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Most of you reading this have probably at least considered buying a new car. There’s nothing quite like it. That new car smell, the flawless exterior, the warranty that leaves you feeling protected.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of new cars. I have been down that road twice and both times my decision was made too quickly. I ended up regretting the decision and resenting the vehicle. It wasn’t the right choice for me.
For this article, I’m not going to touch on whether purchasing a new vehicle is the best decision for you. I’ve covered that topic in the past and will again in the future. A new car is the right choice for some people, and we’ll assume that you’re one of them.
My goal is to teach you how to buy a car the right way.
Though this article is specifically aimed at new car buyers, most of this information is relevant to a used car purchase, and most other major purchases for that matter.
Below I’m going to show you how you can get the best deal on a new vehicle and avoid paying for options, features and ‘protections’ that you don’t need.
Your new car buying experience can be broken into three parts.
What To Do Before You Go To A Dealership
Many people go to a car dealership to look at new cars, and many of those same people leave with a new car. I’ve known several people (including myself…ugh) who have bought a new vehicle, gone home and then it hit them…
What the heck just happened?
How did I buy a car when all I wanted to do was look?
Here is the one thing you need to know about car salesman: They spend all-day, everyday, training to get better at separating you from your money.
From the moment you set foot in a car dealership, every single interaction you have is part of their sales process. From how they introduce themselves to how they hand you the keys. It’s tested and refined, and it works.
Here are the three things that I recommend you do before you even consider walking into a dealership:
- Know the make/model and MSRP of the car you’re going to test drive
- Commit to not buy a car the first time you go to the dealership
- Find a trustworthy friend or family member to come with you
If you follow these three rules, you’re going to know what you want from the experience before you ever go to the dealer, and that will help keep you safe from making a decision you might end up regretting.
Related Post: 8 Good Reasons To Not Buy A New Car
Know The Make/Model and MSRP Of The Car You’re Going To Test Drive
It’s 2017, there really isn’t any good excuse for not doing some good old-fashioned Googling before making a major purpose. Watch YouTube comparisons for similar cars. Ask Facebook friends to make recommendations based on your priorities.
Knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the more likely you’re going to stay in control of the situation through the car-buying process.
You should know what specific vehicle you want to look at when you hit up the dealership, as well as the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) and the cost of any extras that you plan to buy.
This puts you in a stronger position when it comes to negotiating a deal.
Don’t Buy The First Time You Go To The Dealership
There is absolutely no rule that says you need to buy today, tomorrow or any other day. You are in control. I recommend that you exercise that control by not purchasing a car the first time you go a dealer.
We’re all human, and we’re all emotional to some degree when it comes to major purchases. We’re susceptible to being wooed by a smooth-talking salesman and making a large purchase before we’re really ready for it.
Don’t forget that in 6 months that new car is going to smell like stale baby vomit, spilled yogurt and old Arrowroots (at least mine does).
Dealerships try to get you to commit as early as possible, sometimes even trying to get you to sign an ‘agreement to buy’. This is a farcical document that basically says you agree to buy the car if they can make you a deal you’re satisfied with, or something like that – do not sign this!
If you decide that you’re not ready and try to walk, they’ll throw this agreement in your face in an attempt to get you to buy. Where I live, they’re utterly unenforcible, so I recommend you just decline.
They’re grooming you to make a purchase before you’re ready to. Until you’re ready to buy, don’t sign a thing. If they put up a fuss, bid them farewell and hit up the competition.
Bring A Friend
Few and far between are the salespeople who will value your priorities above their own. They work on commission, and they want to get paid.
Some dealerships will claim that they don’t work on commission. They’re either the rare exception to the rule, lying, or most likely, they have some other sort of sales incentive program that isn’t specifically “commission”.
This is why you need to bring somebody with you when you go to the dealership. Find a good friend or family member to come along. Let them know your priorities, what car you’re going to look at, how much you can spend, and that you are not going to buy a car that day.
This is one more little thing that strengthens your position at the dealership.
Now…you ready to go?
At The Dealership – Staying In Control Of The Situation
So now you’re armed with information. You know what make/model and color car you’re looking to test drive. You’re ready to hit up the dealership.
