10 Steps to buying a car

Wisebread posted their 10 steps to buying a car from a dealership.  There is some good advice in here, but there is also some terrible advice.  Here’s his tips, and my take on each.

  1. Research, research, research. – This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but spot on nonetheless.  Do your homework before you go shopping.  Find out what you want, and what you feel a fair price is.  If you don’t, you’re just guessing, and you’ll probably end up paying more than you should.
  2. What can you afford? - If you have a $20,000 budget, don’t look at Nissan Armadas and GMC Yukons.  It’s just not practical, and it’s a waste of time for everyone.  Even more, take this a step further.  Figure out your monthly budget.  If you can afford no more than $400 per month, again, don’t look at Yukons or Infiniti M45′s.  Be realistic about what you can afford to pay for every month.
  3. Trading-in your old car – Here’s one of the big areas where Wisebread and I are on way different pages.  Wisebread recommends that you don’t mention the trade until you’ve already negotiated the deal on the new car.  This accomplishes only one thing – it will piss off the salesman that you’re working with.  In a previous life as a car salesman, I have asked customers to leave after pulling BS like this.  If you expect honesty and integrity from your salesman ( as you should ), you must be honest yourself.  If you don’t want to talk about the trade, say so – that’s fine.  Say that you’d rather discuss the trade after working out the price of the new car.  But don’t lie, all you’ll end up with is a pissed of salesman, and that doesn’t do you much good at all.  Oh, and your car is very unlikely to match up to KBB “Good” value.. especially if it’s a truck/suv in this down market.  Hondas and Toyotas are more likely to be very close.
  4. Financing ahead of time – Yes, yes, yes.  If you have good credit and aren’t vastly upside-down in your trade, get financing ahead of time.  The blank check in hand is a powerful negotiating tool – it lets the dealership know that you can and will buy a car, right now, if you’re happy with the numbers.  They don’t have to worry about your credit at all.  That being said, give them the chance to earn your financing – they may be able to save you some cash.
  5. The dealership, the sales staff, the horror. – Blah blah blah.  If you don’t like buying a car, don’t.  Keep driving that rustbucket that is breaking down all the time.  No one is forcing you to buy another one.  And please, on please, don’t bring the folder.  Salesman will run from you like vampires from daylight.  If you want an easy, no b-s experience, handle the beginnings of the business via the dealership’s internet department.  There, you can confirm availability, agree on price, and set up an appointment for a test -drive and contracting. 
  6. IF IN DOUBT, WALK OUT. - Absolutely.  If you don’t feel comfortable withe deal, or you don’t feel the dealership is being honest with you, leave.  Walk away and don’t turn around.  There are plenty of dealerships around, so you don’t have to settle for an uncomfortable experience.  On the other hand, Wisebread is confused in a few areas.  I’m not aware of any ‘law’ requiring the dealership to show you the invoice.  I don’t get to see the invoice price when I buy a new washing machine.  If you’ve done your homework like you should’ve, you already know the invoice anyway.  And again, DO NOT wait until the end to mention your trade.  It will end badly.
  7. The salesman, or woman, is not your friend. - True, though this is not to say he’s automatically a bad person.  His job is to get you to buy what he has to sell, right now, for as much as possible.  That’s his job, and the whole good cop/bad cop routine aids in this process.  Don’t buy it, but don’t hold it against him either.  He’s just doing his job.
  8. Deal’s done. Off to financing hell. – Again, these guys are just doing their job.  If you want to buy an extended warranty, negotiate the price.  You should buy GAP, either from the finance office or your bank.  Either way, have GAP before you drive away ( unless you have equity in the car from a large down payment. )  Other than that, simply make sure the numbers match ( everyone makes mistakes )  and be on your merry way.  If you have your own blank check, financing doesn’t have to be an ordeal.
  9. Check your vehicle. - Try to buy during the day if possible, so you can see any issues that wouldn’t show up at night.  This is important, because once you drive off that car is yours.  If there are issues, make sure you fill out a “we-owe” form, and have it signed by a manager.  Take your copy with you.  This will help you make sure that you get any problems resolved. 
  10. Relax. – Well duh.  You just bough ta new car – ENJOY IT.

Overall, it’s a good list.  Just remember, DO NOT LIE to the salesman, sales manager, or finance manager.  You expect honesty, so give it.  If it’s not returned in kind, leave and go somewhere else.

Published on January 23, 2007 in Ponderings

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