On the surface, it would seem like any moron wandering a dealer’s lot could pick out the $30,000 Nissan Versa and, you know, not buy it.
But sadly, spotting the outrageously expensive cars on the lot isn’t as easy as looking at the window sticker. There’s a sly game of profit-maximizing happening behind the scenes of most auto dealers.
This isn’t to say that salespeople are dishonest or trying to scam you. They aren’t. The vast majority are ethical businesspeople doing what they do best: trying to make money.
Whether you’re buying new or used, your job as a consumer is to give dealers as little money as possible. If you let them win, your sub-$20K Versa suddenly costs a lot more.
You can prepare yourself to buy a car with as much intent as a prize fighter training for a title match. You spend months researching your price, reading online buying tips, searching through DealFinder, Kelley Blue Book and NADA. Maybe you even run the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
However much you prepare, there’s always the risk of falling flat once the match begins. In fact, car dealerships are set up so you feel powerless. We’ve talked in-depth on this blog about negotiating your price, but once you’ve settled on your ideal number, don’t assume you’ve thrown the knockout punch. There’s still another round!
Once you agree on a price, dealers will make you feel like all you have to do is sign the paperwork and you’ll be on your way. With your guard down, you’ll be barraged with extra add-ons that can cost you serious money.
It might look like rust-proofing, paint sealer, fabric protectant, an extended warranty and windshield etching will cost only a few extra dollars per month, but over the life of your loan, which could be 72 months or more, those few extra dollars are suddenly a few thousand extra dollars. Don’t get suckered into extras!
Then there are the terms of the loan itself. A dealer will check your credit and will most likely offer you a loan… but it could be marked up 2 to 4 percent more than your bank or credit union will offer. Plus they may steer you toward an extra-long-term loan combined with the higher rate, padding their pockets even more.
The best advice is to know your price for the car, arrange financing before you go to the dealer, and say no to all the extras. Do that, and you’ll emerge a champion!
Do you have any other advice for winning at the car dealership?