Car buying is rarely a quick, impromptu trip to the dealership. Although a spur of the moment visit can result in driving away in your dream car, this isn't a typical scenario. Rather than hopping in the car and hoping things work out, it is in your best interests to prepare for the shopping process before you even step foot in a dealership.
Determine a Budget
Before heading to the dealership, take some time to review your budget. You should consider a number of factors including: What is a comfortable monthly payment? What are my financing options? What are the other costs such as insurance, gas, and repairs? Do you have money to make a down payment? Remember, trading in a car is the same as having cash for a down payment. Get an idea of your trade-in value as this may play a significant factor in what kind of car you can afford. Once you are comfortable with a monthly payment, use a payment calculator to determine how much car you can afford.
Do Your Research
Dealership inventory is ever changing so unless you have some impressive psychic powers, there's no way to know what's in stock at a dealership without doing a little research. The good news is most dealers’ inventory is listed online to provide easy access to shoppers, and it's to your advantage to utilize them. The online inventories make it easy for you to comparison shop as many makes and models as you are interested in all from the comfort of your home couch.
Schedule an Appointment
Now that you are armed with information from your research, it’s time to schedule an appointment at the dealership. While it is possible to simply show up at the dealership and seek out a salesperson, scheduling an appointment provides some distinct advantages. By setting up an appointment, you give the dealership time to pull together the information most pertinent to you. You might have questions or want to test drive multiple makes and models; calling in advance will allow the dealership time to get everything ready for you; saving you valuable time.
Vehicle Pricing and Other Considerations
Many people cringe at the thought of showing up at the dealership and getting stuck haggling on a price. To avoid this uncomfortable situation, you should educate yourself as much as possible. Pricing can seem complicated with talk of MSRP, invoice price, manufacturer rebates, promotions, and on and on, but it doesn’t have to be.
First and foremost, find a reputable dealership and utilize the knowledge of their salespeople to identify all the rebates and incentives available to you. Many times, due to advertising regulations, dealerships cannot advertise all incentives. This makes it all the more important to find that reputable dealer and ask about the programs available and applicable to you. In searching for the dealership that is right for you, many review sites, such as DealerRater, provide valuable review information
Determining the salesperson pay structure might also help in your dealership decision. Some dealerships pay salespeople on commissions so the higher the price of the vehicle, the more money they are in line to make. Obviously, in a structure like this, the salesperson might not be looking out for the best interests of the customer. Other dealerships pay salespeople solely for the number of cars they sell. So whether you purchase an $80,000 new SUV or a $5,000 used car, the salesperson will make the same amount. A non-commissioned structure such as this ensures the salesperson will look out for the best interest of the customer by not trying to put them in a car they cannot afford.
When it comes to buying a car, it is important to educate yourself. By taking the time to determine a budget, research your options, schedule online, and research pricing, you can maximize the value you receive when visiting the dealership while minimizing the amount of time, and money, you spend there.