Saving money when buying a new or used car involves looking at more than just the sticker price.
Do you like giving money away? Many of us donate to worthy causes, but newsflash! – car dealers aren’t charities. There’s no reason you should pay them any more than necessary for your next car. And you needn’t feel sorry for them either.
Car dealers are smart business people, experts in their field. They won’t do the deal unless it’s somehow, right for them. It’s in your best interest to adopt the same attitude when buying your next car.
Dealers have lots of ways in which they persuade car buyers to part with more money than they need to actually buy a car. They have a minimum price that they won’t go below, but I guarantee you one thing, they’ll try to make as much as they can on every single deal.
In addition, the purchase price isn’t the only cost involved when you buy a new or used car. In this article, AutoCheatSheet.com is going to share five simple car buying tips that actually work. Will they save you thousands? That depends on what kind of vehicle you’re buying, but most likely yes. And if you read to the end we may even have a bonus tip for you.
1) Slow Down
If there was a super secret, silver bullet car buying tip, this would be it. Ever wonder why dealerships look the way they do? With all the colorful balloons, streamers and banners everywhere. Easily comparable to a casino or human flytrap. Dealer’s want you to “pop-in” to just take a look. Unprepared and uneducated on how to buy a car is the worst thing you could be when visiting a dealership.
Buying a new, or newer, car is an exciting business. Your old wheels have served you well, hopefully anyway, but it’s time for something better. You’re looking forward to parking that shiny new ride outside your house and you know friends, neighbors and family will be impressed. But will they be quite so awed if they hear you paid top dollar?
Probably not, which is one good reason you need to slow down. An impulse buyer never gets a great deal. You see a gorgeous car on the lot, you walk into the showroom and say you’ve gotta have it. The salesman knows you’ll pay what he asks.
So slow down. Take your time. There are lots of great cars out there so there’s no need to rush for the one you just saw on the dealer’s lot. Don’t be drawn in by the special sales you might see advertised on TV or the Internet either. Instead, take a few days to figure what kind of car will suit you best. Look at your budget and work out what you can afford. Only then are you in a position to start visiting car dealerships.
2) Get a Pre-Approved Loan
Most car buyers finance their purchase, and the dealer will be very happy to help you get that arranged. Have you ever wondered why? It’s because they make money on it. In fact they make money on financing in two ways. First, they’ll often get commission on every loan they facilitate. And second, they’ll jack up the interest rate a few points over what you need to pay.
And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, consider this: on a $25,000 loan spread over five years an extra 2% could cost you well over $1,000.
So here’s what you do: you contact a lender, maybe more than one, and get pre-approved for a loan. That way you know what interest rate your credit rating qualifies you for. You’ll also find out if you’re about to stretch yourself for a bigger loan than you can really afford.
For the best auto loan rates apply with online lenders. They’re quick, easy and can be done right from your mobile device or computer.
Once you have your loan information in hand. You will now have leverage when in a dealers finance department. Don’t let them know what you’re approved for, or at, right away. Ask them what they can get you approved at. Listen carefully and make a decision. If they can beat your current rate go with them and if not, go with your pre-approval.
Use this handy Car Payment Estimator to calculate the payment on any vehicle.
3) Online Price Quotes
You probably shop around for gas, why wouldn’t you do the same for a car? Unless you’re in the market for something extremely unusual, a Maserati or Lamborghini for example, there will be lots out there in the marketplace. Once you know exactly what you want, check out the online inventory at local dealerships. Then send out emails explaining what you’re interested in and asking for their best price. Most are happy to respond because dealing over the internet saves them time and money.
However, it’s a mistake to work only with dealerships. There are several online referral sites that will help you find the car you want. The three we highly recommend are Ryde Shopper, Motor Trend or Cars Direct.
There are several other very well known referral services online. However, many of them have secretly turned to the side of the dealers after being pressured over the years. This is why we will not recommend them to our readers anymore.
Just type in the details of your dream car and they’ll show you what’s for sale nearby. From there it’s a simple click to reach out to the seller and get a quote. You’ll want to gather as many quotes as you can get at this time. Don’t worry, you can get as many quotes on as many cars as you choose, they’re both 100% free services.
Once armed with quotes, start playing them off against one another. Again, stick to email, be polite, and find out who is prepared to give you the best price. (You want to make apples-to-apples comparisons though, so particularly when buying a used car, be sure to consider vehicle condition.) Don’t go back and forth endlessly though, because every dealer has a minimum they won’t go below.
If you would like learn more on how to play dealers off each other to get a better price. You can read my article on how to negotiate with car dealerships by email. There’s even a few email templates you can copy and paste for yourself.
4) Warranties are Negotiable
Modern cars are far more reliable than those from 20 or 30 years ago, and serious problems are rare. There again, cars have become much more complicated, so if something does go wrong it can be very expensive to fix, unless you have an auto warranty.
