“To buy a car from a dealer, just one sentence you need to keep in mind: Know exactly what you want. If you are not sure, do your research before saying yes.”
Made my decision to get a new vehicle as a present for my 30. The whole process took about 3-4 weeks from no clue to drive the car home. Now I will try to talk about some of my experiences on this. In a word, to buy the car at the right price, is all about information and knowledge. If you don’t spend time to know about all the deals you can have, you give the extra money to the dealer. The steps below are what I encountered, you can treated as a reference. I do need to thank you my buddy Tao Shui for sharing car type and brand suggestions so I really saved a lot of time to choose between different cars and directly went to step 2.
SEARCH YOUR CAR
1. First, make your mind about the budget, and better know what kind of car you want. You don’t need to know the specific packages of the car, even you know, it may not be available at the local dealers. If you have multiple choice from different budget categories, no worry, keep them in the notes. At this stage, you should at least know that if you want front wheel drive (FWD) or all wheel drive (AWD).
So what do you need to know to choose between FWD and AWD? To me AWD gives you better performance in bad weather area like where there is a lot of snow or the road is like the one in the mountain. Its drawbacks is more gasoline consumption, and the insurance may be more expensive comparing to the FWD since it needs more gears to control the 4 wheels. I have driven FWD sedan in the north New York state for 5 years, it is not that bad. I mean, if the snow is all over the place, you probably won’t go out.
Another factor is the time to buy, normally the end of the year is a good time since the dealer may want to achieve a good year sell-out number. They may be more friendly and less care about ripping you off. And do not buy a car when it just releases. Wait for 3 months.
And highly recommend to get a super nice credit card which comes with crazy rewards for the user to use it to make a thousand dollar purchase, such as chase Sapphire, which gives like 625 bucks if you spend several thousand dollars. This could be a super handy card later. Get one if you really have a chance.
2. Go to truecar.com or edumus.com. These two website should be enough. Type in your car inside, It may ask your ideal configuration information and what kind package you want (I will tell more about the package later). Added simple configuration you really want and leave other or the one you don’t know, or just try not adding anything so just get the base model. Finally you will have a price chart. In truecar.com it will be something like below:
At the bottom left you can see the Factory Invoice price. OK, 90% of that before tax and license fees, should be what you try to achieve in the final price. Or you see the exceptional price? that is what you should try to get. Btw, below this chart you may also see the price change during the time after its first release.
3. Do the same quote at edumus.com and it will give you the dealers near your preferred locations in certain mile radius (set the mile readius as 200). Now try to contact with them about the car you want. Read this articles if you can understand Chinese to get a basic idea about how to contact dealers and let them bit the price. The idea is to send email to these dealers and ask for the car you want to check if they have them and how much they can offer, if they can match the price you find in the truecar.com good price categories (don’t try exception categories, they won’t say yes normally through email). Different from that article, dealer now may not will to give you a super good deal though email or phone. They will want you to come to their place and have true discussion on the vehicle.
4. In may case, email bit does not work well. But anyway, you need to pickup a dealer where you can test drive your car. Go to yelp to check the score of the dealership and you can just pick up your communication though email to make an appointment to test drive the vehicle.
5. The first time you go to a dealership, test drive your car along with a salesman and have a discussion with him about the car you want. If they have the type, rim, and package you hope to have. The dealerships normally share a database to locate the cars all over the states, if the car is close by, the dealer can exchange the car for you, so you don’t need to buy from the other dealer. This helps since if you lock down a price at dealership A, but unfortunately they don’t have the color of the car in stock or on the way, if you find the one in the other dealer close, dealership A can get that car for you. In this case, you can maintain the lock down price at dealer A without doing the possible negotiation again at the other dealership.
However, although the database is a good resource, the salesman may not try to find your car either intentionally or just really don’t have the cars. Their conclusion about “You may not get the type you want at now.” may not be true. They may just mistype the keywords or other things so the filter shows nothing about what you want. That is fine.
And even the same car comes with different packages, which are like extra features such as the moon roof, navigation system… I feel if you want a new car, you should try some cool stuff it try to provide. Basically, choose the premium package (middle class package) if you want to drive the car for your next 10 years.
So follow the salesman for the little difference configuration than what you expected. let him go over the whole procedure to get the price. Ask him what is the lowest he can over for it. What is the APR if you try to finance. FOCUS ON THE WHOLE PRICE FIRST! DO NOT TELL YOU HAVE SPECIAL DISCOUNT SUCH AS NEW GRADUATED STUDENT, MILITARY DISCOUNT, OR YOU WANT TO TRADE IN YOUR CAR!!!!! The reason is simple: Information. The dealer can extract profit from you if you provide more choice to them. Once they know you have certain brand discount, they may not willing to make the price too low. Once they know you want to trade in, they may lower the price for your new car, but give you a really bad price for your trade in. So they get the money back in the trade in procedure. Just don’t let them to have too much to work around at the beginning.
So keep to work on the price, dealer may get the retail worksheet, which is base on your current price of car get tax, plate, license, financial interest… everything inside. You also need to know your down payment. It is what you try to pay out-of-pocket at the beginning. If your loan has APR, you pay more at the beginning, you have less left to be used to calculate the interests, so you get less interests to pay. If you are not good at investment, work a number that is affordable so you don’t need to pay too much interests during the normal 60 month loan period.
OK, now you have the retail sheet done. You can do the same thing for the other type of the car, ask the salesman to print out the retail worksheet for you (You can ask them to do that). And keep them. Also ask them to print out the detailed configuration of the car they provide at the moment. And you can go home now.
