There is fundamentally no right or wrong way to buy a car, or there shouldn’t be right? It should be easy and straightforward yet buying a new car ranks among one of the highest stressful situations for people. I have been told that stress of all sorts is a consequence of lack of preparednesss.
Remember that exam you took in school in which you “burned the midnight oil” and crammed for? Looking back I bet you would agree that was stressful. On the contrary remember when you were so well prepared for an exam that you actually looked forward to it? I can remember a handful of those 🙂
You too can actually turn buying a car into a fun experience. How? I will detail for you a few of the right questions to ask and steps to take to make you feel more prepared. None of this is “rocket science” but learning some simple tactics will turn your anxiety into a fun experience or at least will make it better.
Enough of the small talk.
The following steps are the BEST WAYS to BUY a CAR:
STEP ONE – PRIOR TO GOING TO THE CAR DEALERSHIPS:
Know what you are looking for– A common mistake is not really knowing what you like. If you walk into a dealership and you seem like you don’t know if you want a car, suv or truck then the salesperson/sales manager will feel like they have control. Before you know it they will pull up a car fitting you into the “perfect” vehicle. The car they will pull up will most likely be aged OR one they can make some money on. If your looking at a new vehicle then chances are they will pull up a vehicle with manufacturer spiffs, but more likely than not you will be guided toward the used vehicle. Also, “spiffs” aren’t what they used to be. ( please don’t take that as the salesperson will get an extra $1000. It will be more like $50 and more likely than not it will be deserved, especially if you’re reading this as they will make ~$50-$100 by selling you your car.
ACTION- Evaluate all of the vehicles that you were thinking of at home. Make a simple list of the pro’s and con’s of each one and then pick a three or four that you would like to test drive. Next, e-mail the dealers one day before to ensure the exact vehicles are in stock. In the e-mail state that “YOU ARE NOT BUYING the car tomorrow” and that you are in the early stages at this point. Do NOT buy the day you test drive so DO NOT go during the last couple days of the month BECAUSE the sales manager/sales person WILL tell you the programs will end soon. Going during the middle of the month IS your best bet as it will eliminate that from happening. However, incentives typically get better, not worse, so don’t worry too much.
STEP TWO- DON’T FORGET YOUR NOTEBOOK???
“You mean business“- The second step to Buying a Car the right way is to BRING a notebook with you during the test drive? WHAT? That’s RIGHT! When your sales person sees you with a notebook they will know you mean business. It may sound funny but people that document their experiences generally mean business and the sales person will get a feeling for that immediately. They also know that means you have been, or will be shopping around at the competition. Notebooks are generally a sign that you have been obtaining pricing too.
ACTION– Bring a notebook but don’t get pricing. Use the notebook to write down the trim level (like 301A, LT, EX-L) or any other data you would like to remember. This is important as you will use it in step three. Take a look at some similar features and ask for the sales person to show you some of the options that you are interested in. For example, ask how the navigation works, or Sync System; what about deployable running boards? Do they get in the way or are they what you though they would be? Remember, you are making a VERY large purchase so play with the features and write down what you like and dislike. The goal is to get exactly what you want at the BEST price possible.
STEP THREE– RUN!
Get out of there quick!– OK, maybe don’t do that, but after you have reviewed all of the vehicles at the particular dealership AND after you have documented everything, you have accomplished your task. Remember, your task was NOT to buy today.
If you stay, the sales person will ask for you to sit down and then will immediately start to go over numbers and use clever one liners that will start with “what if I could…” or “what are your payment goals?” or the best “I will tell you how I would like you to buy the car and then will sit back and you tell me how you would like to buy the car”…Even before then if you took a test drive you may have been hit with the ever famous punch close, which is typically encouraged by the management. It goes like this and would have happened near the end of your test drive, probably when you were turning a corner, “So if I could make the numbers work on this vehicle to fit your budget and your goals is there any reason why you wouldn’t take it today?”. You may ask why would my salesperson say that as I was turning? Easy. Your mind was thinking about turning and not the question. The sales person and you know that if you commit to something it’s a lot harder to say no in the end. There becomes almost an obligation which can lead and often does to the typical “car buying experience” which can lead to regret.
