results showed that respondents were often misinformed and confused about the latest rebates and incentives, and how to best use them when negotiating the price of the vehicle. The Consumer Reports survey also found that 58% of new-car shoppers were offered, and accepted, extra cost, and often unnecessary items such as alarms, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etching, and GAP insurance. In addition, less affluent shoppers – those with an annual income of less than $60,000 – were more likely to accept the extras. Consumer Reports offered the following suggestions to consumers to help them get the best new-car value: * Do your homework – don’t go into the showroom “cold” without having gathered key facts and preliminary pricing figures. That gives the salesperson too much control over the buying process. * Don’t assume the sticker price is the purchase price – to get the lowest price, go in with a starting price that’s based not on the sticker price but on how much the dealer paid for the vehicle. The dealer invoice is typically available on Web sites and in pricing guides, but keep in mind the invoice isn’t necessarily what the dealer paid for the vehicle. * Negotiate one thing at a time – salespeople like to mix financing, leasing, and trade-in negotiations together, often asking consumers to negotiate around a monthly payment figure. This tactic gives the dealer the opportunity to offer the consumer a favorable figure in one area while inflating figures in another. * Arrange for financing in advance and compare interest rates from various lenders. * Don’t pay for extras you don’t need. Dealers often try to sell extras such as rustproofing, fabric protection, paint protection, dealer paperwork fees, or VIN window etching.

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