I don't think I've shared this before so it may come as a surprise to most of you, but before I began my Interior Design company and this blog, I was a New Car Sales Associate for an Acura dealership back home in Toronto. I had been in sales for years after graduating from College and among a Telecommunications Sales and Software Sales career, I also sold cars. It's funny because whenever I used to even think of possibly buying or leasing a car, it felt exciting but daunting at the same time. Most people who worked at a dealership I found to be a bit slick and just looking to earn a commission, sometimes at any cost.
My goal was to sell as many cars as I could being myself making the relationship priority, I wanted my customers to feel they could trust me and that I wouldn't steer them in the wrong direction for the sake of a paycheck. Being the only female at an all-male dealership was an interesting experience to say the least and I'll be honest, given that it was a medium-sized dealership where the men were favored with leads,I lasted 3 months as it just wasn't for me. De-icing cars and shoveling snow off them before taking a customer out for a test drive was sort of the icing on the cake alongside of a Sales Manager who needed some serious anger management, as our team learned during our Monday morning meetings. Nevertheless, sometimes we experience things in life that aren't meant to last a lifetime but are great teaching tools. This was one of those times. Between taking a course at the Automotive Sales College (yes, there's such a thing), learning more about cars and the sales process, I tucked that knowledge away for future reference.
Anyway, I know many of you may have already purchased a car however perhaps your children who will go off to College have not. Perhaps you've lived in a big city where having your own transportation was not required and instead public transit or taxis was your primary mode of transportation. No matter what the case, I thought I'd share some tips in a step-by-step format on how to buy your first car.
1. Make a List of Your Must-Haves-Before getting carried away with how a car looks, how fast it is or the price, it's important to focus on what your needs are. Do you commute long distances? Overall comfort and gas mileage will be important to you if you do. Is this car just for getting around town? What features can you live without? If you live in a warmer climate, you may not need heated seats for example (although as a FL resident I can tell you that they do feel great on your back and we use them for a few weeks out of the year to stay warm). If you often have passengers or use your back seat for bags and groceries or a baby seat, you may find a 2-door car to be frustrating and not nearly as practical as a 4-door version. Likewise, if you have large packages or gear that needs to fit into the trunk, having rear 40/60 split seats would be an advantage for long items.
2. Determine Your Budget- Buying a car is the second largest purchase we make and it is an emotional one! Before letting yourself get carried away with a car you've fallen in love with, it's important to go in knowing what you can realistically afford. Bear in mind the cost of gas, oil changes, general maintenance (if it's not included) as well as car insurance, etc. If your budget allows for $300/mo. including taxes, you're better off finding something for $275/mo. slightly under than stretching things to $325/mo. Cars always cost more than we think, there is bound to be something that comes up-new wiper blades, a nail in a tire that needs replacing or patching, etc. You'll do yourself a favor in the long run if you are able to keep it at that price. Don't be afraid to negotiate with the sales person, $25 lower per month won't be a deal breaker most times when buying the car you really want.
3. Visit Multiple Dealerships & Test Drive- Visit several dealerships. For example, if you're looking at GM vehicles, visit more than one nearby dealership as you want to get a feel fore the dealership itself. Remember, this is more than the place where you will buy your car, it's likely where you'll have your car serviced too. Take a tour, get to know the staff and feel the overall vibe. Is the salesperson answering your questions directly? Do they make you feel comfortable? Do them seem honest and forthright? Do they spend the time to educate you on the vehicles or are they looking into the distance at the next potential sale? Once you've taken the time to visit dealerships and look at various models of cars, test drive the ones that make the most sense for your needs and budget, then compare them. Be sure to take the car out with the radio off, this will allow you to hear how quiet the motor runs, if there are any specific noises the car makes and allows you to pay attention in greater detail to the road as well as hear the sales person who may be pointing things out to you as you drive. Make sure you take the car out both on the local roads as well as on the highway so you can test the acceleration.
4. Take Time to Reflect- Before making any hasty decisions based on emotion, take a few days to just review the information you have. If needed, take the time to create a pros/cons list of the vehicles you test drove and also the dealerships until you are able to start narrowing down your decisions. Also, be sure to search online for reviews of particular makes and models. Hearing real customer feedback vs. just listening to a sales person is essential. You'll start becoming more informed with comments that alert you that "this particular model consistently has problems with the radio, or the steering wheel shakes above 70mph, etc."
5. Test Drive Your Favorites Again-Once you've weeded out the vehicles that won't work for you, if you're down to 2 or 3 models, why not test drive them again to be sure? This way, you'll have had the time to reflect so you can ask the salesperson your new questions and have a chance to look for certain things you may have overlooked the first time such as the amount of trunk space, how much of a blind spot there is based on the rear windows' shape, if the vanity mirrors light up or how far the seats go underneath your legs (especially important if you're tall). Each dealership operates differently. I still remember a couple who were really debating between one of our vehicles and another brand of car they were local customers and asked if it would be okay to take it for the day or weekend so they could really experience driving it as they would on their own. They were allowed to take it for the entire day and it gave them time to see how well their golf clubs would fit in, how smooth the ride was, etc. It doesn't hurt to ask.
6. Make Your Selection-After having had the chance to test drive a bunch of vehicles (some more than once), asking the necessary questions about the vehicle, the service center, financing/leasing options as well as what is covered under maintenance along with deciding upon the features you want to include such as a moon roof, GPS, etc., you're ready to make your decision and now you can get really excited about this final stretch with all the fun aspects like choosing leather or cloth, the exterior and interior paint colors and of course the options and getting one step closer to driving your sweet new ride off the lot.
7. Negotiating the Price-There's a rule in sales when it comes to negotiating and it's that the first person who mentions a price essentially loses. Be on the lookout for this. You can share your budget but when it comes to negotiating, the salesperson is going to want you to share with them how much you're willing to pay/what you can afford per month. As you get closer to a final number, during the negotiation they'll tell you they need to get a Manager's approval and will often ask you for a deposit right away in good faith if the price you ask for goes though. They may also ask you what amount will close the deal. Always go in lower on that number from the beginning and you'll get closer to what you want to pay at the end. They do have wiggle room, the MSRP is not the price you have to pay. There is a markup in manufacturer's vehicle lineup, some have more than others. Where I worked there wasn't a tremendous amount to play with but there is always room. Never pay full price-always negotiate! :) If the salesperson refuses to budge on price, ask if they can throw in a set of winter car mats, free heated seats, the moon roof, XM Satellite Radio hookup, a cargo net for the trunk, etc., so you come away feeling as though you're satisfied with your purchase in the end.
Now, I'd love to hear YOUR car buying tips, what do you look for or ask when you buy a car? Do you negotiate?
Thanks for Reading!
*This is a sponsored post however, all opinions and tips are my own. I carefully select each and every sponsor I work with and only partner with those which will benefit and /or represent you, 'The Classy Woman' reader.
*image source: Pinterest