Ask your friends and family to set you up.
Much like you can rely on your friends and family to set you up with suitable dating prospects, they can also give you car suggestions. Adam and I talked with friends and family and got their opinions on solid, reliable cars. While everyone is bound to have different opinions, it can give you a place to start. They can also have valuable tips to dole out. My mother-in-law's husband used to be a car salesman. He was able to give us some good negotiating advice, like buying a car towards the end of the month when car salespeople are trying to reach their quotas.
Stalk your prospects.
Facebook-stalking potential dates can help give you some insight into their personalities. Stalking car prospects online can also give you some insight. There are tons of resources to check out. Websites like Edmonds and Consumer Reports were helpful to us. There's also a wealth of information on individual listings on dealership websites. Most dealerships have Carfax reports available for each listing, which can tell you about any accidents or maintenance issues for each car.
Play the field.
You should see what's out there before you settle on a mate, just as you should before you settle on a car. Look at different models and makes. If you are buying a used car, test drive different cars of the same make and model. The same make and model of a car can drive dramatically different, depending on how the previous owner drove it. See what's out there, you may be surprised at what strikes your fancy.
Don't give it all away too soon.
Just like you shouldn't give away the goods too soon when you're dating, you should also hold off when car-buying. When you start going to car lots and talking with car salespeople, don't give away too much information too soon. All that small talk you make is not just polite; salespeople are trying to gain information that might hurt you in the end. Don't tell salespeople your exact budget, how much you plan to put down or what you want your monthly payment to be. Be guarded in what information you share. For example, if you let on that all you care about is a small monthly payment, they might give you that, but up the overall price which requires you to pay monthly payments for a longer amount of time. So be guarded about what information you share.
Play hard to get.
While I don't agree with this in the dating world, it does help you in car-buying. Adam and I were offered "a one time only" deal on the first trip to a dealership. We did not accept it and left. We told them that we would think about and get back with them. Both the car salesman and the general sales manager of the dealership called us and told us they would love our business after the fact. We had the edge at that point, even though we ended up going with a different dealership.
Think with your brain, not with your emotions.
Just like you can get wrapped up in your emotions when dating, the same can happen in car-buying. Adam and I really liked the first car that we test drove, but we had to think about all the aspects of the car, including the price. When we were offered the "one time only" deal, it was very tempting to accept it and be done with the process. Plus, we liked the car. Thankfully, Adam's sensible, practical side stopped us from accepting the first deal we came across. We thought with our brains, and ultimately ended up with a car that had more features, lower mileage and a better price.
Hopefully these ideas will help make car-buying a bit more simple.