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The Nine Worst Things to Do at the Car Dealership

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How you handle yourself at the car dealership can make a difference in your price when buying a car. Here are nine things you DON’T want to do at the car lot.

 

DON’T GO IN CONFRONTATIONAL

Like other professionals, car salespeople want to make a profit, but they also want to make their customers happy and build relationships. Go into the dealership with the desire to get to know the salesman and build mutual trust, and you will be much more likely to enjoy the car buying process and get a better deal.

 

DON’T WALK IN WITH NO IDEA WHAT YOU WANT

When you don’t know what you want, you’re more likely to buy the first fun car you see or spend a lot of your time jumping around from vehicle to vehicle. This is human nature. Bypass this common mistake by taking a moment to figure out what you need for your lifestyle, your work, and local road conditions.

That said, the current state of the auto industry may require you to be more flexible than you may have been a few years ago. With so few cars on dealer lots and wait times for custom orders months out, it will be beneficial to have a few options in mind before heading to the dealerships. For example, you may want an SUV but have to compromise for a vehicle slightly larger or smaller that still fits within your budget.

 

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DON’T GO TO THE LOT BEFORE YOU’VE DONE YOUR RESEARCH

Research the car you want online—there are several great sites for researching vehicle types, models, and values, including manufacturer websites, NADA, Edmunds, and Kelly Blue Book—and start the negotiations just below book value if it’s a used car. Going in prepared will save both you and the salesman time and money and will lead to a better relationship.

 

DON’T SKIP THE TEST DRIVE

How are you going to know if you like the car if you don’t take it for a drive? The test drive is when you find out what kind of power the vehicle has, how comfortable the seats are, whether the sound system is up to your standards, and many other things you’d never know without taking a moment to drive her around the block.

 

DON’T SKIP THE NEGOTIATING PROCESS

The salesman expects you to negotiate. If you go with the sticker price, you’re paying more than you need to. As noted in #3 above, do your research and go to the lot with a price in mind so that you can negotiate your way to a payment that fits your budget.

 

DON’T SKIP GETTING PRE-APPROVED FOR A CAR LOAN

When you get pre-approved before you head to the car lot, you know how much you can afford and can run into negotiations with confidence. Pre-approval can get you a better financing deal, particularly if you are buying a used car. However, if you’re buying a new car, you may want to look at the special financing or incentives the manufacturer has to offer. Keep your options open; if there are no incentives, ask your dealer if there are any more competitive rates that they can get you. If not, use your great rate from your financial institution. Also, with interest rates being low and relatively competitive, remember you are purchasing a vehicle, not an interest rate. Focus on value for the dollar and what fits in your budget.

 

DON’T START TALKING ABOUT YOUR TRADE-IN IMMEDIATELY

Come to a final price and then use the trade-in to reduce the cost. Think of it as a “down payment” on the vehicle to help you get to the monthly payment you need, not as part of the new vehicle. Don’t bring the trade into the picture until you are ready to.

 

DON’T SHOP FOR VEHICLES OUT OF STATE

You may pay less for a car in another state, but documentation fees can be much higher, which could result in a higher overall cost. In addition, because you (most likely) won’t be able to service the car at the dealership, you’ll have to work with a more local dealership, where you won’t have a relationship and where you won’t get priority service.

This is especially true in 2022. Because the auto industry is depleted, out-of-state dealerships may be even less attractive. It is increasingly unlikely that they will offer a financially beneficial deal after accounting for travel and other expenses. However, in the rare case that you cannot find the vehicle you want in your state, you may have to ask your dealer to locate it elsewhere. If they cannot acquire the car for you, out-of-state research is a last resort.

 

DON’T FORGET TO THINK ABOUT INSURANCE OR ADD-ONS

The price of the car is one part of the picture. The other parts are insurance and add-ons. Ask for information about what their insurance and add-ons provide and include them in your pricing/payments so that you can see the complete picture before you agree to a price.

 

If you can avoid making these nine common mistakes at the dealership, you’ll be more likely to get a good deal on your next car. Remember that negotiating is easier when you know what you want and how much you’re willing to spend. Do your research, walk into the dealership with confidence, and get ready to build a relationship that could result in other good deals in the future!

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Josh Dobrovich

About Joshua Dobrovich

Joshua is the consumer lending team lead at VSECU. He supports the consumer lending team in all areas of the lending process and helps members obtain credit and financing to achieve their personal goals. Joshua has an extensive background in automotive. He has been the service manager and, most recently, business manager at The Automaster Honda in Shelburne VT. Joshua and his partner Jennie have two awesome daughters Kyla and Rylin and live in central Vermont.
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