Action- Ask the sales person for his or her card and thank them for their time. After all, the salesperson is trying to make a living and is hoping that you would buy. Ensure that you will be back to see him or her if you decide on the vehicle and the next step would be to negotiate the price. Ask whom to e-mail to discuss price and options further. Many sales people have computers and e-mails but some do not (believe it or not) . Don’t hold that against them. You may have to deal with the Internet Director or a manager but the end result will be the same. Then simply leave. You will be happy you you did.
STEP FOUR– SEND OUT SOME QUOTES
Time to get pricing-
Assuming you have found a car you like, or a few, then it’s time to do your analysis away from the dealership. Chances are you may have a good felling about one or more of the vehicles you test drove. Assuming you found one car that you liked then do the following:
ACTION- Find via the manufacturer’s website three to five dealers in your area selling the brand you are looking for. Typically, a manufacturer’s website has a dealer finder by geographical proximity. Take the nearest five for now and open up a new tab or window. Now, go to Google and copy and paste (CTRL+C, then CTRL+V) each dealers name followed by the respieve city and state abbreviation one at a time in Google’s search engine.
So for a Mercedes Dealer In Manhattan NY type just that in Google. You should immediately see the respective dealer’s ratings measured in “stars”. It will look like the image below:
You can also take a look by viewing dealership specific ratings on dealerrater.com
. These rating are NOT the end all be all, BUT if one of the dealers has 1 out of 5 stars out of 100 ratings, then I would tread with caution. In other words, move on. However, don’t include or disclude dealers on this alone, as many dealers now pay companies to help out with ratings. This doesn’t mean they’re a better dealer. It just means they understand the importance of higher ratings.
So once you have narrowed down your dealerships then it’s time to request a quote. You can send one e-mail and BCC the recipients and include the following text:
“Hello _insert recipient name__,
I am interested in a __insert make and model__or Vin# (if you have the vin# then no need for the following)with the following
- FWD, AWD or 4wd if applicable
- Pep package, series or options like moon roof, navigation, wheel base, etc.
- Exterior colors (list three if in order of preference if thats acceptable)
- Interior Color
I will be buying a vehicle tomorrow and would like my business to stay local. Please provide me a price quote ASAP with the MSRP and your “out-the-door” price NOT including rebates, but please list the available rebates separately. I may finance depending on the rates so if there are sub-veined rates please list those as well. However, at this point the price should include all taxes and fees, each broken out separately. Please also send me over a copy of the invoice as well. If you do not have the vehicle in stock I will give you the opportunity to provide a quote on a located unit given it’s within an acceptable distance. Please e-mail the quotes by hitting reply to this e-mail.
I look forward to working with you!
__Insert your name here__
And that’s all it really takes. Just straight and to the point. Let me explain a few things.
- Why ask for the “out the door price” not including rebates? The reason for this is simple. Many dealers add in fees and have misc charges that should be discussed up front but arent. Giving the OTD price puts everyone on the same playing field. Also, rebates are always taken off the price at the end because they are essentially subject to tax, so if a dealer quotes $23k out the door and states there’s $2k in rebates, then the OTD price is $21k. This makes it simple if there are multiple rebates and then the dealer cant state you qualify for something that you really dont. It isnt feasible to think that one dealer can offer a manufacturer rebate that another dealer cant. It just doesn’t happen.
- Why mention financing? Back in the day when people touted “I’ll be paying cash” that may have sweetened the deal essentially. Today it’s just the opposite. If a dealer feels like a slim deal is on the horizon, then the chance the customer will be financing will allow the dealership to at least make a reserve in the finance office. ( a reserve at minimum is usually $100 paid by the bank or credit union you finance with). However, the reserve can be a lot more up t0 250 basis points or 2.5% on top of the “buy rate” which is the rate the dealer pays. I will explain how to get the best rate in a later post.
- Why mention locating the vehicle? Simple. The pickier you are the less likely the dealer have the vehicle in stock. If you really mean you want to keep it local (which you should at least give the local dealer a chance, after all they are helping reduce your homeowners tax) then give them the opportunity to find the vehicle and give you the best price. If that means paying hundreds more then move on.
The rest is self explanatory. Pick the deal you feel is the best then confirm via a telephone call. You will be happy you followed this advice and please read upcoming posts for “getting the best rate” and “how to negotiate when a trade is involved”.
-Honest Car Dealer
January 7, 2011 by Jamie Rettig