I recently purchased my first new car. Before this process, I knew NOTHING about cars. Honestly – I couldn’t tell you a fact about any car manufacturer, and like a typical girl, the only thing I ever noticed about a car was its color. I ended up learning that buying car, like many other processes, was like a science — there are actual ways to go about doing it, and actual best practices to follow. Here are 5 (plus one more!) things I learned (courtesy of my helpful coworkers, my Dad, the Internet and my experiences):
1. Don’t talk financing first.
Do NOT tell the dealer how much money you are going to put down on the vehicle. Instead, discuss the selling price of the car you want to buy. If the dealer knows you are going to put down more, he may jack the price up on the car. Also, if you are planning in trading in a vehicle, DON’T mention this EVEN IF THEY ASK YOU. Say you’re not sure — otherwise they will likely try increase the price of the quote as well, because they know you putting less cash down. Wait until AFTER you have gotten the quote you want before mentioning your trade in. And know how much your car is worth!
2. Research research research – and come prepared!
Use the Web. I tweeted some questions about buying a car and got a lot of good responses (see right). I googled “Buying a new car.” Also, visit edmunds.com to find out the MSRP of the vehicle, invoice price, and what Edmunds has compiled as “What others are paying.” This way, when the dealer tells you the car is going for $18,950 (as was the car I wanted) you can say, “Well I know the invoice is @ $16,900 so I don’t want to pay more than that.” If you’re trading in, find out what your car is worth. The dealer may offer you much less than you know the car is worth- so be prepared to have the pricing for your trade in available (check out Kelley Blue Book pricing).
3. Be PATIENT.
Allot at least 2 weeks for your car search – otherwise be prepared to pay more. Dealers like to take their time, and tell you that the price they are giving you is the BEST price out there, the BEST price you’ll see. And they have to spend 20 minutes even talking with their manager to get them to agree to it. This is all part of their game. Don’t settle – even if they tell you that if you walk out they cannot offer you the same deal. If you aren’t getting the price you want, leave the dealer. Come back later, or check out another dealer. Are you looking to buy a popular car? Most likely, then, your car will be there when you come back.
4. Check out multiple dealers – and call around!
After a round of bargaining, the first dealer I went to offered me $2,000 lower than MSRP. I knew I didn’t want to pay more than what Edmunds.com said others were paying and thought I could get the car for less. So I left the dealership. I immediately got a call offering me the $2,000 below MSRP plus 2 free oil changes. I still resisted. The following week, I called other Honda dealers in the area (I just googled Honda Dealers near Cleveland), told them the quote I had already received, and asked them if they could beat the quote. Calling the dealers made the process less painful (no need to actually go to a dealer and bargain face-to-face) and more competitive (I had a quote already and most dealers were already more than happy to beat the price). Some dealers even offer online chat for you to talk with their sales team via the Web, anonymously. With the lowest quote in hand (ask them to email you the quote so you can show the dealer you want to buy from) I called the dealer I knew I wanted to buy from and ended up getting it marked down $500 from my original quote! The next weekend (as I said, allot at least 2 weeks for your car search!) I bought the car of my choice, from the dealer of my choice, for the price of my choice.
5. Stay in control. Dealers like to make you feel like you are at their mercy. For example, when I turned down the original quote ($2,000 below MSRP plus 2 free oil changes), in hopes of getting a lower quote from a different dealer, I got 3 voicemails the next day from the original dealer, telling me that there was only 1 car left in the color I wanted, that the price he offered me was “only valid” for 24 hours, and “they would no longer be able to offer me the 2 free oil changes they had promised… This all served to make me feel a sense of urgency, as if I just HAD to buy the car immediately! I called the dealer back, telling him I had gotten a lower quote from another dealer, and automatically the 2 free oil changes were back on the offer, just like that. I was back in control and visiting other car dealers.
Bonus: You will feel like a horrible person
Buying a car makes you feel like a very bad/mean person. During this process you will most likely feel like you are:
- Cheating someone The first dealer constantly told me “IF I go any lower, I will not be getting any commission on this car!” This is not true! Most dealerships provide guaranteed commission on each car sold.
- Being too cheap I was also told “Wow are you really arguing over 2 oil changes? Is it really worth it to you?” My answer..YES! And it’s the principle.
- Being a horrible person all around I was also told from the first dealer “Well I can’t go any lower, but doesn’t all the TIME I took to put this offer together for you and show you the car mean anything?” My answer: You are paid to show people cars. And honestly, how long does it take to put together a car quote – you do this every day!
Do not listen to them! You are not a bad person – you are actually just a good car buyer! You are spending YOUR money and should not have to compromise how much you want to spend or your integrity just to make a car salesman feel better. After the process is over, all the paper work signed, and your money spent, you’ll feel better if you stick to your guns.
That being said, those are just my experiences. Not all car dealers are mean, slimy people. The car dealer I ended up buying from was SUPER nice and accommodating, which is why I went with him.
For more information, here are some links that I checked out. They make the whole process a lot less painful!
- Edmunds.com is the way to go for finding info about cars, has LOTS of stuff on their website (tips, pricing, etc.) It’s where I found the “what others are paying” tool that I mention above.
- PriceHub: Recent User Generated True Sale Prices
- 10 Steps to Buying a New Car
- How to Buy a New Car- short video
- Confessions of a Car Salesman — longer article but worth the read- Interesting and good tips!
- Consumer Reports – The most recent issue rated new and used cars for price, safety and more. I had a hard copy (courtesy of my dad) but I believe you can find them online, but for a price.
Best of luck if you are buying a car right now. Comment if you have any suggestions or questions!