If you’re thinking of getting yourself a car, a dealership is a good place to look, but there are some things you should know beforehand. Every dealership is different, and you’ll want to make sure you’re able to get the best deal for the car of your choosing. If you’re going to do that, then you need to know about the car, your rights, the condition of the car, and so on. While you do have the option to buy from a private seller, you should know that your rights are different when buying, and you’ll have a lot less variety of choices.
Learn about the car you want
Before you head out to check out the car you want at the dealership, you should take the time to learn a little bit about it first. See what others are saying they thought about the car, whether or not it’s going to be reliable for you. There are plenty of reviews out there for every model of car, and you’ll want to know the ins and outs before you go and spend all of your money on it. You wouldn’t want to end up with a car that’s no fun, or doesn’t do well in the environment that you’re planning to drive it in.
Think about your lifestyle and what would be best. Should you prioritize comfort over space? Space over comfort? It’s important to know what’s out there.
Another luxury you have before you pay a visit to a dealership is being able to check the prices of the car online. Whether you check private sellers or dealership websites, you can get a good scope of what you’ll be paying for the car. Of course, every listing is going to vary, as it will depend on the previous owner of the car, and the condition of it. Generally, the worse off the car is, the cheaper it is – but a cheap car isn’t always beat up. Less desired cars typically drop in price over time when the owners haven’t been able to sell them.
Having a good idea of how much the car you’ve chosen costs will tell you whether or not you should be buying it from that dealership. If you can’t get it for a general price that’s available elsewhere, it’s time for you to visit another dealership.
Same car, very different out-the-door prices
Before you decide on a budget, know that buying a car isn’t just a fixed cost, there are a lot of ongoing payments that are going to follow. Even if you buy the car outright, there are going to be fuel costs, maintenance, tax, and insurance. These things will add up, and you should take them into consideration before you set a budget for actually buying the car. Those ongoing costs are different per car, as some are more fuel-efficient than others.
Car manufacturers have a lot of different ways to get buyers more interested in the deal. They put up offers that seem to be exclusive or time-limited. You’ll see this often with special editions of cars, that only offer cosmetic differences. These editions are more expensive, and while there’s nothing wrong with spending a bit more money on it – it’s only worth it if you’re passionate and sure about the car that you want. Likely, if you’re just going to buy something to get you from point A to point B, you’re not going to need any fancy trim for your car.
The same goes for dealerships. If you see cars that are on special offer for a limited time, don’t feel like you have to hurry to buy. Most cars you see in dealerships aren’t rare, and take the time to price check again and make sure that you would actually be saving money if you were to buy it. In any case, you’re only saving money if you were going to buy it anyway.
Lease, finance or outright purchase
Then comes the question of how you should buy your car. Say you’ve found the car you’re interested in at a dealership, and you’re fine with the price – how should you pay for it? Well, you can either finance it or buy it outright. If you’re going to finance your car, you should know everything before you go. A dealer may explain it to you, but you’ll want time to think about it. Generally, you’ll likely be paying more than the car is worth over time, just in smaller installments.
If it’s a newer car, you likely won’t be buying it outright, but older cars are often cheap enough to purchase without financing. This way you’re no longer tied to the deal, and the car is yours as soon as you hand over the money.
On new cars: if you have 700+ credit score, lease. Leasing is just smarter for those with good credit. (Its not avail economically with scores less than 650ish). If you want to buy or have lower credit than that, get auto loan finance offers from banks beforehand and bring the best loan deal you have. They might be able to beat it, might not.
The sales pitch
You probably know by now based on stereotypes that a car dealership will often try to persuade you to buy the car you’re there to see. They often have a sales pitch going on, and it’s better to be prepared for it. Of course, it’s their job to sell the car, and as long as you know that it’s coming, and you know enough about the car – you can make a sensible decision on the purchase without their help. It would even help if you were to know more about the car than they do.
Negotiate – at Least Several Times (Get 3+ written offers)
Never accept the first offer. This is generally a printed sheet with their prices and fees itemized.
Ask for a total price that is $500-2500 less than the bottom-line number. Tell them you don’t care how they make it happen — this gives them flexibility to reduce it in several ways, such as increasing the value of trade.
When it comes time to buy, you should understand that most dealerships will have the car priced at more than its worth, and they know that. They expect you to try and negotiate with them and bring the price down, which is why it’s priced up in the first place. If you already researched how much the car is worth, you already know how much you should be negotiating the price – it’s just a bonus if you can bring that price down even further.
No one’s going to force you to buy the car, but those who aren’t aware of how much the car is actually worth might actually be convinced that they’re getting a good deal. So the few people that do come in unprepared for the sales pitch might be more than happy to buy the car at the listed price.
Know Your rights
If the private seller was dishonest about the issues of the car, then it will become a legal issue, and you’ll likely have to put the issue into the hands of the law.
If you bought the car from a dealership, your rights allow you to either return the car to the dealership and get your money back or get a replacement. Doing this will be a long legal process and is not a sure thing. Most used vehicles are sold with as-is status that absolves the dealer from responsibility.
You can reduce the risk of the car developing faults before you buy it by learning more about the individual vehicle. If you know the license plate on the car, you can check up online to see any previous faults that were logged during the previous service. Here you can find a complete log of service history, letting you know if there are any remaining faults, anything that still needs to be fixed, or any history of issues.
Test drive it
If you’re happy with your choice and are coming close to purchasing, you should ask if you can test drive the car. Being allowed to drive the car for yourself will tell you whether or not it’s the car for you. It would be nice to know whether or not you enjoy driving it, whether your find it comfortable, and if there’s enough space for you. Not everyone enjoys driving different cars, so it might not be for you after all. Test driving may also highlight any underlying issues.
Think it over
After all of that, you should still try to make sure you’re not being too hasty with a purchase. Unless it’s a rare model, there’s no real rush in making the purchase. Once you know what kind of car you want, and how much it will cost – you have plenty of time to think about it. Rushing yourself into this kind of purchase is expensive, and that’s not money that you’ll get back. Selling it back to the dealership after buying it is just going to lose you money and time trying to find someone interested in buying it.
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Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.