What scares you the most? Is it the dentist, a scary movie, a blind date? Maybe it’s stepping foot on a car dealership lot.
The truth is that almost everyone hates going to a car dealership to buy a new car. In fact, many people surveyed would rather have their teeth pulled without Novocain than to buy a new car.
Buying a new car should be a happy experience; It should be fun and pleasant, smooth and easy. It is the second largest purchase you’ll make and you’ll probably make one about every 4.5 years. What can you do to reduce the anxiety the next time you go to buy a car?
To reduce the anxiety, you must prepare and commit yourself to two very important principles. The first is never to set foot in a car dealership showroom without having first made an appointment. The second important thing to remember is never hesitate to say "no" and to walk out of the dealership when you don’t get what you want. If you adhere to these two basic rules, you will save a great deal of time and frustration, and reduce a lot of the anxiety and unhappiness that goes along with being unprepared.
Although it may not appear to be so, selling cars has a very time tested process associated with it. It may vary slightly from dealer to dealer, but the essential process is the same. At the core of this process is the goal of keeping you in the dealership for as long as possible and to keep you emotionally invested in the process. The longer the dealer keeps your attention, the less likely you are to “walk”. The reason this tactic works so well is that as the time passes, you ultimately reach a “point of no return” at which you feel so much tension over the transaction you would rather stay and finish it than leave and have to start all over again somewhere else. Dealers are very smart about this and a good car salesperson knows how to manipulate you to the maximum.
When you walk into a dealership without an appointment, you have given the edge to the dealer. The old saying “a good defense is the best offense” holds true when you buy a car. Don’t give the dealer the advantage of time. If you do, he’ll always win.
As part of this process, the dealer will play some games with you to wear down your resistance. Part of this strategy is wrapped up in the time element. For example once you have decided on the car you want, you’ll notice that you will be parked in an office for quite awhile while the salesperson has your trade-in evaluated and starts working up the numbers. Another area where time works against you is when you go to the business office (or financing department) to wrap up the deal. The business manager or financing director is going to try to sell you all sorts of goodies that make him a nice commission and the dealer a lot of extra profit. These people are in many ways better sales people than the showroom sales people. They have skills of persuasion that are not for the faint of heart. It is not unusual for people to walk into the business office prepared to only spend $250 per month and end up leaving with a monthly payment of $400 per month with a grin on their face. They don’t quite know how they did it and sometime the next day there is a good chance that they’ll suffer buyer’s remorse, but by then it’s too late to do anything about it. If they had learned the second skill of learning to say "no" and walking out they would not be in that situation.
So, armed with this knowledge what steps can you take to keep the advantage in your court? First use the internet to research the car you want. You can get all the information you want from just about any website before you go to the dealer. Just remember that some sites will sell your information as a lead to dealers which can result in potentially unwanted communications from sales people. The manufacturer website will give you all the current information on special finance and other incentives. Some other websites give you information on incentives that are not publicized that may also help to save you money. Armed with this information you are ready to contact a dealer.
Pretty much every dealership has an internet sales unit. Some calls get sent to a manned call center. Other dealerships send their internet sourced calls to a designated sales agent who get dibs on internet leads. Still in some cases, the calls just get sent to available floor salespeople. Dealers know that customers want to deal directly with a manager so practically everyone you speak to is going to tell you they are a manager, but in reality most of them aren't managers. So when you call, be sure you know who you are actually speaking with.
Once you have identified who you are actually speaking with, you need to get three things accomplished. First, you need to verify that the car you want is actually at the dealership. The second thing you want to know is what the “out the door price” of the car will be assuming you purchase it with no trade. If you want to lease the car, have the dealer give you the bottom line monthly payment with tax included. Specify the terms you want and make sure the dealer is clear about how much money you have to pay in order to drive off with the car at the desired payment amount. The third thing you need to do, if you plan to finance or lease the vehicle is to get pre-approved before you arrive. It's best to know before you get to the dealer exactly what you can borrow, what the interest rate will be and what rebates or incentives apply, if any. Again, the less time you spend at the dealership, the better. Sitting in the business office waiting for a credit decision only gives the dealer more time to wear you down on your deal. Your time is valuable to you; make the dealer respect your time by doing as much work for you before you arrive.
Once you are satisfied that all the details have been addressed, schedule a confirmed appointment and know the name of the person that you’ll be meeting. Ask that a confirmation email be sent to you confirming the terms you discussed (vehicle availability, price or payment, date and time of the appointment). You should specifically ask that the car you requested (by stock number) be out in front with your name on it ready to be driven. This is a very important point because dealers are notorious about telling you they have cars in stock that they really don’t have.
When you arrive at the dealership, the car you asked for should be outside as you requested. Ask for the person you have the appointment with, and be sure to have the email confirmation in hand. If all goes well the vehicle and salesperson will be ready to go. By being prepared the dealership shows that they value your business and respect your time. But if you arrive and the car is not there or the salesperson or manager is not ready, WALK OUT AND LEAVE. Regardless of what happens or what they say either go somewhere else or tell the dealer to call you when they have what you asked for available. No dealer wants to see a customer walk away especially on a day when they are off their quota. The quicker you get to your car, the more desperate they will be to get you back inside. You gain the upper hand and the advantage the minute you get up and leave, even if you have to come back the next day. Remember the idea is to retain control by making the dealer sweat.
At any point in your deal, if you are not given what you want or expect, do not hesitate to say NO. If necessary it is better to "walk" than to stay and argue with the dealer. Of course, the caveat here is that you have to be reasonable. A little give and take works to your advantage, too. Besides if you do leave or say "no", there is a very good chance you'll end up getting what you want anyway. When you leave, the dealer will probably call you within a few hours or the next day to tell you they are going to give you what you want if you come back.
Of course, it would be nice if everything went well and you did not have to walk out three times or spend hours haggling over the deal. Unfortunately there are too many less than storybook endings to the many car buying stories in the naked city. That is why, hopefully, armed with the tools described here you will at least have a better chance of getting that good deal and proudly showing off your new car to your friends and relatives. And, when asked about your experience, you won't have to tell your friends that buying that new car was like having your teeth pulled. Good luck and happy motoring!