Buying a car at this time of year could save you big bucks, if you shop smart.
It was the late 90s, and I had just moved to Los Angeles, right after college, and needed a car to navigate the sprawling city. I went from dealership to dealership (no internet then, kids), to decide on a make, model and color. I zoned in on a green Volkswagen Cabrio with a tan top and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on those keys.
When it came time to do the deal, it was a humiliating experience. Actually, it was barely my experience at all: I took my dad to the dealership with me, he did all the talking, throwing terminology around that I couldn’t understand, and doing math calculations that were over my head. I sat mute in the corner, until the dealer joyfully tossed me the keys to my new ride. I hardly felt deserving, since I hadn’t done any of the research to earn it.
I was twenty-one, and felt like a total idiot.
I swore I’d never walk into a financial transaction that big and be that uneducated ever again. But I must admit, buying a car still gets me tied up in knots. And apparently, I’m not alone: 35% of Americans said their last car purchase cost more than they expected, and 41% of us feel unsure we got the best deal, according to a recent survey from Capital One.
Summertime can be one of the best times to buy a new or used car: The 2016 models are on their way, and dealers need to make room on their lots by clearing out their inventory. I’m thrilled to be working with Capital One over the coming months to bring you car shopping tips, car buying trends, and some statistics that might empower you to shop for a car with confidence.
The key to managing the overwhelm and getting the best deal is to plan ahead. Here are a few low and high tech tips:
Do your financing before you go to the dealer
Imagine knowing the terms of your car loan before you even walk into the dealership. No more negotiating in a vacuum, no more wondering if you left money on the table. Services like Capital One’s Auto Navigator allow consumers to get approved for their auto financing for the car they want from home, and march into an eligible dealer empowered to get that car. You can even access Auto Navigator from your mobile device while you’re shopping, so if you change your mind about the make or model you’re eyeing, you can adjust your financing options in real-time. Best part: Once you get to the last stages of the negotiation, the dealer can best the terms of the deal if they’re able, so you’ve got nowhere to go but up. Regardless of the financing option you go with, just make sure you have a good company backing it, because it will matter down the road (see what I did there?).
Bring a level-headed buddy
When you’re considering extras like a GPS system, sun roof, warranty plan, etc., be sure you consider wants vs. needs and be mindful of your budget. Bring a friend to help keep you honest about what you can truly afford. If they’re someone who will be riding in the car often, even better; your shotgun buddy can give you an objective opinion about how well the car drives and how comfortable it is.
Don’t buy a car under duress
When I head to the grocery store on an empty stomach, it’s bad news, usually involving a bag of Salt & Vinegar chips that I eat as I roam from aisle to aisle. If you want to negotiate smart for the car you want, don’t go to the dealership hungry, tired, or otherwise stressed about buying a car. Also, dealers will be more incentivized to get rid of cars that are already sitting on the lot, so if a dealer doesn’t have the exact car you want, make sure you ask them to try and locate that car for you. This might take time, which you won’t be inclined to spend if your blood sugar is low, or you’ve got to get to an appointment.
Any tips I missed? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks to Capital One for sponsoring this post. And thank YOU for supporting our sponsors!