A car dealership is a business, like any other. They have sales projections to meet, and profit margins to preserve. And the people working there, from the mechanics in the service department to the showroom sales agents, rely on these sales to support themselves and their families.
But buying a car isn’t the same as a new refrigerator or a gym membership. A transaction of this sort is a five-figure proposition, and with that much money at stake, there feels like a significant margin for error on the part of the consumer. How can you protect yourself before to sign on the dotted line and drive a car off of the lot?
First, as usual, the power of the Internet can be a great equalizing force in your favor. Car search websites allow you to enter the year, make and model of the car you’re looking for, and the price that others have paid for a similar car in your area. This is similar to the “comps” model of real estate sales in your neighborhood. Knowing what the market will bear for any given model is an advantage that a car dealer would rather that you didn’t have. Consulting with these websites before going to a showroom is a great way to be ready for the prices that the dealer will want you to pay.
Secondly, talk to your insurance agent before you buy. He or she is in the business of knowing what your car is worth, both present and future. They can give you an idea of how much the car you want to purchase is actually worth, regardless of what the sticker price is.
And finally, remember that a car dealer’s business is to close a sale with you. If you aren’t getting the price or the financing or the trade-in value that you want, you always have the right to walk away. This is something like holding the hammer, in that the loss of a sale means more to a dealer than it does to a typical customer.
There is a lot of competition for car sales out there, and once you walk out the showroom doors you probably won’t be back. Dealerships understand this very well, but sometimes they need a bit of extra prodding to remember this. Don’t be shy about giving it to them, either.