Many car dealerships are truly beautiful spaces — which isn’t surprising considering that they hire top interior design firms like Key Interiors regularly to re-invent everything from the flooring to the lighting (and everything in between). With upscale customer waiting areas featuring wi-fi, cappuccino machines, and big screen TVs, you might even think you’ve wandered into an airport lounge or hotel business center instead of a car dealership.
However, many people — and you might be among them — would rather have a root canal than head a car dealership, because you know what’s in store: a challenging and confusing experience that could lead to very costly buyer’s remorse. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you don’t have to brace for impact and hope for the best. Instead, you can put together a game plan that helps ensure that your experience is rewarding instead of regrettable. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:
1. While you can look at cars and go for test drives anytime you wish, experts say that the best time to make a purchase is at the end of the month. This is because car salespeople need to make their numbers, and if they’ve had a soft month — or if they’ve had a good month and a bonus is on the horizon — you could be in store for a great deal.
2. Understand how much your trade-in is really worth by going online and comparing apples to apples. However, you shouldn’t expect to get the same price from a dealership that you would selling privately. They’re doing the work and taking the risk. When you factor all of that in, it might be worth it to take a few hundred dollars less from a dealer.
3. If you’re not going to buy a new car in cash, look into private financing options like a bank loan or home equity line of credit. Not only could this save you thousands of dollars compared to what a dealership is offering — especially if you have an excellent credit score — but buying a car in cash gives you more negotiating power and you’ll likely get a better deal. (Note, however, that sometimes dealerships offer ultra-low financing rates, so make sure you see what’s available before taking out a loan elsewhere.)
4. Clearly understand two numbers: how much you can afford overall, and how much you can afford to pay per month. Only focus on cars that fit with both of those numbers. Many people head to the dealership only knowing how much they can afford to pay per month, and ultimately end up buying a much more expensive car than they can practically afford.
And last but not least:
5. Be reasonable and fair. Yes, some car salespeople are manipulative (just like some salespeople in virtually all other industries). But most of them are regular people who are trying to earn a living. They are under siege all day by aggressive — and in some cases, deceitful — customers who turn the car buying experience into a blood sport. If you stay pleasant and friendly, you’ll have a much higher chance of negotiating a good deal, and just as importantly, being able to walk through the dealership with your head held high if you ever need to return for service.