How To Buy A Car

by drjim on June 10, 2008

Used car salesman

Used car salesman

So let’s spend some time talking about something that we can all relate to: buying a car. It’s all good and fine to talk about negotiating concepts, but buying a car is when the (pardon the pun) rubber really hits the road. Nobody that I know ever looks forward to the whole process of buying a car. Although they want a car, they don’t want the hassle that they have to go through to get one. For the purposes of this discussion, we won’t care if you are looking for a new or a used car — the process is basically the same. Let’s see if we can make things just a bit easier for you the next time you need to go car shopping:

  1. Determine Your Schedule: This will set the tone for the whole car buying process: how much time do you have before you need to have a car? The more time that you have before you need to make a decision, the more power you have. If you currently have a car to drive or if you walk/bike/run everywhere and can keep doing so, then you are (another pun) in the driver’s seat. You can take your time in selecting the brand, model, and sales location that you want to buy from. If things aren’t going your way at any time, you can just stop the process and restart it whenever it suits you. On the other hand, if your clunker just gave up the ghost and you really need a new set of wheels, like yesterday, then you have less negotiating power, but you can maximize what power you do have. You do this by spending more time on the car search right now and doing your research throughly and moving quickly. If you spend more time now, then you’ll have all of the information that you need and you can lead the negotiations.
  2. Find Out What You Want: Negotiations can’t start until you decide exactly what you want. If you already know, then great move on to the next step. If you don’t know, then this is the time to do some off-line research and then go do some test driving. No matter what the “helpful” salesperson says, keep in mind that you are not a car buyer right now — you are a car researcher and so your one and only job is to decide what make and model you want. Don’t sweat options and maintenance packages right now — just pick a car!
  3. Research How Much This Car Should Cost: Ah, isn’t living in the 21st Century grand? Thanks to the power of the Internet you can go online and quickly find out how much your dealer paid for. A great place to start is Edmunds.com. If you need to understand the difference between Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, Dealer Invoice price, etc., then checkout an excellent overview at WikiAnswers. Once you know what a reasonable price is, then you are ready to negotiate.
  4. Own The Stage: When you go to a car dealer to start negotiating, it is as though you are walking onto a stage. This is one of the reasons that so many people fear buying a car — they’ve got stage fright. Ideally you want the salesperson to be eager to talk to you so you should do you best to set things up in your favor. We all know that car dealers want to move as much inventory as possible before the end of the month/year. If you can wait until that time is drawing close, then you’ll improve your position. No matter what, make sure that you have all the time in the world to talk to the car dealer because that will put you in control of the discussion. The salesperson won’t have the same amount of time and so you’ll be in control.
  5. The Last Word Said Is The Most Important: Realize that even after you’ve reached a fair price for your car, the salesperson is still participating in the negotiating game — it’s not over yet. You need to stay awake and engaged because this is where the money can slip out of your wallet / purse. Taxes, documentation, dealer prep are all negotiable items and the salesperson is going to want to present them to you as fixed items. Don’t give up now!

No matter what information I can pass on to you, buying a car will always be an experience that causes emotions to run high simply due to the amount of money that is involved. If you follow these simple steps, you can at least be more calm and focus on achieving the outcome that will make you a happy driver for years to come.

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