You’ve seen it before. You know what we’re talking about. It makes you gut-wrenchingly nervous, but in you wander to the dealership showroom, feeling the call of the wild, only to find:
A slick, suited, unnaturally white-toothed salesman with impeccably clipped nails who shakes your hand unnecessarily firmly.
A marble floor and polished metal cars that turn the show-lights into floodlights and blind you to the ridiculous numbers on the stickers on the windshields.
A feeling of dread and excitement behind the wheel of the latest, greatest this year’s model sports car that’s up on risers but waiting to be driven right out of the showroom’s glass box by you, complete with theme music and explosions.
Then… that look of shock and slight nausea on your spouse’s face when you appear in the driveway in the hot seat of your new impulse buy. It was nerves, you explain, while your spouse arm-crosses and foot-taps with one arched eyebrow.
It’s ugly, and we don’t want it to happen to you. However, there is a way to avoid showroom nerves that all too often lead to being pressured into buying a car that’s not best for you or your budget.
We can help you prepare to look at cars in a dealership showroom and avoid nerves, pushy salesmen, and lousy deals. Here’s how!
Before Entering the Showroom
As with any great anxiety, knowing what you’re going to face before you face it and having a plan is key to avoiding nerves and undue pressure. Before you ever step foot on the sales floor:
- Decide on a budget. DO NOT EXCEED YOUR BUDGET. Write the number on your spouse’s forehead and take him or her with you.
- Check with your lender to see the maximum loan amount for which you qualify. Ensure that this number also does NOT exceed your budget!
- Determine an amount for your down payment, considering trade-in value, if it applies, and knowing exactly the fair market value for your current car. (This will take a bit of online research. We recommend the Kelley Blue Book or Autotrader.com.)
- Research the types of cars you’re interested in that are within your budget. Know what kind of car you want to look at BEFORE you get to the showroom!
- Research the fair market value of the car you want to purchase. Read reviews, road tests, and talk to family and friends who own similar vehicles. Get a fair price in your head, then make sure you aren’t paying more than that at the dealership. Keep in mind that the cost of a new (or new used) car should include all additional costs, such as:
- Service plans
- Finance charges
- Dealership charges
- Tax, title, and license fees
- Insurance costs
- Research rebates and incentives on the type of car that you want. There are sometimes deals to be found on manufacturer’s websites that will not be offered in the showroom! Knowing the incentives and deals out there will help you negotiate a price for a new car.
- After all your research, make a list of the cars you’re interested in and the prices you’re willing to pay for those cars!
- Decide on a financing option BEFORE you get into the showroom. This way, you can negotiate and/or opt not to be pushed into expensive dealership financing.
WARNING: We can’t say it enough, so we’re going to say it again: Your budget should include ALL of the costs of purchasing a new car, not just the sticker price on the car!
While You’re in the Showroom
You’ve already done your research, which should seriously cut down on showroom nerves. You’ll already know cars you want to see and what you’re willing to pay for them. However, there is still more to do in the showroom, including:
- Tell the salesman what you’re there to look at. If s/he tries to push you into looking at other cars, remind them that you outlined your search criteria up front and you’re sticking to it. If they still push you, politely request a new salesman or to look on your own!
- Test-driving the cars you researched
- Are they as comfortable and affordable as you hoped and planned? Test all of the car’s features, including handling, electronic components, and safety features. Make a note of how the car drives as soon as you’ve tested it for later comparison.
- Negotiate the sticker price on the car you want. NEVER compromise your budgeted maximum number! If you can’t get the car you want down to the number you’ve predetermined, bite your lip and run away. It’s not worth it. However, you often can talk the MSRP down by first haggling over the price using the market value on similar cars from your research. Only after you’ve gotten the sticker price number down should you mention any rebates or incentives! Also, read the fine print and see if you can’t negotiate any of the dealership fees.
- Consider how the dealership financing stacks up against your financing options. NOTE: You will almost always get a better deal from a bank or credit union than a dealership!
- Negotiate the trade-in value of your current value, using your researched fair market value to get the most for your trade-in. If you’re not offered you car’s fair value, take it to another dealership!
- Consider the best offers on the table for the first showroom you visit, taking into account the quality of the car and the price, plus incentives. Then, move on to the next showroom! Never settle for the first offer. Visit several car dealerships to find better deals on the same car!
Remember, you haven’t bought the car until you’ve completed all the paperwork. Once you’ve found the right car for the right price at the right dealership:
- Read ALL of the documents relating the car purchase carefully, and ask questions about things you don’t understand.
- Refuse to leave the showroom until all of the paperwork is complete.
- Consider additional warranties or service plans. NOTE: These will cost you and may or may not be worth it!
- Review your itemized charges and challenge any charge you don’t understand or agree with. (Challenge here doesn’t mean throwing down a gauntlet. It does mean asking why and how you’re being charged and expecting a reasonable answer, or asking to remove unfair or hidden charges. For example, any preparatory or advertising costs should not be sloughed off on you!)
- Be wary of expensive optional charges, such as:
- Credit insurance
- Fabric protection
- Paint sealant
- Extended warranties
You likely will NOT need these offers, and you will likely be charged too much for them without your knowledge or consent!
- Comparison shop for the best rates on car insurance.
There you have it! If you prepare ahead of time, you can get the best deal on the best car for you on YOUR terms and avoid showroom nerves!