Purchasing a vehicle can be a joy or a nightmare, entirely dependent on the person or dealership you’re working with. Here are our recent experiences and some helpful tips for saving both time and money on your next car purchase!
First, let me preface this by saying, not all dealerships are the same, nor are all car salesmen. In our case, we went to 5 different dealerships, our worst experience being with a Hyundai dealer who literally reneged on a deal AFTER we’d already signed paperwork with them! You can read more about that experience here on YELP
Jim Hudson Hyundai Reneges on Signed Deal(Ah since posting this we have found NUMEROUS others that encountered the Same treatment! Sickening!)
Oftentimes dealerships will “size you up”, so to speak, looking at what you’re driving when you arrive at their dealership, asking you select questions such as what kind of work do you do, who is the car for, is it a gift, etc etc. Please don’t mistake this for small talk, it’s not- they’re gleaning important information from you that helps them determine exactly what price to charge you for the vehicle.
How can you tell if this is the case?
Simple, the price is NOT clearly provided on the vehicle when you arrive to look at it. Legitimate dealerships price their vehicles clearly on the vehicles windows, they list the mileage of the vehicle, as well as what is included with that price (warranties, no warranty, etc). If you pull into a dealership and it says “ask the dealer”, be prepared to be asked a host of annoying questions aimed to help them determine how much you can afford. The bonus for these types of dealerships is that they are often hungrier and more willing to negotiate a vehicle several thousand dollars cheaper than their first offer to you.
I prefer to car shop in an old beat up car, rather than in a nice vehicle, or let them know that your friend brought you and the vehicle you’ve arrived in is Not yours (particularly if it’s a NICE Car), or you’ll likely pay several thousand dollars more from such vultures.
Sometimes they’ll give you a line about how the car had a fantastic 24 point inspection or other such nonsense. Folks, that glitz and glitter means nothing. The mechanic that checks out that used car that was brought in literally has NO Idea whether or not the oil was changed every 3,000 miles or every 30,000 miles, unless the engine is already knocking. Or, unless the vehicles previous owner provided printed service records. Be sure to ask the dealership if they have such records.
So when they tell you the price is a bit higher because their mechanic went all through the car, they’re basically spritzing you in the face with glitter and lies. Yes, they turned on the heat and it worked (check), Yes, they turned on the wipers (Check). They looked at the tires- they didn’t replace them, but they looked at them (check). They checked the windshield wiper fluid (check)- see how easy it is to start checking things off this little “inspection list”. Does that mean that the car is any safer or in any better condition, no it doesn’t. It’s a sales technique to make you feel better.
When shopping for a vehicle, it’s handy to keep a small piece of paper with several details about what you’re looking for written on it:
- type of car (particular brand)
- 2 door or 4 door
- Transmission type- manual or automatic
- Color if it’s important to you
- Mileage range if purchasing a used car (for example- if you want a car under 50,000 miles, be sure to state that!)
- Price Range, such as Under $15K
Avoid listing specifics and do not tell them your life story, “Grandma died, left me $20K so I’m buying a car”, etc. This information is none of their business and as they say in your Miranda rights, it can be used against you. Just hand them the slip of paper and ask them if they have anything that fits what you’re looking for. If they’d like you to step inside, politely decline and tell them you’ll be looking while they print out the information for you.
Before you visit a dealership, take a look at the prices they have listed on their websites. Oftentimes, that is the lowest price they have available and when you get to the dealership and start looking, they’ll jack up the price. This was the case with a Hyundai Sonata I looked at yesterday. It was listed on their website for $13K but it didn’t have a price posted on it, so I asked the salesmen how much for the car, he told me $19k.
Interesting, I happened to have written down the stock number and those numbers matched. So when I mentioned the difference and how I’d already seen it on their website he said, “Oh, that’s the internet price.”
Always understand that car prices are NEGOTIABLE. They are NOT set in stone, NEVER EVER EVERPay the price listed on the vehicle or the price first presented to you by the dealership. EVER. If you do, you can rest assured that you just got screwed.
Other things to Check on used cars:
- The Tires– do they still have decent tread on them, are the cracked or sun beaten
- The Wiper Blades– you can tell a lot about a dealerships “inspection” by the condition of the wipers, if they won’t spend $8 to replace the blades on a vehicle, imagine what else they’ve neglected on it
- Cleanliness/Detailing– We’ve test driven some pretty nasty cars, be sure the vehicle has been extensively cleaned, look between the seats, check in the console, etc. If it has stains, smells or is otherwise not perfectly clean, request that it be detailed again before bringing it home. After all, you’re buying a “New to You” car and you’re paying thousands of dollars. They’re paying their techs less than $20 an hour- so it’s barely costing them anything for this service.
- Carfax Report– Unfortunately many people rely heavily on the carfax report. Although it can contain decent information, keep in mind that if something isn’t reported, it’s not going to show. So just because it doesn’t show an accident doesn’t mean the vehicles has never been in one, it just means it was never reported to an insurance agency.
Other Tips for buying New Cars:
- Financing– if you’re going to need financing, get pre-approved for a car loan at a bank or credit union BEFORE visiting a dealership. This will help you to know exactly what type of interest rate you can expect.
- Price Promise- many decent dealerships offer a printable certificate on their website called a Price Promise or a Price Guarantee. That is to say, they’ll actually put the information in writing and you can print it out and bring it with you when you shop.
- Review the Fees listed on the Paperwork- many car dealers add in document fees that are merely cash bonuses for themselves. This was the case with the car dealer we dealt with when we walked away from the “deal”. We had agreed on a set price, they of course waffled about talking it amongst themselves for 20 minutes or so before coming back and telling us we had a deal. Then I signed all the paperwork and the Sales Manager THEN came out to notify me of their mistake. Whoops, they can’t include tax, title and doc fees because they’d be losing money on this car that was just traded in and had not yet even been serviced by their mechanics. BUT, they’d hold up their end of the deal if I’d just pay nearly $700 more. Hmmm… No. Those document fees are a farce, it’s simply a bonus. You don’t have to pay it, which is why they’re forced to display a public sign on their desk stating so.
In short, do your homework, know what you want BEFORE you go car shopping and don’t let the sales team pressure you a more expensive vehicle than you can afford!
Feel Free to share your car buying experiences in the comments below!