When a client contacts me for a car purchase, I feel as though I am being summoned to go into the battle field. I may be called Your Car Angel but most times it seems I am more of a car warrior. It is a tough days work out there at the dealerships and I have experience that wins my clients easy victory’s day after day. This is not to say that I am mean and nasty to the sales people, mowing them down in the process. No, there is a way to calmly achieve success and it is all strategy related. Ruthless negotiating is, however, part of that overall strategy. I will now walk you through the process step by step.
Starting – Contacting the Dealer
Find the car you are looking for by checking the dealer sites on-line. Check history’s on the cars that interest you and make sure they are accident free. Many dealer sites actually provide the free Carfax right next to the profile of the car. After you have cleared the car history you want to call the dealership to know that the car exists. You would be surprised how many dealers fail to remove a car from their website once it is sold. When you contact the dealership ask for the new or used car Fleet Manager. You might get bounced around a bit but verify that whoever you are talking to is the Fleet department. Why you ask? Because the Fleet Department is the least profitable division “per unit” in the dealership and they are much kinder people in general to work with. They also are not so stressed out. Finally, get their cell phone number. This is important for later.
Making the Appointment at the Dealership
Once you have cleared the car and know that it actually exist, you want to go to the dealership to see it. Make an appointment with your contact person and ask to have the car available to look at. This forces them to take the necessary steps in preparing the car so you do not wait around 20 minutes waiting for them to get it out of the back lot and cleaned up. Remember, there are many layers to the car buying process and if there are 15 minute waits here and there it will add up to another 2 hours to the process. Much of what I am talking about is how to speed things up. A quick battle so to speak, as opposed to a long drawn out process which is a technique by the dealer to wear you out and you end up signing anything just to end the pain. We will not let this happen to you! The best time is the end of the month when they are trying to meet quotas and the best days of the week are Tuesday and Wednesdays mornings which are the slowest times. Never buy a car on the weekend from a dealer.
Arriving at the Dealership
Park on the street (not in their customer parking) and enter the lot from there. Now that you are on the the lot, go directly to your contact person and if anyone approaches you, say that you are taken care of and you are here to see that one person only. If you get tossed around at the lot demand that you only want to deal with one person and that person should be high up on the chain of command as in a manager. When you speak to the contact person ask them for the keys and request that you want to be left alone to be with the car and that you will get back to them after you inspect the car. Do not let them hover over you. There is nothing that they can tell you that you cannot find out for yourself. DO NOT ENGAGE IN PROTRACTED DISCUSSIONS WITH THE SALES PEOPLE!
The test drive will consist of driving a “loop” that the dealership will want you to take the car and it is generally as short as possible. Allow yourself to take the car wherever you want including the freeway and parking lots so that you have to maneuver the car more than just in a straight line. They know the neighborhood so don’t worry about getting lost. If the car is low on gas (say below a 1/2 tank), casually ask if the car will be sold with a full tank. If he/she says “yes” to that, then that will become binding later in the process. Bring along the test drive check list.
At this point they will have some time invested in you. Your job now is to walk away. Yes, go have some coffee or something which requires you to leave the lot. It is the most productive part of the entire process. During that time away, figure out the price that you are comfortable with and now you will negotiate the entire deal by phone. Be firm and do not let go until they have quoted you the price of the car excluding fees (taxes, registration, smog and transfer fees). Once that amount is agreed upon by phone, you now get back to the lot and process the paperwork.
You will need the following:
1/ Copy of Drivers license
2/ Copy of Proof of insurance
3/ A document from your credit union or bank showing their best loan rate (if you are financing)
4/ Names and addresses of 3 people you know.
5/ If you have a co-signer they will have to provide the same information minus the proof of insurance.
Signing the Docs and Saying No
When you go back to the lot it should be straightforward into signing the preliminary paperwork including the loan application, if it applies to your deal. If you are intending on paying for the car in full (and yes they will taken a personal in-state check) you will still be required to fill out some paperwork including your name address, banking info and contacts like friends and family. This is because you will be taking the car off the lot before the money has been cleared from your bank and they need basic information in case of recourse. Do not sign anything at this point other than the Credit/Loan Application. After you are done signing the loan docs and they have checked your credit, you will have the financing rate presented to you. Feel free to tell them that the rate they are quoting you is not good enough and that you have other sources for the loan. In most cases I see them lowering it substantially. After you have the best price of the car and the best rate for the financing you will be committing to buying it. Tell the person you are dealing with that, since you will be buying the car, if they could send it into detail to get it ready for you (all cars go through this process no matter how clean it was when you test drove it). This is a major time saver.
Closing the Deal
At this point there are no negotiations left to do. The price that you are paying is crystal clear and any lending rates will be confirmed. You now move on to financing which will be in another office where you will meet the closer. They are really good at a couple of things and you must know this before sitting down with them. Firstly they are professional paper folders. Why is that so important you ask? The answer is that they do this same process 5-6 times per day and they are extremely good at it. In fact they are the most highly paid employees of the dealership. They are in the business of folding additional money into the deal in what is referred to as “back-end profit”. They will pitch to you, under no uncertain terms, the need for a very expensive extended warranty, car undercoating. glass etching, Lojack and gap insurance. Use your own judgement but remember that there is nothing that they will offer you that you will not be able to buy the very next day for a fraction of what they are charging you. Be especially careful with the extended warranty. Once you say no to everything you will be required to sign your name dozens of times. If anything was promised to you along the way, like that full tank of gas, that extra remote they said they had, floor mats or new tires will show up in what is called the “Due Bill”. This is where they are required to document their promises to you. This is a binding document and you will see that due bill in the paperwork. They are required to have you sign off on it.
After all the signing they will send you on your way. Your car should be waiting for you and away you go with a high quality car at the very best price without any of the usual headaches associated with the dealer nightmare.
Congratulations on an easy deal!
For a more detailed guide go to my professional website Car Buying Support. There you will find an extensive library, inspection checklists and much, much more. With this guide you will save thousands of dollars and buy your next car with me, your professional car buyer, at your side.
Greg Macke – Your Car Angel
Greg Macke is a car blogger and author of “My 7 Secrets to Buying a High Quality Used Car”. He is a professional car buyer and consumer advocate working closely in the industry to improve the buyer’s experience. His high quality car buying tutorials offer help to the car buying public. – See more at: carbuyingsupport