(1) Plan for Eight, Hope for Two
Many people claim to be able to be in and out of a car dealership in less than an hour. Other people claim to have been abducted by aliens. They may be the same people.
Set aside the whole day. If you wrap it up in 2 hours, go show your new ride to friends and family. If it turns into an 8-hour day, at least you were prepared for it.
It happens daily. Someone goes to a dealership, finds a car, negotiates, but has to leave before finishing the deal. The next day, the car is gone. They get mad, but the reality is that people often promise to be back the next day and never show. Unless they put a cash deposit down, most vehicles cannot be held.
(2) Have an Inside Man (or woman)
Most receptionists at car dealerships know more about salespeople than anyone. They are the least biased employees because it doesnâ€™t matter to them whether you buy or not.
Call ahead and ask point blank, â€œI really want an honest, pleasant salesperson to work with me. If you were me, who would you buy a car from?â€
Not very many will answer, but itâ€™s worth a shot. If you can get a response, it will most likely be a useful one.
(3) Leave the Kids and Eliminate Distractions
If at all possible, do not bring kids to the dealership unless everything is already set up to be finalized. Buying a car can be long, strenuous, and overall unpleasant. Donâ€™t make it worse by bringing kids.
Set your phone to silent. If you canâ€™t, make sure the office and everyone else knows to only call for emergencies. Treat buying a car as if it is something important. That shouldnâ€™t be hard â€“ it IS important.
(4) Bring Donuts
Believe it or not, car salespeople are human. Even most sales managers are human.
Bringing donuts sets the tone. You will be instantly liked, not only by your salesperson, but everyone who indulges in your treats. It sounds insane, but when it comes down to those final negotiating dollars and cents, a considerate customer will receive more consideration from the dealership.
If they like you and want you to be their customer, there is a decent chance they will step out a little further to earn your business. If it saves you $50, $100, or $500, why wouldnâ€™t you want to spend $10 on a couple of boxes of donuts?
(5) Eat First
The last thing you want to hear when in the heat of an important negotiation is your stomach. It has been scientifically proven that hunger can cloud our judgment and negatively affect our state of mind.
Eat. A car deal can take a long time to complete. Even those who pride themselves on being able to get in and out of a dealership can often run into the unforeseeable roadblock of waiting to get into finance to finalize the deal. A pleasant meal before embarking can eliminate a potentially unpleasant factor in the process.
(6) Use a Lifeline
Phone a Friend. On Who Wants to be a Millionaire, itâ€™s the most important lifeline. On Who Wants a Good Deal on a Car, it is possibly more important.
Have someone available by a computer to look up anything you need to know. For used vehicles, have your lifeline compare prices of the one you are considering to local cars that are similar by checking sites such as San Diego Used Cars or other local internet dealer listings.
The information you find may help in negotiations. They can also maybe steer you to a different dealership. If this is the case, youâ€™ll need to buy more donuts.
For new cars, you should know all of the information before going to the dealership because youâ€¦
(7) Work the Internet First
Especially for new cars, it is important to get a quote online from the internet departments of good dealerships. Check with Edmunds for new car values, then compare your findings with actual dealer inventories.
For many dealers, the internet department is comprised of salespeople only. Others, such as Ford in Oklahoma City, have customer service people handling their internet leads.
You have an opportunity to cut through much of the red tape and get straight to the price with a true internet coordinator. If they are commissioned salespeople, then you might as well refer back to â€œAsk the Receptionistâ€ before deciding to work with them or not.
(8) Drive Baby, Drive
When you narrow it down to a vehicle that truly piques your interest, ask to take an extended test drive without a salesperson. With most state laws regarding insurance, your full coverage should cover it. Any dealership who wonâ€™t allow it is one that doesnâ€™t like losing control of a customer, and thus probably isnâ€™t the right place to do business.
Drive it on the highway. Find an empty parking lot if possible and test the feel of the brakes (without putting yourself in danger). Spend some time with your favorite station/cd/mp3 playing. Spend some time with the stereo off.
Whatever you do, donâ€™t make a large purchase like buying a vehicle without an extended test drive first.
(9) Trust Your Gut
The human instinct is normally very trustworthy. If you feel that you have found a good car at a good price, you probably have. If you arenâ€™t sure, keep working.
If you have a strong negative feeling about the car deal, chances are you havenâ€™t found the right vehicle, havenâ€™t gotten the best deal, or didnâ€™t bring enough donuts.
(10) Enjoy the Experience
In The Princess Bride, Billy Crystalâ€™s character says, â€œHave fun storming the castle!â€
The line is nearly as ridiculous as someone saying, â€œHave fun buying a car!â€ Still, I will say it with feeling.
It doesnâ€™t have to be bad. The dark ages of car buying (1978-1997) are all but gone, thanks tremendously to the internet. Many of the sleazy salesmen of yore have withered to selling furniture, vacuum cleaners, or real estate. Those who are left have been reprimanded often enough by an informed public and therefore have reluctantly adapted.
There are still bad ones out there, but not nearly in the bulk that existed before. An old- line salespeople used to use when getting caught asking for full sticker on a vehicle went like this:
â€œI didnâ€™t think you were a fool, but if you were, I didnâ€™t want to miss you!â€
Thanks to the internet, many dealers start off discounting a car before the customer asks for it. The old line has been replaced by one that is more relevant in todayâ€™s competitive car market:
â€œYou may not have checked it out online, but if you did, I didnâ€™t want to insult you.â€
I hope it helps.
After 14 years on and off in the car business, J.D. Rucker has grown to love and despise it as whole. Now with Ford in Oklahoma City and San Diego Used Cars, J.D. has finally found places where his honesty and integrity are considered positive character traits.
His experience is expressed in this and other Car Buying Tips articles.
Hope they help.