What I learned about the car-buying experience, and how you may improve yours

 

 

Everyone has a story about buying a car. Whether it was the first or 15th, it’s probably an experience that will never be forgotten. When my father was recently looking to replace his car, I tagged along and watched the process he went through, and learned a lot.

 

The dealership experience

We really relied on the dealership staff to steer us toward the right product – one that truly met our needs. Just because we had a personal relationship with the particular dealer we visited did not mean we didn’t go through “a process.” Things such as new versus used, reliability, manufacturer rebates, warranties, financing, etc., all came into play in arriving at a final decision.

And even with the benefit of having a dealer relationship available to us, it didn’t stop our family from looking around at other dealerships and options on the market. I remember one particular instance where my father visited a competitor’s dealership and asked the dealer’s salesman a number of questions, and was very interested in what the gentleman had to say.

At the end he disclosed that we are from a family of dealers. The salesman smiled and asked why we would shop “outside the family.” After my father explained it was part of his car-shopping and information-gathering process, the salesman gave us the “lowdown,” sharing information about what he believed to be key to any purchase. He even offered some pricing guidelines. I suspect that he knew my father could easily reach out to another car-selling professional and find out the true value of the car we viewed.

For people not related to dealership owners, the range of car-buying experiences is as varied as cars on the market. While I have heard multiple instances of successful car-buying experiences, I also have heard of horror stories.

But the rise of modern technology and the availability of information on the Internet have helped to educate car buyers. Most shoppers are now doing extensive research before shopping for an automobile.

 

The benefits of inspecting a vehicle and taking a test drive

While more shoppers are enhancing the car-buying experience and gaining knowledge with online tools, there is still something to be said for actually test driving the vehicle under consideration. When shopping online, you may find that sellers of used cars don’t give an accurate representation of the vehicle being advertised. Shoppers may see pictures of a pristine car only to show up and find a vehicle in a different condition.

In other instances, prospective buyers find that the car looked good inside and out, but after getting an inspection by a mechanic, receive the news the odometer reading has been changed. Worse yet, another scenario is the car completely breaks down shortly after purchase.

With new cars, many customers who haven’t researched, planned ahead and checked out a vehicle wind up spending excessive amounts on features and fancy-worded warranties that are either overpriced or just unnecessary.

 

The smart woman and the library

Of all the car-buying stories I came across, my favorite was about a (smart) woman who told of going to the library (before the age of the Internet) to look at the Kelley Blue Book. She was able to check the value of the car she was interested in before she visited the dealership. The seller initially offered her a price almost double what the car was worth.

Backed up by the information she had recently researched, the woman laughed at the seller, telling him she knew the car was worth much less. Loaded with facts and sharp sense, she ended up getting a great deal for the car she both wanted and needed. Doing her homework helped her avoid being taken for a significant sum of money.

With today’s easy access to information, anyone looking to purchase a car should consider spending some time doing research first. This need be nothing more than simply visiting a few websites and comparing prices, reading reviews and taking notes.

Try to identify the type of car that meets your needs and budget, and zero in on the value of the car that interests you most. And be careful when considering any extra features as these may be associated with significant upcharges.

 

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