11 Tips You Should Know Before Buying a Car
- Friday, February 10, 2006
Last time, I shared my history as a car salesman and encouraged Christians to be shrewd in their dealings with the world - especially in regards to their finances. Now, I want to share some tips on the right way to buy a car based on my own sales experience as well as the experiences of others. Knowing the best way to go about making this important purchase will help you and your family be better stewards of God's resources.
1) Show Up Near the End of the Month. Car dealers are like most other businesses — there is often a mad dash in the last few days of the month to "make the numbers." You may find that the dealer will bend a little further in the closing days of a month to put another sale on the books. Remember, the best time to buy a car is when the salesman wants to sell it worse than you want to buy it.
2) It Is Hard to Know What A Car Really Cost the Dealer. Don’t be too trusting when a salesman vows that he’s "giving it to you at cost." To begin with, his idea of "cost" and yours may not be the same. When you hear "cost" you probably think of the amount the dealer paid to buy the car. On the other hand, the salesman actually may be referring to what he paid for the car, plus other "little incidentals" like shipping, undercoating, dealership overhead, profits and commission.
And, even if the dealer is willing to discuss his "invoice price," there may be more here than meets the eye. Despite some very helpful tip books and internet sites that disclose dealer costs on cars, it’s still not always easy to get to the bottom line. One reason has to do with a thing called "holdbacks." This is a practice that allows some dealers to get an additional 1% to 3% discount from the factory — taken off the invoice price they may show you. Being aware of this may help you negotiate a better deal.
3) Don’t Let Your Emotions Take Over. Nothing toughens a salesman’s pricing resolve more than a customer who is drooling on the hood of one of his cars! These guys are pros. Just like a dog can sense fear, a car salesman can tell when you have "car fever." Be cool. Be nonchalant.
4) Learn the Negotiating Game. Just like football and basketball, the game of car selling has its own set of rules. The better acquainted you are with these rules, the better your car buying experience will be.
Frequently, it goes something like this: You come onto the lot. Based on a rotating system between the sales staff — you are assigned to the next salesman as his "up." With a happy smile and a firm handshake, the game begins. When you become interested in a particular car, the salesman will invite you into his office. Once you’re seated (usually with your back to the door), he has your full attention. Now, it is his job to get you to make an offer, preferably in writing, that he can "take to the manager." If you fall for this, you will be in a position of weakness. By making the first offer, you show your level of interest and your financial starting point.
Now all the salesman has to do is "present your offer to the manager." Momentarily, he comes back telling how his manager (who may not even be involved) is crying and saying it would bankrupt the dealership to sell you the car at that price. But, glory be — his manager has agreed to sell the car at a price that’s only a couple of thousand dollars higher (which is curiously close to the original sticker price)! From here, it often is just a waiting game to see who blinks first. Their job is to keep you on the lot until you buy the car. By the way, if you have made the mistake of handing them the keys to the car you’re trading — you may have a long wait while the used car manager "appraises" your car.
My approach is different. When I come on a lot I move fast. I like to see how many cars I can look at before the sales guy gets to me. When he arrives, I’m friendly but noncommittal. He doesn’t really know what I want, or how badly I want it. If I find a car that interests me, I ask him for the price. If it’s too high (and, it usually is) I tell him so. Then, despite his protests, I refuse to go to his office. I simply pull out one of business cards and jot my cell phone number on it (as I’m walking back to my car). I hand him the card and say something like, "Look, I know you’re going to have to get with management on this because I’m not willing to pay anything close to your sticker. I’m going to be visiting some other car lots in the area. Why don’t you guys figure your best price and give me a call in a few minutes. If you’re in the ballpark, maybe I can drive back over and we’ll talk."
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