Car Shopping Tips from a Former Car Salesman
Car shopping—do you love it or dread it?
If you’re like most shoppers, you might find wading through all the makes, models, options and pricing a complicated process.
“Buying a new car can be scary, aggravating, expensive, time consuming, confusing—in short, a downright pain,” said Joel Grey, a former car salesperson who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After helping hundreds of people over the past 15 years save money during the car-buying process, Grey condensed all his new car shopping tips into the book called “I Never Wore Plaid: Insider Secrets from a Former Car Salesman.”
If you’re in the market (or just want a few car shopping tips), Grey said that the first thing you should do is to identify what type of buyer you are. Typically, there are three types of car shoppers:
- Impulse Buyers: This buyer tends to purchase a new car on a whim. “They hate to negotiate and may pay the full sticker price without thinking about getting any discounts,” Grey said. “You don’t want to be them.”
- Need Buyers: This shopper’s car was stolen or destroyed in a crash. Or perhaps, their employment changed and they no longer have a company car. They want to buy a new vehicle as quickly as possible. “You should avoid the temptation of going to the dealership without doing your homework,” Grey said. “It would be better to borrow a car or even rent a car because, in the long run, you will get a better deal and save money by not rushing the process.”
- Educated Buyers: These are the researchers who have looked online, read consumer blogs and magazines, reviewed dealership and car manufacturer websites, and found a variety of resources to help them to become well-educated shoppers. “They’ve done their homework and are ready to hit the showroom confidently,” Grey said. “That’s what you want to be an educated car buyer.”
Eight essential car shopping tips
Here is Grey’s advice on how to get the best deal on your next new car.
1. Know what you want.
- It will take some time to research which new car fit your buying checklist and your budget. “You have to know what you want and be smart about it,” Grey advised.
2. Set a budget and stick to it. Be honest with yourself about what you need and what you can afford. You should figure out how much of a car payment you can afford each month. Once you have a price in mind, figure out what the car purchase price could be. To help you do the math, find a car payment calculator online.
3. Keep your cool. Don’t walk in the showroom with your defenses up. “If you’ve done your homework, you should go in more relaxed and self-assured,” Grey said.
4. Shop around for a loan. Get quotes from banks and credit unions based on your budget and the type of car you want to buy. “Don’t just opt for the dealership’s preferred lender,” Grey said. “Every bank has different qualifications, but it’s a good idea to know your credit score, too. You want to get the lowest interest rate and the most favorable loan terms.”
5. Visit more than one dealership. Don’t stop the search after one dealership visit. Instead, make the time to visit several dealerships. “Once you think you have the best offer, call dealerships that you visited to ask if they give you a better deal than their competitors would,” Grey said.
6. Keep your trade-in on the QT. “Don’t make the mistake of telling the sales rep up front that you want to trade in your car,” Grey said. “Focus on the vehicle you want and its price. Later, you can negotiate the trade-in and its value.”
7. Stay focused. Once you go into the business office to finalize the purchase, think carefully about all additional options that the dealership might offer you like rustproofing, extended warranties, soundproofing or other optional add-ons. Do you need the extras? “Don’t let the excitement of your new purchase cloud your judgement,” Grey said. “Stick to your budget and don’t add things that you might not need.”
8. Shop in the summer. Grey said the best time to buy is the last Saturday of the month during the summer. At that time, the sales team is motivated by additional incentives to sell more cars. “When I was a salesman, those summer Saturdays were a big deal,” Grey said. “Just make sure to take a test drive on a weekday because your sales rep won’t want to spend time driving around on these weekends. They’re focused on closing lots of sales quickly. So take advantage of this opportunity and cut a deal!”