Most people are probably familiar with the typical car salesman based on the stereotypical image portrayed on TV and in the movies. They are often shown as sleazy men in horrible outdated suits that will do anything to close a deal. While they may carry a bad image it is more of the exception and not the norm.
Even though you may not be dealing with Slick Willy when you purchase your next vehicle it is important to remember that they are still in sales and it is their job to sell you something. Purchasing a vehicle is a big decision so it is to your advantage to know what to expect and how to deal with salespeople in order to make sure you are really getting the best deal and being treated fairly. A few tips to consider:
1. Be Prepared. The best thing you can do is to go into the vehicle buying situation with information. Make sure you clearly understand what type of vehicle you want and what features you need. Are you looking for a new car or used? If you are considering used make sure you understand that they will try to offer you many add-ons such as extended warranties, roadside assistance or a number of other services and determine what, if any of those you may be interested in.
2. Don’t Provide More Information About Yourself Than You Have To. People in sales are trained to learn about a customer in order to tailor their sales tactics. So the best thing you can do is provide the least amount of information about you and your situation as possible. Maybe you just totaled your car and need to get a new car this very same day, don’t let them know that. They don’t need to know if you plan on buying a car today, this week or next week. If they sense urgency they will immediately realize they have some additional bargaining power.
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3. Use the Buddy System. When shopping for a vehicle don’t go alone. If you are married you will likely take your spouse anyway but even if you are single it can be worth it to bring a friend or two or even a relative with you. People are more vulnerable under high-pressure when alone so having others there with you can reduce the chances you rush into a decision. This can also help to ensure the salesperson is completely forthright.
4. Understand the Salesperson’s Motives. If you are using the phone to call around with questions during your preliminary shopping it is the salesman’s job to get you into the showroom. They may lure you in with specials or deals that may or may not exist so it is up to you to do your due diligence beforehand and strictly get the facts you are looking for. Once you are in the showroom it is their job to send you home with a vehicle. Not only do they want to put you behind the wheel of a car they want to entice you to upgrade or at least pay as much as possible for the car you are interested in. Make sure you know exactly what you want and stick to it.
5. Whoever Speaks Next, Loses. When negotiating it is important remain calm and to avoid rushing into decisions. When the dealer presents you with an additional feature or service simply take a moment to pause and think about it. They will present it to you in a way that sounds as if you must have it, but if you don’t immediately respond they will have to come back to you with a question or more information. They want you to make quick decisions, but instead lead them into providing more information. Even if you know the answer is “no” immediately give it some time or ask further explanation. A quick negative response will only lead to a barrage of further sales tactics.
6. Be Nice. Let’s face it, people enjoy speaking with and dealing with others who are polite and respectful. If you come into the dealership with an abrasive attitude you won’t get very far with a salesperson. If you are polite and treat them with respect you will likely see them return the favor. This alone won’t stop you buying something you don’t need but it will make the negotiations go much more smoothly.
7. Don’t Show Enthusiasm. People in sales would kill to have a customer who is excited and enthusiastic about an upcoming purchase. This behavior puts dollar signs in their eyes and this excitement can blind you to reality. Maybe you just found a car you’ve been looking for, it has every feature you wanted, it is the right color and the price is right. Don’t sit there with a big grin on your face or jump with excitement, but simply ask for more information about the vehicle and even continue to look at other vehicles even if you know that is the one you want.
8. Keep Your Trade-In a Secret Until a Final Price is Set. If you are planning on trading in your old car to help with the purchase of this new vehicle make sure you don’t let the cat out of the bag until the end. The salesperson will certainly ask if you will be trading in but you don’t have to tell them yes or no, maybe you are considering it. Either way, if they know you will be trading in they will use this to their advantage in the negotiation which will undoubtedly become more confusing and potentially cost you some money in the process.
Once they know you have a vehicle to trade they will try to get one of their appraisers to go check it out immediately while you continue to negotiate the purchase. Once they come back the pressure is on you to go through with the sale since they have already done the work. So, come up with a bottom-line figure for the price of the car first, and then determine what trading in your old car will do to the bottom line, not the other way around.
9. Seek Financing Before Shopping. This doesn’t mean you need to have a loan already secured and ready to go, but check with your bank or credit union and see what type of rates are available to you and whether or not you would be approved for a loan in the estimated amount that you expect to need. Remember, most dealerships and salespeople don’t make much if any money on the price of the vehicle. Most of their commission comes from the in-house financing and extras sold with the vehicle. If you can find a better rate and terms with another lender before going to the negotiation table you can omit that discussion almost entirely.
10. You Have the Upper Hand. The most important thing to remember is that you have the upper hand. You are the consumer and you have a vast number of car buying options available to you. Don’t be fooled into letting the dealership make you feel that you need to rush into something or that you need to deal with them specifically. While car buying may not be the most pleasant way to spend your weekend you have to keep in mind that it is an important decision and if one dealer is difficult to work with or won’t accommodate your needs you can simply walk away. [/nomopay]
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.