Having gone through the car-purchase process twice about three years ago, and having just been asked last week by my oldest child for some advice, I decided to offer these tips. I trust no one will think this grandfather of eight (so far) is too far off his rocker…
1. Do your homework (research) using friends, family, Craigslist, and especially Consumer Reports to establish a list of cars (make, model, year, options) that will be reliable purchases at the price your budget can afford. Public and college libraries usually have the Consumer Reports annual buyer’s guide on reserve (online subscriptions may be about $6/month or $30/year).
2. Use the power of cash by budgeting wisely and saving the price you need for the car you want and then sticking to that amount. You also will feel better later as you are not still making monthly contributions. As Dave Ramsey states, “Cars drive better if they aren’t dragging payments.” Avoid the “extras” the finance manager (one who has you sign the papers) must offer you including extended warranty, service, coatings, VIN etchings, scotch guarding, etc.
3. Be ready to write the check on the spot when the deal that suits you (you’ve compared and researched) is confirmed. A personal check is usually just as good as certified or cashiers for this purpose. The power of paying “cash” is of utmost importance. With cash in hand, don’t be anxious about negotiating.
4. Don’t forsake large dealerships. These may be the best source of 1-4 year old vehicles (not buying brand new let’s somebody else take that huge first-year depreciation). Dealers have access to program cars and late-model trade-ins that many of the smaller used car lots don’t carry. They probably gave rock-bottom $$$ for those trade-ins. While a Car-Fax could be a good thing especially on an “older” car, CarMax is probably a “dealer” to avoid. Their cars are often pricier than other dealerships.
5. Avoid car rental dealers. Call before wasting time, but these cars will have had multiple drivers with minimal upkeep and higher miles (smoking customers, too).
6. Look to the future. Stick with cars that Consumer Reports rates reliable. You want the deal you make to be good today as well as several years into the future.
7. Don’t trade…at first. After you make your best deal – the one you are happy with – then ask what you might get extra off that cash price for your trade-in. It may be worth the hassle of not having to sell it yourself to trade it in even for a few hundred less than what you might expect in a personal sale (do your homework on your current car’s value). Remember, you must keep at least liability insurance on the extra vehicle until it sells.
8. Talk OTD…that’s out-the-door pricing with the dealer. This would include all taxes, title, license, dealer prep, transportation, etc. The power of cash makes this possible. Don’t forget to ask up front for that third key and a full tank of gas (okay if you don’t get these).
9. Get the OTD in writing. Have the sales person initial what has been promised. Ask for how long that OTD price is guaranteed (at least 24 hours while you consider and compare); and “Will the sales manager honor it tomorrow?” On any purchase this large, you need a night to sleep on it and pray about it; so you purchase with no regrets. Ask yourself, “Am I really finished comparing prices? Is this the best car for the money for me right now?”
10. ALWAYS BE READY TO WALK. After all the comparing and gathering confirmed OTDs, still be prepared to walk out if the deal is not as you understood it would be. On two occasions in the last few years, the dealerships called us back by phone to offer us the deal from which we had walked away. Once we agreed and made the purchase; once we did not. Don’t get in a hurry – that’s why you don’t usually sell your current car before the deal is made for the next one – and don’t “impulse buy” for an item this expensive.
Summary: The real trick is to make sure…THEY ARE MORE EAGER TO SELL THAN YOU ARE TO BUY! This may include shopping as close to the end of the month as possible or even on a rainy day in the late afternoon.
- ► 2010 (26)