Once you’re there, you’re going to get 20-30 seconds to look around before somebody with a big smile will approach you and introduce themselves. At this point, you can choose to engage them, or if you’d prefer, tell them you want to walk around and look for a while and you’ll come get them when you’re ready to talk.
I like to shoo them off at first, it’s a good way to let the salesperson know right off the bat that you’re not going to be a pushover.
When you’re ready, go get the salesman and show him the vehicle that you’d like to test drive.
Presuming that goes well, you’re now going to have an awkward experience in the sales office.
In the sales office
This is where you first see the numbers on paper. The total cost including tax, fees, levies etc. The car might start to look like it’s not such a great deal at this point.
The sales office is where they’re going to try to sell you a whole host of goodies to go along with your new ride. Some examples are:
- Paint protection
- Running boards
- Infotainment package
- Satellite radio
These are just a few. I use one simple rule here. If I didn’t want it before I came, I still don’t want it. If I think I might want it, then I need a day or two to think about it.
Remember, you can get up and leave at any time.
Car salesmen are only human. But they’re humans who spend every minute of their working life getting better at negotiating and convincing you to hand over your money.
Having bought several new vehicles, I’ve seen my share of dealership theatrics. Years ago, while I was negotiating the deal on a new pickup truck, the salesman went to his manager and returned several minutes later with a surprised look on his face.
“I’ve never seen him offer this price before…”
Give me a break.
If he’s been there any length of time, he’s seen every scenario. If he hasn’t, ask for a more experienced sales rep to negotiate the deal.
The entire process is designed to get you to spend more money.
It’s your money, and you’re in charge, don’t forget that.
Before you leave the sales office, they’re going to try and get you to either commit to buying a vehicle by using the form mentioned above, or get you to agree to put a deposit on a car.
I recommend that you not do either of these things until you are 100% ready to purchase a vehicle. They might try to scare you into thinking that the car you want will sell. If they do this ask them if they’re a (insert brand here) dealership? When they reply that they are, say: “fantastic, you should be able to get another one if I come back then.”
When you’re finished in the sales office, you can do one of 3 things.
- Decide you’re not ready to buy and go home.
- Go shop around! Hit up some other dealerships and try to beat their price.
- If you’re ready to buy, your next stop is the financing office.
In The Financing Office
Whether you finance your vehicle or not, when you’re finished up in the sales office, you’ll be ushered into the financing office. The person in this office will probably take another crack at selling you things that you said no to in the sales office, and then start in with his offerings. These might include:
- Loan disability/life insurance
- Undercoating/rust coat/ electronic rust protection
- Window etching
- Roadside assistance
- Prepaid maintenance packages
- Extended warranty
- Tire warranty
Now, I’m going to tell you that I think all of this is overvalued crap, but don’t just take it from me.
Here’s the thing: the dealership finance department is where they make much of their money. Remember that no matter how sincere the financing person seems, everything that they convince you to buy will inflate their sales numbers and probably contribute to their monthly or annual bonus.
Pretty much all of the stuff they will try to sell you can be either be bought later from the dealer if you decide you want it, or purchased at a fraction of the cost from a third party.
I said it before, and it bears repeating: If you didn’t need it before you came, you still don’t. If you think you might need it now, you need to think about it for a day.
Once you have finished with the finance department, I recommend you do the most uncomfortable thing possible: leave. Unless your old car is dead on the side of the road and you literally can’t get home (taxi?). You can, and should shop around.
Related Post: Why I Finally Bought A New (To Me) Car
Compare Offers With Other Dealerships
If you made it through the first dealer and didn’t buy, why not take a crack at getting a better offer from a different dealer? You can hit up a few dealerships in a day. Even if you’re set on a certain type of vehicle, there are almost certainly other dealers who sell that brand in your city, or in a nearby town.
If you have the final offer from the financing department at one dealer, why would you not shop that number around and see if you can drive it down?
Whatever dealership you go to is going to be just as eager for your business. Take advantage of the situation, get yourself the best deal that you possibly can. You can always go back to the first dealer if you really want to. And when you do, you’ll likely be armed with a better price from another.
Question for you?
What tactics do you use to get the best deal on a large purchase?