Q I am getting ready to buy a new car, but I am pretty inexperienced in the process. How much should I offer the dealer below the sticker price in order to get a fair deal?

Becky, Anoka

Buying a car is stressful for many people. One of the most stressful parts of the process is negotiating the price of the auto.

The final price of a car can be above or below the sticker price -- also called the manufacturer's suggested retail price or MSRP -- depending on the demand for that particular make and model of car.

Very popular cars in high demand may sell at or even above the sticker price. The most important thing you can do before buying a car is to do some research. The more prepared you are when you walk into a dealership, the more likely it is that you will come away with a fair deal.

Check out a website such as Smartcarguide.com for some good information and an outline of the car-buying process. Here are some helpful tips:

• Consider shopping online at websites such as Carsdirect.com or Autos.com. These sites can be very helpful in researching, comparing and even buying cars online.

• Find out the invoice price (cost to the dealer) and MSRP for the type of car you are interested in. This will give you starting points for the negotiation. These can be found on the Internet at sites such as Edmunds.com.

Negotiate the price of the car, not the monthly payment.

• Have a pre-approval for financing before you go to a dealership. This will put you in a better position to negotiate the price of the vehicle and compare the dealer's best financing options. Tell the dealer up-front that you have a financing deal in place but are interested in what they can offer.

• Negotiate the value of your trade-in after you agree upon a price for the new car.

The salesperson, like any merchant, should make a reasonable profit on the car.

If at any point you are unhappy or uncomfortable with the negotiation process or price, you have the right to get up and leave. You are under no obligation to buy the car. After all, it's your money.

Lucas Bucl (25)

Ka-Ching's financial experts at Edina-based Accredited Investors Inc. can be reached at kaching@startribune.com.