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 are some car shopping tips to help you 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.
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. You can then inform 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. It can go a long way towards preventing you from getting trapped in a high-interest auto loan.
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. 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. It will also extend the life of your loan.
You could also essentially throw away an opportunity to negotiate down the actual cost of the vehicle. This ties in with the aforementioned need to get pre-approved in advance. That way you’ll have a “bottom line” figure that you can use to negotiate cost 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. You may get locked into a deal that’s all wrong for you, if they know your options are limited. If you think you’re going to be in the market for a new car soon, start shopping around now.
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. Taking a few days to think it over will help you to be certain you’re getting a good deal. But, make sure get it in writing before you leave. If they’re unwilling to put their offer in writing, consider taking your business elsewhere.
The final car shopping tip…
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.