Recent news reports reveal that car shopping is experiencing something of an evolution, especially in the U.S. where it’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to educate themselves in advance to avoid getting skinned at the dealership.
Here’s some advice to avoid some of the most common tricks and tactics employed by car salesmen. Listen up – our advice could just save you some serious bucks.
Do your homework. Yes, homework is an ugly word. But the amount of savings you could be forfeiting by failing to do it could be even uglier. Don’t rely on car salesmen to tell you what kind of car will suit your needs – remember they’re salesmen, not mechanics – and instead perform your own research. The Internet is rife with websites that will help you determine what make and model is best for you, allowing you to compare safety performance with gas consumption and overall cost. If you have your heart set on a particular model before you walk onto a lot, you can save yourself from being talked into the wrong vehicle.
Call ahead. If you’ve ever walked onto a car lot looking for a specific model only to be told it’s no longer available, you’ve very likely been the victim of a “bait and switch” trick that’s commonly practiced. Sometimes dealerships will advertise certain cars for killer prices to get people to come in, and then try to sell them on something else by claiming a magically vanished inventory. You can easily avoid this by calling a day or two in advance to confirm that a particular model is still available – then informing the car salesman that you’ll be coming in to check it out.
Get your loan pre-approved first. Once you have an idea of exactly the kind of car you want, you also know exactly how much of a loan you’ll need to finance it. Before taking one step onto a car lot, visit your bank and get yourself pre-approved for a car loan. This brings you into the game with a critical piece of ammo that can go a long way towards preventing you from getting trapped in a high-interest auto loan through the dealership. It’ll also save you from another common tactic: being told you’re approved for financing, then being called back in a few days down the road and informed the interest rate will be much higher than you anticipated. This can be especially grievous if you’ve already taken your new ride home pending completion of financing.
Don’t focus on lowering your monthly payment. This is easier said than done for some, but you have to bear in mind that too much emphasis on lowering your monthly payment will ultimately cost you thousands of dollars more in interest and will extend the life of your loan. When you walk onto a car lot with a set monthly payment in mind, you’re essentially throwing away any opportunity you have to negotiate the actual cost of the vehicle down. This also ties in with the aforementioned need to get pre-approved in advance so you have a “bottom line” figure that you can use to negotiate cost down to where you need it to be.
Don’t wait until you’re desperate. Car dealers can smell desperation and will use it to their advantage to get you locked into a deal that may be all wrong for you, knowing your options are limited. If you think you’re going to be in the market for a new car soon, start shopping around now. Having an operational set of wheels gives you the ammo to be able to walk away from a negotiation if it’s not working to your advantage. If a car salesman also knows this, they’ll be all the more willing to negotiate. If a dealer does offer you a deal and you decide to take a few days to think it over, get it in writing before you leave. If they’re unwilling to put their offer in writing, consider taking your business elsewhere.
Buying a car should never be an impulse buy. Do your research, know what you want, and know how much you can spend ahead of time. This will put you on the best footing to deal with the potentially costly tricks that car dealers often practice.