By Rod Davis- President BBB Serving Southeast FL and the Caribbean
When it comes to buying a car, some people like the challenge, but most people do not. According to a 2016 Harris Poll, 61% of people feel taken advantage of when buying a new car. So today I want to share information with you to simplify the process and help you feel empowered to take control of the car buying process.
Choose a car model
Check out various models to determine those that provide the look, features and other priorities that are most important to you. As an example, I wanted a car that was fuel efficient, reliable, sits high (e.g. a crossover), and, of course, looked good to me. Research and think about the equipment and options the car offers, the safety features you want, the conditions you will be driving in, and any other needs you have in mind for yourself or your family. Consult resources like Consumer Reports. It is best to identify a couple of options since you may not like how one or two options feel when you drive and to maximize your bargaining power.
How to purchase
The next thing to do is decide whether to purchase or lease a vehicle. As a general rule, if you put lots of miles on your car or if you have problems avoiding the dings and dents on a new car, leasing may not be the best option for you since most leases have mileage limitations or impose significant fees for any damage beyond normal wear and tear. Additionally, some people just prefer to purchase a vehicle with the goal of paying off the loan and having a vehicle for a few years without payments.
Leasing a vehicle can appeal to individuals who like to drive a vehicle they might not be able to purchase. You can generally get more car for less money on a lease like driving a Mercedes-Benz or similar car. Some people also like the ability to stay in a relatively new car and leasing permits customers to cycle through to new cars at the end of the lease term.
Most new car dealers will have incentives and financing options. You can check out current options at: www.edmunds.com/car-incentives/. You should also talk to your bank to see what financing deals they can provide to you. Bankrate.com also helps you obtain financing options: bankrate.com/loans/auto-loans/current-auto-loan-interest-rates/
Doing your research before stepping into a dealership will enable you to be a more confident consumer. Once you step into the dealership you will know what you can afford and that you will have a good rate if you decide to finance your new car.
Getting your price
The internet provides some great tools to help consumers find and negotiate a price. Both TrueCar and Edmunds provide tools on their websites to help you search for the car(s) you are seeking to purchase and to lock in the price at a designated dealership. If you don’t enjoy negotiating in the dealership, you will appreciate these options.
Whether you use TrueCar, Edmunds, or another service to identify a vehicle to test drive, you should do a check on the dealership you are considering. Check out the BBB report on each dealership to see if they have a good record with consumers. Read their reviews and complaints and whether they are BBB Accredited so you will know if the dealership deserves your business and can be trusted.
At the dealership
Take control of the relationship with the dealership. If you have pre-selected your vehicle and obtained a price, make sure you print out the documentation to take with you. Remember that an ethical auto dealer will let you take the time you need to make a conscious and thought-out decision. If someone is rushing you and putting pressure on you, you may not want to do business with them.
Here are some things to do during your visit to the dealership:
- Take your time. If you don’t want to make a decision on your first visit, tell the dealer upfront. Let them know you want to take a test drive and will be making your decision on a purchase later.
- Go on a test drive. This is one of the most important things to do! Drive each model you are considering and try to do so in a variety of conditions (driving through traffic, on a highway, and on back roads). Take a test drive checklist with you to examine important characteristics of the car and check out all of the features. While driving, carefully check the brakes, steering, outward visibility, and gear shifting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Determine the price for the car. If you have not obtained a price quote before getting to the dealer, here is some additional guidance as you negotiate a price. The MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) sticker price taped to the car window is the amount the dealer is seeking and may be about 10-15% more than what the dealer paid for the car. Tell the salesperson exactly what car and options you would like, and ask for the best price. The invoice price is a target for you in your negotiation. In some cases, the dealer will receive additional funds from the manufacturer above the invoice price upon sale of the vehicle. Use the information from Edmunds and other sites to set your target price. You may be less likely to get a good price on a more popular car that is in short supply. If you have done your research in advance you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate and to know if you have a good deal.
Wrapping up the deal
At the time of the purchase, make sure you take with you the bill of sale, purchase agreement, loan agreement, and registration papers. Make sure all guarantees, warranties, or service contracts are in writing and that you understand them. If there is a deposit due at signing, ask whether it is refundable, and under what circumstances, and be sure that is spelled out in the contract. Double check all fees and terms before you sign.