For most Americans, the primary means of getting from point A to point B is a car. We drive to work, we drive to social events and we cherish the freedom to unwind the open road and get out of dodge for a holiday or great American road trip.

Choosing the right car is a careful process. You want to find something that satisfies your needs and is easy to live with, and it has to come at the right price. The buying process can be intimidating, but if you follow our suggestions you're more likely to get the deal you want.

Understand the Market

Walking into a dealership with a check burning a hole in your pocket and all the decisiveness of a squirrel crossing the road is the best way to get hosed on your car purchase. You should have a very distinct plan before you ever set foot in the flypaper for car buyers that is a dealership lot. If you're shopping for a privately owned car, that can be less precarious but not always. Each method has its pros and cons.

Spend enough time considering what you need from a car, which models can satisfy those needs and how much those models are selling for. Review some listings online and compare different trim levels and feature packages. You should be able to paint a picture of exactly the car you'd like to buy down to trim level and price within a few hundred dollars unless it's something very unique.

Set a Budget

Finance departments would love for you to go down the road of "what would you like to pay per month?" If you haven't considered this before you select a car to buy, stop. Understanding what you can afford and how that translates into a monthly payment is critical homework that should be done prior to negotiating a car purchase. Know what you want to pay and have a plan to ask for less than that and work back to it.

Avoid Unneeded Stuff. Embrace Savings Opportunities

If you're buying a daily driver to commute to work, larger wheels with low profile tires are a costly appearance upgrade that's hurting your ride quality. Get a car without them and save money. Planning to throw a tune on your new hot hatchback? Don't blow a wad of cash on a warranty car when you're going to void it out-of-the-gate. If you park in the city and know that your car might get some door dings, consider saving money by buying one with minor cosmetic damage and making repairs aftermarket. Making simple repairs can even increase its value. You can usually Don't spring for the gimmicky paint sealant, it seems obvious but you have to be on your toes to avoid being nickle-dimed out of a good deal.

Remember, You're in the Driver's Seat

The prospect of having a new car is exciting but hold fast to your conviction when things get down to brass tacks. If you can't get a good deal, there's no need to be in a rush. Chances are, you can find exactly the car you're looking for somewhere else and get the deal you want or close to it. When things go sideways, don't be afraid to get up and walk away. You might be surprised to find how much more willing to work with you a dealership is the day after you walk out on a bad deal.

The days of getting thousands of dollars off on a new car might be behind us as used car margins are becoming thinner and thinner thanks to the internet. However, all deals are not created equal. So go into your car deal with the knowledge of how to manage it properly and you won't get taken for a ride.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington