Bored, irritated, frustrated. No, not a hormonal teenager but a description of someone trying to buy a car in a dealership. All you want to do is get some information about cars and It’s like the sales people want to make it as difficult as possible. A visit to the dentist promises to be more fun.
No wonder people put off car shopping for as long as they possibly can. This is why more people are turning to the internet to do their automobile shopping online.
Buying a car shouldn’t be hard work, and it isn’t, if you know how to correctly shop for a car online. The World Wide Web can serve up all the information you need to find the right car at the right price.
Why the dealership experience usually always sucks
There are basically two problems with marching down to the dealership once you’ve decided it’s time for a new ride. First, it’s a bad place to learn about the vehicles available, and second, it’s a bad place to get a good price.
A bad place for learning
If you visit a dealership hoping to learn about the cars a manufacturer builds, you’re in for a disappointment. These guys?aren’t interested in educating you about models, trim levels, engine choices and optional features. That takes time they’d rather spend with someone who’s ready to sign on the dotted line.
You see, a car salesman understands he isn’t making any money unless he’s selling a car. No matter what they say, they don’t want to waste several hours with someone who’s “just-looking” when they have an opportunity to grab someone that is ready to buy a car right now.
Once they realize you’re just gathering information and not buying today. They’ll still try and sell you a car, knowing they don’t have anything to lose. However, you will probably get pawned off to a “newer” salesperson, waved off with a card and brochure or even just flat ignored until you finally decide to leave.
You could complain to the sales manager. Of course, they will most likely ask you one question. “Are you buying a car today?” If you say, “no,” you probably won’t see much of them either.
It’s not much different if you’re shopping for a used car. Car sales people are not your personal shopper and you?shouldn’t expect to get an unbiased recommendation from them.
If you don’t know what type of car you want, they’re going to steer you towards a car they think you should buy. And guess what? That’s the one that maximizes their commission and puts the most money in their pocket. It’s guaranteed it will not be the one that would suit you best.
How many times have you heard a friend or family member say, “When I went to the dealership, I wasn’t expecting to buy a car today.” That is the worst statement anyone can make and visiting a car dealership unprepared is the biggest mistake ever. There’s a car salesman still on vacation with the commission they made on that car deal.
It is never a good idea to just “pop-in” a dealership to look at cars. The whole car sales model is geared towards people just dropping by to take a look. Always research the entire car buying process and do your automobile shopping online before contacting a dealership. This will save you the most money and help you recognize and avoid some of the most common car buying scams.
A bad place to get a good price
New cars will usually have a sticker on the window. The trade term for it is the Monroney sticker. This tells you what the car is, lists all the equipment and tells you the price. Is that what you’d pay to drive it away? Almost certainly not, this is the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Many times a dealer will add an additional sticker (addendum sticker). This sticker will have many high profit dealer added options that may, or may not, have been added to the vehicle.
On the minus side, there may be dealer incentives or manufacturer rebates available that bring the price down hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Other factors that may affect they sticker price are taxes and a range of dealer, city or government fees.
Car dealerships don’t want transparent pricing like in the grocery store. They want to engage you in conversation. They’ll try to find out what you can afford, and what you’re willing to spend, and then they’ll find a car that maximizes what they can extract from you.
Another reason they hate transparency: they don’t want you shopping around. They know this will almost always decrease their chances of maximizing their profits. They want to keep you in their office until you agree to sign.
And don’t forget, if you do agree to buy a new car in the dealership it’s not over yet. You’re about to meet their highly paid, highly skilled Finance and Insurance (F&I) guy. His job is to sell you backend products and most likely, things you don’t need. He starts out with the many different finance options and over-priced extended warranty products but quickly moves on to windshield protection and rust proofing.
Mind you, you just went 12 rounds with the salesman. This is not the time to be numb to the issue at hand. The finance and insurance department is one of the highest profit centers in a dealership. It is very easy to get confused during this time of the car buying process. Unless you’re very strong minded it’s easy to end up paying for extras you?didn’t want.
Used car buying is hardly any different, except it’s less transparent. You don’t even have a Monroney sticker to show you the MSRP. And comparison shopping is hard because you’re trying to compare age, mileage and condition as well as models and trims.
Review our Automotive Finance Guide for everything you ever wanted to know about auto finance loans and how to avoid dealer finance scams.
What is a dealership visit good for?
Two words; test driving. You can do all your research online and even get free new and used price quotes from websites such as such as Ryde Shopper or Motor Trend. But you can’t tell how a car feels without getting behind the wheel. But again, don’t show up not knowing what you want to drive.
Instead, call or email the dealer first. Let them know you’d like to drive a specific make and model of car. They won’t mind. In fact it makes their life easier because they get to spend less time with you and they can make sure the car you’re interested in is available.
After speaking with you for a couple minutes. The salesman will understand you’ve been doing your homework and have been educated on the car buying process.They will also know you may not be a high commission sale, but if they treat you with professionalism and respect. You will be an easy quick sale if you choose to buy the car they have for sale.
