Going new-car or used-car shopping this weekend? There are a lot of choices out there, and it can be tough to decide. But I’m not talking about buying your next car. I’m talking about picking your new or used car dealership. That’s the second most important decision you will make on what is typically the second most expensive thing you own.
Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a dealership. Most apply to both new and used car dealerships.
What’s Its Sales Approach Like?
There’s nothing wrong with a dealership trying to upsell you. It exists to make a buck. However, if a dealership lures you in with one price and then claims that particular vehicle is no longer available, you don’t want to deal with it. Some dealerships—both new and used—are not above listing cars for sale that are phantoms. Those cars were sold long ago but are left online because of a low price.
Good Internet sales departments will handle the buying approach largely before you step in the store. Dealerships just pushing metal without regard to ongoing relationships won’t.
What Is Its Service Facility Like?
Gauge a dealership ahead of time to see how long it takes to get a service appointment. Ask if dealership customers get preference. Plus, check online and ask friends for feedback. Service facilities at used-car dealerships are important only if you are buying an extended warranty policy. That’s discussed below.
Is It Honest?
First impressions are important, and you should generally trust your gut feeling. I once had a 19-year-old salesman tell me he worked with his customers coming off lease. I asked him how long he had worked at the dealership. He told me 6 months, as in he had not worked there long enough to have his customers come off lease. Little lies up front usually mean bigger lies down the buying path.
The best way to check this out is to arrange your own financing ahead of time. Don’t tell the dealer what interest rate you’ve been offered. Let the dealership try to get financing, and see what rate they get for you. If it’s more than half a percentage point higher than the one you got yourself, the dealership is trying to pad its profit at your expense.
Will It Let You Say No?
Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive, offers this advice: “You don’t have to buy [a car] just because it’s in front of you. Another car will show up.” That’s especially true at new-car dealerships. You might lose your “dream car” on a used-car lot. But be patient. A similar one is bound to come along. Don’t do business with a dealership that won’t let you walk away without a lot of pressure.
How Convenient Is It?
Say a dealership offers a great price and a great warranty and is honest. Should you use it if it’s 40 miles from your house? The answer is yes if you are buying a new car solely on price. You’ll probably never see the dealership again for service. However, if you’re buying a used car with an extended warranty, that’s a bad idea. Not only will you have the hassle of trying to get a claim approved under an extended-warranty policy, but you’ll have to drive a great distance to get the work done. Proximity is especially important when it comes to servicing a used car.
If you’re shopping for a car, you can and should check each of the 5 points above yourself, but please also consult CarGurus’ Sales Reviews of any dealership you plan to visit. CarGurus invites car shoppers who have interacted with a particular dealership through our site to leave a Sales Review of that dealership. Those Sales Reviews often address at least one of the points above directly, and you might be able to save yourself a lot of time by sticking with dealerships that have strongly positive reviews. Sales Reviews all include star ratings, and all of a particular dealership’s reviews get averaged into a Dealer Rating from 1 to 5 stars. That Dealer Rating should help give you a good idea how well other shoppers who’ve shopped at that dealership thought it was doing its job. Why not start your search for a car by working with a dealership that has impressed other shoppers?
Shopping for a car this weekend?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals, and research cars on your smartphone.