Okay so now you’re really ready to get on with getting your first car. However, there are still a few more things that a truly savvy car shopper should do before actually putting his or her hard earned money down on the table.
So, we now continue with the 2nd part of our How to (really) buy a car series where I’ll tell you how to get not just the right car, but the best deal you can.
TEST DRIVE, TEST DRIVE, TEST DRIVE
People don’t buy clothes without fitting them. By that logic, if you’ll be paying for a car for the next few years, you sure as hell have to take it for a test drive before you decide.
Some dealers are sticklers when it comes to allowing a customer test drive a car. That should never, ever be the case when it comes to the second biggest purchase a family can make. If you are interested in buying a car and a dealer doesn’t find a way for you to get to try one, walk away. Take your business with you. Buying a car should never be like a blind date… you should always know what you’re getting yourself into.
If you do get to test the car, chances are the dealer will only allow for you to drive a certain route. I would be the first to tell you not to agree to sticking to their pre-planned route. The best way is to drive it on a road you take everyday to work, that way you can tell how much better it is -assuming that it IS better- than your car right now.
Another tip: don’t avoid potholes or bumpy portions of the road. Generally many try to drive a test car as smoothly as possible. However, do keep in mind that it is not a driving exam but for you, the customer, to get a feel for the car. Running it over the rougher, bumpier, and “holier” roads will tell you what many ask for in an everyday car: how comfortable it is.
Also, try to bring the whole family when you do the drive. That way, you can judge how much the car ‘squats’ on full load and how it behaves, or if it actually can take your immediate family… plus the yaya.
For sure the salesman will be accompanying you in the car, and there’s a good chance that he or she will be talking as you drive. Establish control early in the drive and try, politely of course, to get him or her to shut up. That way you can actually enjoy enjoy the car minus the PR speak and the sales pitch. If you have voices in your head, well, tell them to do the same as well.
Always remember, the salesman is there to make a sale. Very few will actually care if you end up buying something that isn’t right for you. I remember this one girl I worked with back at the dealership; very pretty and thus quite “convincing” to a lot of men. She successfully sold a subcompact sedan to a guy who’s 6’2”. When I asked her what he actually wanted to buy, she said he wanted an SUV (that same hot, in-demand SUV I mentioned earlier) but was swooned over (by her, she proudly said) to the little sedan. Whether it’s great salesmanship, the “hotness” of the saleswoman or the guy actually likes the little subcompact sedan didn’t matter… he made that car look Lilliputian all the same.
Again, keep an open mind. If you don’t actually like how the car feels and drives, try something else. You shouldn’t buy a car if you don’t like how it drives, if it doesn’t suit your needs or just because your neighbor, dad, uncle, best friend or even if many motoring journalists the world over all say so. Besides, aren’t you a little old for peer pressure by now?
AVOID GOING IN-HOUSE
Ah, yes. By this I mean the dealer’s in-house financing, in-house insurance and in-house accessories. Expect high interest rates, high premiums and high mark-ups, respectively. Avoid them, for the obvious reasons.
For your financing needs, talk to your own bank manager. Banks, especially your own bank, love repeat business. Your bank manager will know your credit history without asking you any more questions, he will know how much you can realistically deposit and most importantly, he can get you good interest rates. Going to your own bank can also save you from that time-consuming process of writing 12, 24, 36 or 48 post dated checks all afternoon, not to mention the carpal tunnel that could ensue.
For insurance, do the same as you would for your financing. If you already have plans with a particular insurance company, ask if they have auto insurance as well. Again, being a loyal repeat customer goes a long way in any business, and makes you more valuable to them in the long run. If you don’t know which insurance company to get, go over the internet and the automotive forums. Ask what people’s experiences are with certain insurance companies. Ask what the full coverage entails as well as the participation fees are (0.5-1.0% is the norm) There really is no substitute for good research especially when your soon-to-be pride and joy is on the line.
If you feel the need to accessorize your new ride, again avoid the in-house accessories desk. It’s like raiding the mini-bar in your hotel room; you’ll get an outrageous bill afterwards. Just buy your accessories elsewhere if you must. Banawe, Quezon City is the obvious choice, though there are plenty of other aftermarket shops around the metro. Please, forget the pimp dice.
There are a few exceptions, however. Many brands now hold sales events, offering excellent discounts and very attractive offers if you go in-house, especially when it comes to financing. If the deal offered at the event is better that what you think you can get from your own bank and insurance, then it’s a win-win.
PLAY SHOWROOM POKER
I love playing poker. A game where players try to outplay and outsmart each other is definitely fun and believe me, in a dealership setting, there’s a lot of poker going on.
Remember when I said that back in ’05, people were walking into our dealership with bags full of cash? Well, it wasn’t to show intent to buy. We already knew people wanted to buy that particular car; that’s why supplies were backed up for months. He was trying to intimidate us into giving him an allocation. That’s a good case of how one player (customer) will never win against another player (car dealership) that’s holding all the cards (in this case, the allocation of cars).
Now, if you’re in the market for a model that doesn’t have outrageous demand, then the reverse is true: you, the customer, are holding all the cards. It puts you in a position to bargain for, even strong arm the salesman for the right price. A car’s price is always negotiable, regardless of what the salesman tells you. It all boils down to how you play the game.
Case in point, if you go to a Brand X dealership, get a quote (on paper works best) with the biggest discount you can negotiate for and then go to another Brand X dealer and see how eager they are to actually beat that price or offer better free items to get your sale. Then try Brand Y and do the same. It’s all about putting the salesman’s drive and aggression into getting the sale to the test.
If you’re willing to put in a little legwork, willing put your wits to the test and have a great poker face, then you could end up with a great deal.
All these pointers sound very pragmatic. Maybe even a little evil. However, at the end of the day you will be paying for that new ride for the next few years. Isn’t getting a better deal worth all the more?
Always remember: it’s business… not personal.