I never rush into spending large amounts of money, but my pristine, vista blue, 2007 Ford Mustang with the white race stripes across the doors needed a battery, brakes, tires, shocks, wipers, and an oil change. Being seven years old with repairs nearing $2,500, chances are things would start to go soon. Possibly major things no longer covered under Ford’s warrantee, like the transmission or head gasket. So I decided to trade it in for a direct-from-the-factory, race red, black rimmed, 2014 pony.
Car dealers possess poor reputations amongst the majority. Nobody enjoys being ripped off, so here are some tips I learned when purchasing from a dealership:
Do Your Homework
Before you even think about stepping into a dealership, research the vehicle you’re interested in. Check out the specs, performance reviews, and info on comparable competitor vehicles. For the upper hand, you should know what you’re talking about once you get there. “Knowledge is power.”
Nearly every major car company offers a “build your own” option on their websites. Use this to gauge the price of the vehicle after including all the options you want. It will also let you know if there are any factory rebates on the car upfront. This information prevents a dealer from pretending they are making a deal when really they are just deducting a standard rebate.
Next, find out the book value of your trade-in. Take into consideration mileage, condition of the body, and any internal service that may be required. Check prices for the same model online to assist the educated decision. You can sell your car privately for more money, but there’s a tremendous amount of time and hassle that accompanies the feat. If you can get fair value from a dealer, let them deal with it. Just hand over the title, keys, and headache to them.
You’re Not Friends
The representative who ambushes you the second the sole of your shoe touches the showroom floor will want to exchange pleasantries by asking a flurry of irrelevant questions. Don’t hesitate to give one word answers or change the subject back to the matter at hand. You’re there on business, not to make a new friend on Facebook. If you don’t get a good vibe from the salesperson, there’s no obligation to deal with them. Simply say you would prefer to deal with someone else you feel more comfortable with. If they get insulted, that’s too bad, so sad.
You are the one in charge. Show them it’s your world and they just live in it. Be the authority figure and watch them kiss your butt for it. The most important factor in displaying your command of the situation―never, ever smile. A smile fosters goodwill in business. You’re not preoccupied with goodwill. You want to save as much money as possible and unlike most businesses you purchase from, this one heavily relies on the ability to bargain.
It’s a Game
Poker requires quick, gambling-based decisions. Buying a car is no different. It’s a game where car dealers excel, just like a casino big wheel about to bankrupt you. In poker you bluff, never showing all your cards. Leave morals at the door and don’t be afraid to lie about your true intentions. When asked, “Would you be willing to make a deal today?” always reply “Yes,” even if impossible. They’ll come close to providing the best offer possible if they believe you’re going to sign the dotted line.
When physically inspecting the vehicle, be sure to mention you’re considering competitor vehicles as well. Compare them in a way that makes the competitor look like a better deal. For instance, say the body style of a particular car is nicer than what they are trying to sell you or the price of the other vehicle seems more enticing. Let them know they aren’t the only game in town and you’re willing to play the field.
Part of the game consists of the “back-and-forth” between salesperson and manager. You wait at a desk while they discuss their offer, doing so four or five times. Literally don’t sit for it―stand! Show them you are getting impatient and close to walking out. Pace back and forth. Fold your arms. If you have to, tell the salesperson to stop wasting your time and bring the manager over to you. Better yet, just walk away from the salesperson and approach the manager yourself. It will get everyone’s attention and show them you mean business.
Upon finally presenting an unexplained monthly payment number, they will ask if the number is close to what you want to pay. A lie ensues over the interest rate involved in the equation in order to “supposedly” drop the price, when really there’s no deal at all. In fact that’s where the rip off occurs.
Example: They tell you the interest rate is 3.9 percent when they use a number closer to 5.9. When they drop the price of the monthly payment, let’s say $10, realistically it’s not coming off the price of the car but rather on the interest rate that you wouldn’t be paying anyway. Thus pretending you just made a deal when in fact you just got tricked.
It’s best to lie before all this nonsense. Say you’re planning on paying without a loan and get down to the nitty-gritty of the car’s cost without interest numbers to throw you a curve. But if you slip up and tell them you need a loan, you need to go home to sleep on it so you can clearly think about if the math works for you using an easy-to-use online car loan calculator.
Seal the Deal
Now that you know the rules of the game, the upper hand is in your favor. Use the information you’ve acquired to bait a dealer from the same company at an alternate location or at a competitor company. If you decide to go back and make a deal after doing the math, tell them exactly what you want and how much you’re willing to pay. Don’t be fooled, they want to sell you the car so most likely a deal will get done. Follow these tips and you might just be driving off the lot in that brand new change of pace you were looking for with a little extra gas money in your pockets.