Buying a new car can be a bit of a “Catch 22″ for a lot of people, as millions of Americans every day get this feeling of dread in the pit of their stomach every time they go near a car lot. It isn’t that the idea of buying a car is a bad thing, it is the process and the people you have to deal with in order to get said vehicle that really turns drivers away.
From overly aggressive salesmen to confusing paperwork that leaves you wondering where all the added dealer fees came from, the entire buying process is a waking nightmare for many consumers. There is deception at every turn, and the Federal Trade Commission’s recent crack down on fraudulent car dealer advertising is a testament to how truly bad things have gotten. As more and more legitimate car dealerships are hit with heavy-handed court summonses, Americans are left wondering whom they should trust.
Sure, you can custom order any car you want online these days, but you still have to go to a dealer to pick it up, and heavens knows they are going to try and sneak in a few “extras” that you “have to have” before heading out the door. People tend to feel badgered and completely out of their element when we hit the showroom, and if it weren’t for advice and warnings from publications like Car and Driver we don’t know where we would be as a nation.
Here, we feel that you shouldn’t be afraid of the dealer. You’re the buyer, so ultimately you have all of the power, so naturally salesmen don’t want you to know that for fear of losing at their own game. So in order to help, we’ve come up with these seven tips, all designed to keep you protected, prepared, and positive. Remember, a dealer cannot force you to buy a car, and you have the ability to leave the car lot anytime you wish. So get out there and drive whatever looks good to you, because there are some really great cars that are just waiting for you to try them out.
1. The Pushy Salesman
This has got to be one of the biggest complaints people have when it comes time to buy a new car. These guys want that commission check and they want it now, so you get rushed into a hasty decision with a side of major regret.
Don’t be afraid to tell a salesman to slow their roll, and that you are only “feeling things out” months in advance because you don’t like to feel rushed. If that doesn’t cause them to push pause you should hit them with “You’re just spinning your wheels if you think I’m going to buy today.”
Letting them know that you are 100% in control and will buy when you feel like it is step one in making sure that you get treated with the respect any honest customer deserves. If they continue to act overbearing, ask for their manager, then explain to them that you are leaving to shop at their competition across the street because some jack-wagon didn’t know when to ease up.
2. Deceptive Advertising
This is where the Federal Trade Commission (F.T.C.) has been busy cracking skulls and sending out court summonses. Everyone from used car dealerships to award-winning new vehicle lots have been fudging the facts for decades, and you should be just as pissed-off as the F.T.C. because you’re the one getting scammed. Shop around, compare deals on the same vehicle from different dealerships, ask lots of questions, and know that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Bare Bones Atmosphere and Long Waits
Oh the tedium of sitting in a hard plastic chair listening to Toni Braxton wail about how you need to “unbreak her heart” when all you want to do is break free and get the hell out of there. While some dealerships are slowly becoming more opulent and inviting, the vast majority of them still have the collective charm of a hospital cafeteria. We suggest changing things up by hopping out for a quick spin in another car while they get all of the paperwork ready, and if you just so happen to choose the most performance-oriented car on the lot chances are you will come back with a smile on your face and a song in your heart (one that isn’t Toni Braxton).
4. Interest and Taxes on Rebates
Rebates are always a huge selling point for automakers and dealers, but what buyers don’t know is that those discounts often contain hidden loopholes that dealerships use to their advantage. Anytime a salesman tells you that you’re getting a good deal because of a rebate, immediately take heed because rebates come from the manufacturer, and can be applied to whatever the final price is you have negotiated. Pretend as if there were no rebates to begin with, make sure the rebates are deducted from the final purchase price, and be forewarned that if the dealership offers to mail you a check after the sale, you will pay taxes and interest out the wazoo on the rebate.
Notably, never let something like a low APR or a rebate rush your decision. Incentives come around all the time, so don’t feel like you are “missing out” if you don’t act today. Salesmen will try and convince you that there are strings attached to incentives, and that you have to buy a certain trim, engine, or option package to qualify. Do some research, find out if this is true or not, and then call them out if they’re leading you on.
5. Monthly Payments Should Be Discussed Last
This is an area where you need to be very careful with what you say in order to protect yourself from asinine monthly payments. If a salesman asks how much you are willing to pay each month, don’t give them an answer, because if you throw out a number he likes, you might suddenly find yourself pigeonholed into an expensive monthly payment you never wanted. Be firm, and tell them you will only discuss monthly payments after a fair price has been agreed upon.
6. Refuse Every Fee and Add-on Possible
While things like delivery charges, titling fees, and closing costs are impossible to avoid when purchasing a new car, there is a lot of excess “fat” that can be trimmed down or removed entirely. Haggle over the fees, because chances are they can be lowered. An outright refusal to pay them is another technique that works well, and denying extra factory add-ons or anything offered by the finance and insurance manager will help keep closing costs to a minimum. If something gets offered to you after you’ve negotiated a final price, you shouldn’t pay for it.
7. Have a Set APR Plan
Our final cheat of the day is one that most people tend to overlook prior to hitting the dealership: As a consumer you should always shop for your own financing before heading to a retailer. Chances are you will find a better rate, or discover what rate you qualify for when it is time to buy. Knowing more than the finance manager is the name of the game here, and unsuspecting customers will often get duped into letting the dealership secure financing for them at one APR, only to find that they charged them 1% higher and pocketed the difference.