Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tips for Buying a Car

I've been noticing that despite the recession, a lot of new cars with temporary plates are popping up all over the place. I see a lot of people buying high-end luxury cars. I've never seen so many Mercedes Benzs, Audis, Lexuses, and BMWs in these parts. This used to be pickup truck country.

I suspect these new car buyers are getting the kind of deals I recently found on our STS. Here are some tips to help you get the best deal on a new car:

1. Use the Internet to your advantage. Compare prices for the same car and package among dealerships within a 100-mile radius. You'd be surprised in the difference between the prices at a big city dealership vs. a small town dealership. Research dealership inventories to see who has the right combination of price, package, and color that you want.

2. Make a list of what is important to you. For us, it was seat comfort, gas mileage, 4WD or AWD availability, horsepower, and reliability. You can actually do a search on some websites for what your requirements are in a vehicle, and the results will provide you with a list of vehicles that are the best match.

3. Always read reviews of the vehicles that interest you. Especially helpful are the reviews written by customers who bought the car. There will always be a complainer in the crowd, so you just have to decide whether what the complaints are matter to you.

4. Research how many safety recalls the vehicle has had since it was released. If it is an entirely new model, research whatever model has been out a while that is closest to it. Your time is too valuable to be wasting it sitting in a shop every few months while the dealer repairs problems that the manufacturer caused.

5. Be aware that the more electronic features that the car has, the more things there are that can go wrong. Many new luxury cars come with tire pressure monitors. These may seem handy at first glance, but the reality is that they run on batteries and when those batteries die, you have to replace the entire monitor within the stem valve of the tire. With there being four tires on the car, chances are that at least one of these tire pressure monitors is going to be inoperable at any given time. We actually bought our new Cadillac knowing that one of the tire pressure monitors was not working. A big orange warning that says, "Tire pressure monitor" appears on the dashboard. It's not worth it to go into the dealership every few months to fix that, so we are just letting the batteries die and ignoring the dashboard warning. We like to check our tire pressure the old fashioned way.

6. Look for barely used cars with less than 25,000 miles on them and a reliable history report. Because we are in a recession, lots of people bought new cars, took really good care of them, and then lost their jobs and had to have their car repossessed or had to trade it in for something less expensive. Since new cars lose such a huge chunk of their value the second you drive them off the lot, it makes sense to look at used cars. They will be selling much closer to their real value.

7. If looking for a new car, look for leftovers from the previous year. Dealers are eager to move older cars off their lots in order to make room for newer cars, and more willing to make special deals. The longer these cars sit on their lots, the more likely that the batteries will die. It's kind of hard to sell a car to someone when they can't even start the engine for a test drive. I've had that happen to me, and I took it as a superstitious sign that it wasn't the right car for me even though they could get it started by jumping the battery. Of course, if the battery does die, the dealer will replace it if you agree to buy it, but the bad experience scares off a lot of people.

8. Never accept the first offer when haggling to buy a car. Give reasons for why you think the dealer should come down on his price. Some dealers will send you packing, but others are more than willing to work with you as long as your expectations are reasonable. In our case, the car had a deep scratch in the front fender and the tire pressure monitor was malfunctioning. We weren't going to pay full price for that.

9. Cars sitting on dealer lots often get nicks, scratches and dents. Don't let that prevent you from trying to buy the car. Many dealers will throw in some free body work to repair the problem. Take a look at the picture at the top of this post. That car had a scratch in the front fender when we bought it. That is how it looks now... better than new. The body shop did such a great job of repainting and buffing it, that it looks like it is fresh off the assembly line rather than like it had been sitting around in a lot of a year and having multiple customers test driving it.

10. Lastly, if you don't like your salesman because he's got slime dripping off his fingertips, find out his work schedule and come back on a day when he's off. Don't tell the next salesman that you visited the lot previously, because he might try to call in the slimy guy who worked with you before in order to respect his commission. Just work with someone you feel comfortable with. You will be spending the next several hours with this person should you decide to purchase a car, and you will also be speaking with him in the months following your purchase, so you may as well work with someone whose company you enjoy. A salesman can make or break your car buying experience and affect your attitude toward that car for all the years ahead that you drive it.


lytha said...

Good advice, and I find it interesting to hear what is going on in the economy back home through a horsey blog.

If I had all the money in the world, I'd be driving a BMW. Out of all the cars I've ever driven, the M3 beemer impressed me the most.

If I had all the money on one of the lesser planets (you know, not the M class ones), I'd get a VW. They seem like upright citizens in the car universe.

Since I only have the money of a small erratic Saturn moon, I drive a Spanish car.

If I were back in the states, I'd be driving a Chevrolet Silverado 4X4 (with horses in tow), or my super practical, ultra reliable Civic.

Right now the economy in Germany is such that the government is giving incentives to car buyers - trade in your older car and get a really good refund toward a new one. Yah, it seems that the government stepped in to help the Auto industry here too.


AareneX said...

One more: go to the LIBRARY and check out the Consumer Reports ratings on cars you are considering, rather than take the dealerships' word for it.

I've even phoned my local public library from the car lot to ask for info about a truck. The librarian told me that the truck was well-rated, but that the asking price was $2,000 too high!

This didn't please the sales guy much, but it saved me a bunch of cash.

Paint Girl said...

Great advice!
We did alot of research on our Toyota Camry. We had a few different cars we were going to look at, but the Toyota just really kept sticking in our heads. Our intention that day was to go test drive a few different brands, but once we stopped at the Toyota dealer and found the car we were looking for, it was a done deal. Our salesman wasn't even slimy! Which is hard to find!

Breathe said...

I just bought a (low end) mercedes, and I'm definitely not a mercedes girl. Heck it's taken me 6 months to say the model name. But I found a low mileage used one for less than I paid for my toyota years ago. They dropped the price repeatedly because there was no one shopping then (last november, when my toyota decided it hated its own transmission and now was worth less than the cost of repair).

I love this car and every time I make my payment, it's with a smile. that alone is worth it...