RESEACH & CALCULATING
If now you still can get what you want at the beginning nearby, Congratulations! If not, Is up to you if you want to change your mind. But before that, as I said, these dealer may make mistakes and do not find your car, you can personally try on line some dealer nearby by yourself to see if they have stock of your type. I actually personally found the color I want at a near by dealer and ask tells dealer A about it, he then search again based on the information I provided he found it. Just let you know that it is possible. Now with the specific package and car type you have, go to true car again and get all the information there ( you can choose “I want to build my own” when choosing the package, it should give you the perfect match choice with the cars information you get from the dealers. N. ow what you see is the price for the car you want exactly. As I said, the exceptional price, or the factory invoice price – 2000 should be what you try to achieve before tax.
Feel you are ready? Try the steps below for one or several dealers if you have time. Make appointment with the dealer and work with the salesman you meet last time on the car again. But this time you try to lock down the price. Find the car, and ask what they can offer. Tell them what you want. Never let them make a price and you say yes! Always let you say a price lower and they say OK. Or else they definitely get more profit from you. If it is reach a point like “Sorry that is the lowest we can give”, normally at this moment, the price should be already lower than the factory invoice. If it is still higher than the factory invoice, then you should walk away and try other dealer. This one is too greedy for you. However, if it is already in the good price categories and with the discount you haven’t revealed yet, it can get into the exceptional price categories. It is up to you to tell them: “Sir/Mam, if you can lower the price for another 300 bucks I will agree.” This is a magic number that normally works (I have tried, 100% works). After you make the deal, reveal your possible discount to them. And you can also ask if they can get a full season floor mat for you (100 bucks!). You know, just ask for some good stuff other than price drop. But you need to know what you don’t have in the car package or you just feel the others do you a favor actually not.
At the moment, they may say your discount only works for last years model blah blah. Calm down. The brand discount or cashback is from the brand not the dealership. So it is good for you and won’t harm them at all. If you feel you are legal to enjoy the incentives but the dealer says you are not, walk away and choose another one. If you feel doubt about whether the discount can apply to you. That is OK. Go back home and directly call the brand financial service, ask whether the deals works for you or not. You can even record the talk as evidence or ask the financial service send you email confirmation. Know what you are doing is important.
Now you should get what you want for the raw car price. It is time to look for the maintenance package. Depends on what you feel about a new vehicle. Normally it comes with complementary maintenance for free at the first 1-2 years at any its dealership. However, dealer may also try to sale you with prepaid maintenance package. If you want to get the maintenance package. You should quote several different dealerships for that. The question is:
a. How much it is for the prepaid maintenance package (need you give the year/mileage number. Normally the year is 5 year, the mileage can vary a lot. Depends on how many miles you drive, you can choose the package).
b. Does the price include tax already?
c. Does it a global maintenance which means any the brand dealership should be able to do it? Or it is just your dealership only (the dealership specific ones may be cheaper, but may not have the benefits like you have from the brand).
As I said before, if you get the price too low on the car, the financial service guy may lure you to purchase the maintenance package or other protections to get back to the battle. Don’t listen to them on any other bullshit. The maintenance package is even not necessary if you are a DIY person. The first time I hear the maintenance package and the finance man tells me the original price is 4000 for the car if you pay once by once. That is just buff. If you do your work you will know it is not that price. Psychologically, it try to get their profit when you are so happy about get the car price down. It is a trap. Calm down and compare the price, if you want the prepaid maintenance package.
Next is the insurance. I just want to say my experience. I have to compare different insurance company. The website quote may just be as lure as usual. You may get a low price but when you try to pay, it will go to the DMV database to get more information and the price can increase. Finally I choose AAA. My old friend chooses it also. Although the contents of it is simple, may not be that fancy to cover a lot different types, but the price is the best I can compare with. And what is more, try to call them and make quote! I get several hundred less than the price on line. This situation only happens with AAA. And AAA insurance need to purchase with AAA membership, it is a good membership since you get discount at car rent and other stuff. And it may cover tow for certain mileage (5, 100, 200) and open the car if you lose key.
GET YOUR CAR
You need three things to pick up your car: insurance card, down payment check, and proof of residency. The last one is your rental lease or electric/gas bill.
So finally you made the decision about the car and get your cashier check for the down payment. Also remember to ask if the dealer accept credit card, normally they are happy to accept no more than 5000 payment from credit card. That is what I said about credit card. Now you sign the document, the financial service will handle the sign and normally the protection, maintenance package comes at this moment. If you don’t have time to do your own homework on these packages and the dealer you work with seems nice, ask them if you can change the down payment to add more before get the car. If you need to get the car right now, then you have to make your decision about the service you need to pay. You can ask some time to consider in the lobby and ask some friend. But if this is the case while you haven’t done any homework on this, I suggest that just say no. You will find a way to do them later.
Check the car. I think the major thing is the outside, if there is obvious problem. Check the car made date, better no more than 3 month from the date you pick it up. Also remember to check the mileage on it (normally a new car should be considered lower than 100 miles on it). Check the vin number, to see if it is the same as your document. You can also go over all the equipment in the car list you print out but I don’t feel it is necessary since the vin number is correct. In normal case, you should expect the electric guy explain how to use all the functions of the vehicles to you and answer all the questions. And you will get a full tank of gas paid by the dealer. This is not favor, at least at my dealership. If they don’t give that, ask them politely for it.
OK, I think that is all I have now to say. I hope I can have a good relationship with this SUV for the next 10 years in my life. For my old car, It will also help me, I should also spend some money on her for maintenance.