So I bet you are wondering what does this New Yorker know about buying a car? After all, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority happens to be my de facto chauffeur.
Well, eight years ago, while in college I was a car saleswoman. Yep little ol’ me was selling cars. I was 22 years old, 5’5, 120 pounds and I was selling Nissan Titans to 60+ year old Texan ranchers. At the time I lived in San Antonio, Texas and it was one of the best paying jobs available since I hadn’t finished my bachelors degree.
I was actually quite good at it, but hated the hamster-wheel life of sales. You’d come off a good month and have to do it all over again, every single month. Although I walked away from it after 8 months, I learned valuable lessons about buying a car that I often share with those close to me. Since I consider you, my readers, close, I am going to share 5 car-buying tips from you that I learned as a new and used car saleswoman. This applies to traditional car lots, not “no-haggle” ones like Car Max.
#1 Get approved before you hit the lot- The customers we were most flexible with were the ones who secured financing before they came onto the lot. The hard part was over by then because as a sales person, securing financing is one hardest parts of the job. Someone can love the car all they want, but if their credit score is poor, it will be difficult to find a lender who is willing to take the risk. So a person with financing in their pocket is almost a guaranteed sale. This cuts back on haggling and negotiations because their bank gave them parameters, it’s the dealers mission to sell you a car within those which they are willing and determined to do.
#2 Buy on the last days of the month- As I mentioned before, dealerships have target sales numbers to reach every single month. Now rather than operating with the mentality that they can chalk that sale up to next month, they want instant gratification and they will bend over backwards to move cars off the lot by the end of the cycle. I recommend visiting a day or two before the last day and walk away. They will be desperate to make your sale and will most likely call you offering to drop the price significantly in order to move that car off the lot and onto your driveway. I once saw my former employer slash the price an additional $6,000 to move a car off the lot on the last day of the sale cycle.
#3 Don’t buy the extras- Although its convenient to allow the dealer to tint the windows and install leather interior, it can be way more expensive. The dealer often doesn’t provide this, they usually have a third party that charges their prices, and then the dealer tacks their price onto it. I will never forget selling a Nissan Armada to a family and getting them to buy the leather package. It added an additional $800 to my commission check that month so you can imagine how much the dealer made off of the couple.
Also be wary of the extended warranty offered t you during final negotiations. Read the fine print, because it often comes with very strict rules and regulations making it damn near impossible to cash in on the warranty.
#4 Know your values – The customers we hated the most were ones who came with print-outs of the Kelly Blue Book value of their car and the average price of the car they were interested in. An informed consumer is indeed a powerful consumer and often times we would end up giving them the trade in value they wanted for their car. So do your research before hitting the lot. At least know how much you should be getting for your trade-in because they will most definitely try to give you $2,000-5,000 less than it’s actually worth.
#5 Walk away if you don’t like the numbers- Despite all of the previous steps, you might still find yourself in a deadlock with the dealer and the finance staff. Walk away if you are not happy with what they are offering you. Most likely, they are not the only dealer in town and someone else will probably be willing to be more flexible. I worked with several clients who were able to find favorable deals elsewhere. Also note # 2, I saw a man save $6,000 on a car because he was willing to walk away and wait for them to offer him terms that he found favorable. This doesn’t mean walking away and waiting for the dealer to drop the car $10,000, that’s not going to happen, but you’d be surprised at what a dealership is willing to do to get you back on the lot.
While I can’t guarantee that all of these items will work for everyone, they are definitely worth a try. I have seen them in action with at least 15 customers or more