Buying a new car can be intimidating. If you are uncomfortable with the high-pressure sales that define auto sales, standing in a dealership showroom can feel like racing three-wide at Daytona International Speedway. It can be nail-biting, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t have to be. You can go in like a champ and come out a winner.
Buying a new car like a champ is a lot like winning a racing championship. You cannot be timid. On the other hand, you can’t be overly aggressive either. You have to find that perfect balance that carries you to the winner’s circle. And here’s the thing: anyone can do it.
Far too many people view the car buying experience as a risky gamble. They see it as no different than hitting an online casino and playing the Big Banker Slot. They throw their money down, pull the handle, and hope for the best. Do not be that kind of car buyer. Buying a new car is not a slot game. It is more like a poker game. You have to outwit your opponent to win. You have to play the better strategy.
1. It Starts with Research
Winning at the car buying game starts with research. The more you know going in, the more easily you will recognise when the sales associate is trying to manipulate you. With that in mind, there are multiple things to research:
A. Your Credit History and Score
New car dealers would rather you be in the dark regarding your credit history and score. If you don’t know what your credit is like, you also don’t know what you actually qualify to buy. You do not know what kind of interest rates to expect or what types of terms your credit rating deserves. Don’t give the dealer that advantage.
You can research your credit history and score by using one of the many credit reporting agencies out there. These are the same agencies the car dealership will consult when trying to work out your financing. They have access to that information; there is no reason you shouldn’t as well.
B. The Car You Want
You should also research the car you want. If you don’t know what you want, there’s no harm in spending some time shopping online. You can even go window shopping at your local dealership, just so long as you don’t get roped into a long discussion with a sales associate.
Once you know what you want, research the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Run an online search to find out what that particular make and model usually sells for in your area. Find out how much it costs to insure and what the long-term total cost of ownership might be. When all is said and done, you want to know how much that car is worth to you. You want to know how much you are willing to pay for it.
C. Your Trade-In
If you have a car to trade in, you want to research its value as well. Just be aware that this particular item is speculative. Your trade-in is only worth what a dealer is willing to pay for it. So even if you can find an average value online, you may have to negotiate with the dealer to get what you want.
2. You Set the Agenda
Armed with all of the information gleaned from your research, it is time to visit the dealer. The #1 rule here is simple: you set the agenda. Do not walk in, browse around the showroom, and wait for a sales associate to start the conversation. Doing so puts the sales associate in a dominant position from the start.
You already know what car you want. So instead, walk in the door and immediately ask to see the sales associate who knows about that particular car. After the cursory handshakes and introductions, clearly state what you want. Let the sales associate know you are here to buy that car, you are willing to pay that price, and you have a trade-in worth so much.
If you really want to put the pressure on, give the sales associate a time limit. Tell him the deal has to be done in an hour or you walk out the door. You’ll be surprised by how effective this tactic is, but only if you are willing to follow through.
3. Do Not Surrender Your Car Keys
Within the first few minutes of meeting the sales associate, he might ask for your car keys in order to evaluate your trade-in. Do not surrender them. Taking your keys is a common tactic to force you to hang around. After all, you cannot leave if the guys in the maintenance department have your keys.
When the sales associate asks, politely decline and let it be known that you will accompany him outside when he’s ready to look at your car. When that time comes, follow through. Stand there and watch while your car is being inspected. Keep the pressure on. That’s the point here.
4. Bargain on Price Rather Than Payment
Buying a new car almost always requires negotiations. There is nothing wrong with that. However, be aware that another common tactic utilised by auto dealerships is to bargain based on monthly payments. The sales associate asks how much your monthly budget can support and then works up a deal accordingly. Do not fall for it.
Insist that your negotiations be based on the price of the car itself. Once you settle on that price, you can work out monthly payments afterward. Negotiating on price prevents the dealership from hiding an inflated price behind lower monthly payments.
5. Mum’s the Word
Finally, expect the sales associate to leave you alone in his office while he talks with his manager. In all likelihood, he and his manager are listening over the office phone’s speaker function. They are listening for any information you might reveal about ongoing negotiations.
How do you thwart this tactic? By staying silent. Do not say a word to your spouse or partner while the sales associate is out of the office. If you are alone, do not express your thoughts out loud.
The bottom line here is to control the transaction from the minute you walk in the door. If you dictate everything from the initial discussion to the negotiations to the final sale, you will get the best possible deal. That is how you buy a new car like a champ.