When I bought my car I probably went overboard on the research, but I am very happy with my car and dealer. I’m probably the sort of buyer who gets on dealers’ nerves, but a mistake on my part could mean a lot of cash. So first I checked what leading car magazines said about the car I wanted. I went and picked up those brochure thingies at a dealership and looked over features, though that can be done on line. I just wanted something physical to hold in my hand.
Then I signed up at boards dedicated to the make and model of my car, and watched what owners were saying, and asked questions myself. It’s good to get a board where people discuss pros and cons, not just one dedicated to fans. Soon, I knew what I wanted, what features and such to avoid or buy elsewhere and the price I should pay. During this time I went on test drives and made sure I liked the car and that it worked for me, plus I got a feel for various dealers and learned what to expect.
I settled on three dealers and went to each to decide who seemed best for me. Under more scrutiny, the first two left me cold-- something slimy about how they wouldn’t give me a firm price, tried to gain my sympathy, to be my friend and such. The last one struck me as professional and above board. I got a tour of the whole place, asked how things would go, like procedures for getting repairs done under warranty, their days and hours of service, etc. to make sure I could work with them (mainly my work schedule issues). Then I went home and Googled them. I found nothing but positive remarks.
I then visited my friendly credit union, after checking around for rates of course, got everything explained and in motion. On a day I had plenty of time, I went back to the dealer with my mom and sister both. This is a good idea if you know someone who’ll be a help. Both of them had bought cars before, though I hadn’t. My sister is an insurance adjuster and really knows cars and everything that goes with them. Mom was my teddy bear. After what seemed like forever, I had my car. Sort of. The one I wanted needed to be brought from another dealer so I picked up my car a few days later.
Used cars are a good idea if you’ve got a dealer you trust, who’ll stand behind their car per waranty. A car that’s a couple of years old is a huge savings over new and is still in good shape. Anything that’s going to go wrong generally happens in the first couple of years. By buying a used car you know pretty much what’s what about your car and saved a bundle. I bought new because I wanted my first new car, now I’d buy used. I like saving more than a new car smell that I can buy in a spray can anyway.
Miscellaneous stuff I learned (though I sure don’t claim to be an expert): special coatings and preparations are almost always a rip off, proceed with extreme caution. I learned that the extended warranty is usually not needed, though I got one and it did happen to pay for itself, but no more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything, no matter if the person speaking acts as though it’s something everyone understands. It’s simple for them because they do it everyday, you don’t, so ask away. Have them repeat themselves and show you where everything is written so it’s all clear. You can also have them compare the costs of different options. Ask what’s going on if the price is higher than you expected and make sure you’re not paying for something that should be included. Like the car should come with tires at no additional cost. Don’t let them charge you fifty dollars for ‘special premium’ floor mats you can buy at an auto store for ten bucks.
Arrange for the highest payment you can afford, and putting down a big down payment is usually a good idea. Cost it out though, to be sure. Leasing your car can be a very bad idea based upon your circumstances and the deal they’ll make with you. Usually you lease a car only if you’re going to want a new car in a couple of years. You don’t really start to break even with a car until it’s seven years old. When you’re done paying off your car, now put that money into savings to be used for the down payment on your next car.
No matter what, don’t be afraid to say you want to think on it and walk out. You can almost always come back another day. It’s their job to help you out, you’re not a burden, you’re a valued customer. Happy shopping!