Beat the dealer
- Do you need to buy?
- The test drive
- Don’t commit to anything
- The fine art of negotiating
- Stay calm
- Beware of the extras
- If things have gone wrong
Buying a car, whether new or used, represents a big financial commitment for most of us. Whether you’re looking to pay cash, arrange a bank loan or discuss a special dealer finance package, you owe it to youself to do some research before parting with a penny. That’s because we want to ensure that the process of choosing and buying a car is something managed by YOU and no one else but you!
Too often, in spite of our best efforts, we can simply become unwitting passengers in a purchasing journey that’s controlled – to a greater or lesser extent – by sales people whose priorities tend to be vastly different from yours.
Take heed of the following basic information – and do what you can to ensure that YOU stay in control of the purchase process.
Do you need to buy?
First things first! Ask yourself, do you really NEED to change your car? In particular, do you need to buy new? After all, even if you ultimately bag what you believe to be the deal of the century, you are likely to have an asset that will only depreciate. Imagine buying a car for £10,000 with an average depreciation of 20% in the first year. That’s nearly £40 a week.
After three years it’s likely to be worth £6,000, meaning you will have lost an average of £111 a month. Ouch.
OK, let’s assume you DO need to buy. Or perhaps you simply want to buy, perhaps because you’re in a position to afford to.
It makes sense to have all your homework done before you walk into a showroom. In this way you will know about the car you’re going to buy, which accessories you want and how much you are prepared to pay. The current economic climate means there are some exceptional deals available, so you can afford to be picky. If you don’t feel you are being allowed to get exactly what you want, then walk away. Don’t be talked into a model that’s bigger than you need or more expensive than you can afford.
The test drive
What is the best way to test-drive a car? How can you establish if the car you have seen advertised is the right car for you? First, do some background research. Does the manufacturer have a good reputation? Are there any specific problems associated with the make and model?
See our separate section on test drive tips.
Don’t commit to anything
It’s only when the test drive is over and you’re confident the car is suitable – and suitably priced – for you that the negotiations should begin. Remain non-committal throughout the drive. When the journey is over, open the boot and check how much space is available. Compare notes with your pal. What does he or she think about how suitable the car is? Remember that it’s the little things you spot now that could be major irritations later.
Then I suggest you leave it at that. Yes, walk away. However much you might have liked the car, and may have set your heart on it, you will be in a better position to decide on what’s best for you if you take the chance to try out some others. And you’re more likely to be in a stronger position to negotiate the price down, too.
The fine art of negotiating
Sales professionals are trained to negotiate. As a general rule, most of us are not – and if haggling doesn’t come naturally to you, it is easy to see how the dealer will be the winner here. But before you nod dumbly when you’re told the price, think about the extra thousands you could be spending unnecessarily. If you don’t have the cash to spare (and who does these days1) then prepare to roll your sleeves up and do battle.
You’ll be in a stronger position if you’ve done that all-important homework. Research who’s doing the best deals – as you may find the same car is several hundred pounds cheaper at another dealer a few miles away. Take a look at www.whatcar.com where target price indicators are listed and you’ll get a good idea of how low the dealer is likely to drop.
Ignore any special offers the salesman may introduce. You’ve done your homework, so you know what you want. Don’t be sidetracked by those special offers in the showroom. They’re not relevant to you, are they!
And remember, your feet may be a better negotiating tool than your mouth: so just walk away if you don’t feel comfortable.
“I bought a nearly new model Ford Mondeo last year. The salesman insisted that I take out a ‘Top up’ insurance on the car, meaning that if the car was written off under any circumstances I would get the full market value for it, up to its age of three years. This would cost me £400.
I pointed out that a car was fully insured for the first year anyway, so I was only getting two years’ cover. He then wanted me to have a Diamond Bright finish added at a cost of £400. This would put value on the car when re-sold.
Funnily enough he never asked me if the one I was exchanging had been done when talking about part exchange. I turned both additions down.
He kept insisting that I should at least take out the insurance, and eventually came down to £200. I still declined. I later found out that the actual cost of insurance to them was £49.99, and the cost of the Diamond Bright finish about the same.
If I had agreed to both, they would have pocketed £700 for nothing. So be warned when buying, if they don’t add them without cost to you, don’t buy it. You can always get them cheaper elsewhere anyway.”
If things have gone wrong
If the car they sell you turns out not to be the car you were expecting, it’s important to act fast. So:
Make sure you have all the receipts and paperwork.
Cars bought through dealerships will be covered under the Sale of Good Act. Be sure to take any action – such as formally rejecting the car – within two weeks of delivery.
Don’t be browbeaten into accepting a partial refund or extra discount from a dealer. If the deal has gone wrong, you need to be sure that the compensation offered is fair.