Most new cars come with a three year bumper-to-bumper warranty from the manufacturer, and a few go for even longer. That’s good for your peace-of-mind, but what if you want to keep the car five or six years, (which is likely if you’re taking out a five year loan) An extended warranty gives you some protection in case a major component fails.
Used cars are generally “sold as is – where is” with no warranty. (Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles are the main exception.) That doesn’t mean you can’t have a warranty though. And I promise you, if the dealer can provide an extended warranty for the vehicle you’re wanting to buy, they will. There are also companies out there that warranty older vehicles, for a fee.
You will want to be prepared before stepping into the finance department. Once you know the car you want to buy, get a couple free online quotes. This way you’ll know what kind of cost and coverage you’d be looking at. One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a warranty is they buy the wrong type of coverage or they overbuy coverage. Think about what you what you want vs. what you really need.
Two companies I recommend for both new and used car warranty quotes are Complete Car Warranty and Endurance Vehicle Protection. They not only have excellent coverage, they have many added benefits included such as rental assistance, payment plans, roadside assistance and more.
Now here’s the tip: let the dealer present the extended warranty coverage they offer. Ask these two questions, “What does it cover?” and more importantly, “What does it not cover?”
Dealers can be very tricky and are experts at discrediting anything that keeps them from making a sale. Let them know that you have a better price (and better coverage – if true). Let them know they will have to do much better than what they’ve offered if they want you to buy an extended warranty from them.
Many finance managers are paid on warranty penetration and must hit a certain percentage to receive a bonus. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you may just be surprised what you can actually pay for an extended warranty when you’re armed with the right information.
If the dealer is unwilling to negotiate on the warranty price, don’t worry you can go with one of the coverages you’ve already been quoted.
5) Check on Insurance
Depending on where you live, the cost of car insurance ranges from pricey to extortionate, but your zip code isn’t the only factor at work. Insurance companies also look at the type of vehicle you would like to insure, what it’s worth and who’ll be driving it. If you’re going to let your teenager behind the wheel of that beautiful new Corvette you’re looking at, be prepared for a very big premium!
It’s not uncommon for the monthly premium to be almost as much as the loan or lease payment. Many people don’t even think about how their insurance may go up when buying a car. I guarantee you the car salesman doesn’t want you thinking about it either because that means he has less opportunity in making a bigger paycheck on your deal.
This is a surprise you don’t want after already signing on the dotted line. You should include this when figuring out your car budget. So, before walking into the dealership but after you’ve decided what your next car will be. Do yourself a favor and grab a couple free quotes from well known companies such as Liberty Mutual and esurance.
Use this handy Car Payment Estimator to calculate the payment on any vehicle.
Bonus Car Buying Tip
As a reward for reading these five tips, here’s a sixth: Read everything before you sign, if you don’t understand it, ask questions until you do. Sounds like a pretty simple tip, but you would be amazed how many people email us complaining that they were tricked into a lease or balloon payment situation.
Unethical car dealers can be very tricky and they can manipulate an uneducated car buyer into doing things they didn’t want to do.
The car-buying process can be tiring and the salesperson may at times seem to speak a foreign language. “Balloon payments”, excess mileage charges and assorted fees are just some of the things to watch for. You should also check that anything promised to you is in writing. It should be signed by a representative of the dealership and is included for free (or the agreed upon price), such as maintenance or a spare wheel and is actually identified as such. (And no, some new cars don’t come with a spare! can I count that as a seventh tip?)
So, read everything, make sure you understand it, and only then sign your name. Just as when you started out on your car search, take your time. You don’t want to drive off happy with your purchase only to suffer buyer’s remorse later when you realize what you forgot!
Your Friend in the Car Business
Professional car salesman are very good at what they do. And they are doing it from the time you first make contact with them until the time you’re driving off in your new car. I don’t care how many cars you’ve bought in your lifetime. It only takes meeting the right person at the wrong time to cost yourself thousands of dollars.
Buying a car is often an emotional decision and it’s easy to get carried away and spend more than you should or need to. That’s why a common piece of advice is to take someone with you as moral support or just pull you out of there when you’re not thinking right.
While we at AutoCheatSheet.com can’t actually accompany you, we are here to support you through the car-buying process. Inside our pages you will find money-saving tips and advice that is updated regularly. Check back often to see what’s new!
The number one tip for saving the most money when buying a new or used car is to always take your time and “DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST!”
As always, I recommend using an online referral service such as Ryde Shopper, Motor Trend or Cars Direct before physically walking into a car dealership. Their free online price quotes will automatically include any discounts or cash-back incentives currently available in the marketplace. This information will help level the playing field with the dealer and let you know right away which dealer’s are willing to be more flexible on price.