What you need to know before buying
Let’s look at what you need to think through so you can buy a car you’ll be happy with.
Start by considering your needs, priorities and of course budget. This is where reality sets in. Put on hold those dreams of a two-seat convertible and recognize that you actually need an SUV with plenty of room for dogs, kids and sports gear.
In terms of priorities, are you focused on safety and fuel economy, or are towing capacity and AWD more important? If safety scores highly for you, you may want to look for cars with advanced driver assistance systems like blind spot warning, active cruise and a rear view camera.
Then give some thought to features you might enjoy. Heated seats for example ? great if you park outdoors overnight in the Northeast, less important if you never leave the Southwest. Or what about a sunroof? And then there’s color, paint and interior, to consider, along with wheel options. (Bigger isn’t necessarily better.)
Where to get that information
If you’re not sure exactly what you want, this is where automobile shopping online can help you. First off, visit some manufacturer websites. Be very careful when requesting for more information though nation wide websites like Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, etc. Many times these sites are computer operated and will shotgun your information out to several dealerships within a couple hundred miles. Your email and phone will be hammered with people trying to sell you a car, some of these salesman can be very brutal.
You can browse online automotive magazine articles for information. Bear in mind that an enthusiast magazine may not be written with the same mindset as yours. If we followed their advice we’d all be driving stick-shift diesel wagons and?Miatas. Many times the articles in these magazines are written to favor the manufacturer that has paid the highest price to be #1 in the article.
Don’t overlook two government websites as excellent unbiased information sources. Both fueleconomy.gov and safercar.gov have hard data derived from actual testing collected from all over the nation. Run by the?National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safercar.gov also has information on recalls, which is very helpful if you’re used car shopping.
If you already know what make and model appeals, and you’re buying used, getting details about specifications is quite hard especially what a used car sales for in your specific area. The best place to get free price quotes online is Ryde Shopper or Motor Trend.
Just one more thing to add about manufacturers websites. Details about models and trims is difficult to come by ? they just want to build an image of what kind of person buys this particular vehicle ? but most offer a configuration tool. This lets you click through to explore all the different options available. When you’re done it will tell you the price and offer to put several dealers in touch with you. That’s when you stop clicking! It’s time to get some free online competitive quotes.
Keep in mind, the manufacturer wants to buy one of their vehicles at the highest price possible. The more money the dealer makes, the more money they make by selling more cars to the dealership. Just like dealerships, automobile manufacturers are “For Profit Businesses!”
How to get competitive price quotes
Before talking about prices, let’s review. We’ve established that you’re going to work out what car you want before visiting the dealership. If you’re down to just a few possibilities, you’ll schedule test drives to help you make a final decision. Each dealership will of course want to know if you’re going to buy from them and roughly when you’re looking to make a final decision. It’s perfectly legitimate to say you want to drive some other cars first before deciding. Just be polite and let them know upfront. It will be appreciated and you won’t cause any offense.
And now you’re ready to find out the best price you can get your chosen car for. There are two approaches you can take to this: contact each dealer directly, or go through an online service and let them do the work for you.
Many times it works out better than contacting them directly because a dealer will know for sure that your quote not only came to them. But any other same brand dealer in the area. This will automatically make them relook at the quote they send you knowing they are in competition with other dealers in the area.
Contacting dealers directly means working with their internet sales department. You just email them the exact details of what you want and ask for their best price. They’ll usually respond quickly and oftentimes the prices you’ll be quoted are pretty competitive (and far better than what you’d get in the showroom.)
Alternatively, a free online quote service will do this for you, saving time and money. Ryde Shopper and Motor Trend are great examples. Their websites are very easy to navigate and has tools like a payment calculator plus a form where you enter details about the car you want. You also put in your zip code and then the site offers you a list of local car dealers. You can pick up to five dealers that have the car you’re interested in and they will respond to you with their quotes.
Learn how to use free online new car price quotes to get an even better price by negotiating with car dealerships online.
Automobile Shopping Online
Car showrooms are not the place for learning about the car you’re interested in. The sales people don’t want their time taken up with people just kicking tires and often they don’t have all the facts and figures you might be seeking. All they really care about is finding out how much money they can persuade you to part with so they can maximize their commission.
The much smarter way of shopping for a car is with your browser, the one on your laptop, PC or mobile device. Research the vast quantities of facts and opinions online, figure out what you want, and then invite dealers to quote. It’s easier, it can save you time and money, and it’s all done from the comfort of your kitchen, lounge or study.
Be a Smart Car Shopper
The number one tip for saving the most money when shopping for a new or used car is to always, “DO YOUR CAR BUYING HOMEWORK FIRST!” For more hints and tips on navigating the new and used car buying process, spend a little time upfront before beginning your car shopping journey by browsing through my 100% free online car buying guide – AutoCheatSheet.com.
As always, I recommend using an online referral service such as Ryde Shopper or Motor Trend before visiting a car dealership. Their free online price quotes will automatically include any discounts or cash-back incentives currently available in the marketplace.