Buying a Car? 9 Tips to Saving You Money and Time

I am writing this article to save you pain, aggravation and money when you venture off to buy your next car.  I have found that preparation is critical if you want to come out of the process alive and with a good deal.  

1.    Do your research.  Having an idea of what you want to pay for a car before you get onto the car lot is one of the most important things.  There are services which you can buy which will give you the dealer invoice and the dealer cost of all the accessories.  What the dealer pays for a car is often below the invoice on the car.  The invoice does not take into account what the manufacturer, customer and dealer rebates, volume discounts and holdbacks there are that drop the dealer’s cost below what the stated invoice price is.  Read the reviews in the car magazines.  I particularly like the ones in Road and Track Magazine.  
2.    Make a list of dealers. When you are ready to buy you will already know where you are going to shop.  This will make your shopping efficient and add confidence to you; you will know what you are doing.  I recommend only looking when you are ready to buy and once you have done your research from step 1 above.  If you are not prepared and ready when you go out, the salesmen will try to work you over – that is their job.  You will just waste a lot of your time and theirs.  You may leave the dealership with something that you weren’t ready for.  Some of those sales guys really know how to get in your head.
3.    The auto dealership is in the business to make money.  Always remember this: the car dealer is not your friend.  Your goal is to buy a car for the lowest possible price.  Their goal is to sell you a car for the highest price.  You are not looking for new fishing buddies.  If you think you have become his friend you probably got taken. When you leave the dealership, you will just give him more stories to tell the rest of his car lot buddies for how bad he screwed you.  If you do fall in love with a particular car, don’t let them know it.  The salesmen will use whatever advantage they can to jack the price up.
4.    Bring the advertisement with you. If a particular ad gets your attention, be sure to bring a copy of it with you to the lot.  If there is a specific car deal advertised that you are interested in, ask to see that particular car.  If you are informed that it is sold ask to see the proof of the sale.  The advertising might have been something just to get you to come in and the deal did not really exist. Often they will try to switch you to a similar car for just a little more.  If the car is still around, test drive it.  If you like it, buy it, you probably will have gotten a deal on it because the sale was likely to be below their real cost. If this is the case, the dealership will probably make up for the loss as a tax write off for advertising.

5.    Most dealerships are set up as system houses.  This means that a salesman will greet you and have you pick out a car you like and take you for a test drive.  They will then promise you a fabulous price if you take the deal now.  They will ask you what it will take to earn your business today.  If you like the car and want to buy it, make your offer for at least a thousand dollars less than what you would actually be willing to pay.  You will then most likely be asked to fill out a form which will have the VIN number and MSRP on it.  It is referred to as the T Square.  You will then be asked to sign it.  If you sign it and the sales manager signs it you have bought the car.  That probably will not happen on the first round however.  The salesman will take the signed form to the manager and they will mess around with it for 15 or 20 minutes or so to make you think that they are working on it.  This offer and counter offer process may go on for awhile.  Don’t give in.  They want you to get frustrated with the process so you will give in and just take the deal.  Always be prepared to walk away.  Just remember that there are dozens of dealers that can offer you the car in the area that you live in.  I’m sure they would appreciate the opportunity to give it a shot.  If you do work out a price and the manager brings back an acceptable offer, don’t sign right away.  This is a great time to ask them to start throwing in items.  I don’t think you should have to pay extra for floor mats. See what you can get.
6.    Get Qualified for your financing.  This process will potentially save you time, embarrassment and money. You’ll need to know your credit. If you haven’t pulled your credit in a while, now may be a good opportunity to do so. Knowing your recent report could save you time and embarrassment at the dealer.  If there are surprises or mistakes on your report, when do you want to find out, at the dealer or at home? Knowing what you can do financially before you get to the lot can be a huge advantage to you.  When you show them what you can do they may offer you a better deal on their financing. They make money on that too.
7.    Get a promise for after purchase items.  If you decide to buy the car and there are items that are not on the car yet that you have paid for, have the dealer put together a “We Owe” document.  This form is a promise to install items on the car at a later time.  You may have purchased the car at the end of the day and window tinting was part of the package but it is not installed yet.  The “We Owe” is your proof of the agreement so you can bring the car back another day for them to install whatever it is that was promised.
8.    Get the extended warranty – later.  You don’t need two warranties on a car.  I would recommend researching this on the internet before you buy anyway.  There are dozens of aftermarket car warranty companies out there. See what’s available.
9.    Sell your own trade in vehicle.  You will get more for it and it will simplify the process.  If you just have to trade, I recommend going to Kelly Blue Book, www.kbb.com, for information on how much your car is worth.  You will not get on the high end on the trade, and I don’t want you to be surprised or insulted when they tell you your “baby” is not worth what you think it is.  

I hope this information will help you as much as it has helped me in the past.  If I have saved you some stress then I have done my job.  Happy car hunting!