|Car shopping would be funner if I were buying one of these.|
I absolutely hate car shopping. Most people are surprised to find this out since they just assume my automotive infatuation makes car shopping a joyful experience. When I clarify why I hate car shopping everyone just nods and smiles to themselves, because they know what I'm talking about.
I hate car shopping not for the test drives, the kicking of tires, etc. What I hate is the money end of it. While there are a few dealerships out there that are pretty honest and straightforward with customers, there are unfortunately enough shysters out there that the car buying experience can be pretty miserable. It makes buying a car a completely stressful experience, where one wrong move can cost you thousands of dollars without giving you anything extra in return.
After many vehicle purchases and many painful hours spent in car dealerships, I am passing my knowledge of car shopping on to you all. This is by no means the end-all list of car shopping tips, but rather some useful items that can help save you some grief. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips of your own or want to share your car shopping horror stories.
Now, for the tips:
Know what you want before you get there. If you walk into a dealership or peruse the lot and you haven't done some research, you need to make a solemn promise to yourself that you are not going to sign any papers or talk anything about finance that day. Test drive some vehicles if you aren't sure what you will like, but don't mix that visit with your visit to actually purchase a vehicle. Do thorough homework at home on the Internet about the vehicles you are considering to help you narrow down what you want. When you go to a dealership to buy a vehicle, you need to know exactly what make and model you want, plus all of the options you would like. NEVER ask a car salesman, no matter how honest he seems, what kind of car you should get or to help you choose between two different cars you are considering.
Set a time limit and stick to it. Car dealers often like to make you wait for hours on end. It's a device they use to wear you down so you don't put up as much of a fight over all the extra crap they will throw on your sales contract. If you are being made to wait around too much, leave. Seriously just get up and walk out. You might even want to tell them you only have so long. But don't let them hurry you up into a deal right then, because that's when you can agree to things you should not. Instead, tell them to write up the sales contract and give you a call when it's ready. Then you can go back at your convenience and review the contract. This puts you in the position of control.
Leave if you are getting jerked around. I've done this a few times with dealerships that try to play games or go back on their word about something. If you haven't signed the purchase agreement you can leave at any time and they are powerless to stop you. If a salesman starts chasing you, then is an opportune time to give them your final demands as you continue walking to your car. In the event they offer to "fix" the deal for you, let them know there is a time limit to make it happen or you will leave again. Sometimes the dealership will let you leave but then later in the day or even a few days later you will receive a call from the sales manager. Again, this is your moment to negotiate for what you want, so go for it.
Always cite a reason for a lower price. If you feel that a price offer on a car isn't fair, you need to have done your homework to know exactly why. Is there a competing dealership offering a better price on the same car? Is it a used car with high miles or damage on it? If you can cite a reason for a low ball offer on a car, the dealership employees will know you are educated enough to know the true value of the vehicle and they will often cave in to your request.
Never concentrate just on monthly payments! Too many car shoppers look exclusively at the monthly payments for the vehicle they are interested in. BIG MISTAKE! Negotiate the car's total purchase price before you ever talk about monthly payments. Dealers will often get you to concentrate on the monthly amount as they jack the total purchase price up. There are plenty of ways to shrink a car's monthly payments, like extending the life of the loan a year. Keep your eye on the prize and get the total purchase price hammered out first, then check that price when you sit down to sign the sales contract.
Shop around before you buy. Once you hammer out a purchase agreement with a dealer, stop right there and tell them you need to sleep on it. NEVER purchase the car right then. Most contracts are good for a few days, so use that time to shop the competition. Tell them what kind of a deal you are getting at the competing dealership and ask if they can beat it. If they can produce a more competitive deal (again, without making you wait forever) then go with the best option.
Use the Internet to shop. Some dealerships will actually offer better prices through increased incentives for buyers who shop online. Not only that, but talking to the sales staff online helps decrease the pressure you would normally feel sitting in the showroom. You can even slow the sales process down to several weeks, giving you time to mine all kinds of information about dealer incentives and buyer reward programs from the sales staff.