KIYC: Car buying guide

With both 2014 and 2015 models available, this could be the perfect time to buy a car. (5/9/14)

EDISON - With both 2014 and 2015 models available, this could be the perfect time to buy a car. Automotive experts says consumers have more bargaining power than usual this time of year, but if you want to make sure you buy your next car without being taken for a ride, you'll need to be a smart consumer. Here are some tips from Kane In Your Corner, with the help of automotive consumer advocate Michael Sacks.

Know Your Needs. If you have kids who participate in sports, a large SUV may be right for you. But if you live somewhere where parking is scarce, smaller may be better.

Research, Research, Research. "An educated consumer is an effective consumer," Sacks says. "If I go in knowing what the MSRP [Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price] is, but also know how far I can budge them down from there, and I also know what features I want and what features I don't want, I can save a lot of time."  To find out more information about pricing, Sacks suggests checking the Internet. If you have an employee discount program through your employer, find out what it can save you as well.

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Try Before You Buy. Just taking the typical road test may not be enough, according to Sacks. "Even in the coldest of winters, I need to know how the air conditioner works," he says. "In the hottest of summers, I need to know how the seat warmers work. Don't be afraid to press every button."

Know Your Warranty. Not all warranties are the same. Some car companies offer coverage for more years/miles than others. Also some companies offer bumper-to-bumper warranties, while others only cover the power train. "This is stuff you need to know," Sacks says. "If I have a water leak, is that covered? Or perhaps does it only cover various electrical components and drive train components? You need to understand what your warranty covers because you don't want to be down the road with a problem, bring it back to the dealer, and have them say 'Oh, sorry, the warranty doesn't cover that.'"

Know Your Rights. If you do have a problem after purchase, you should be aware that New Jersey has the toughest Lemon Law in the country. For new car purchases, it covers you for two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. It kicks in if you've had to repair the same defect twice, or if you have a single defect that affects safety. The Lemon Law can also kick in if your car is out of service for a total of 20 days during the years/mileage period and those days do not have to be consecutive. Under the law, consumers can be entitled to free repairs, refunds and even replacement of their vehicles as well as reimbursement for their legal costs.

Click here to download a handbook on the Lemon Law from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

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