Welcome to the second part of the Buying Your First New Car series. We’re diving straight into the second half of the purchasing process that will end with you sitting in your brand new car. If you missed the first part, feel free to go back and catch up. In part 2 though, let’s start with going to the dealer.
The Ins and Outs of the Dealership Experience
Other than the negotiation itself, showing up at the dealership seems to be the most dreaded part of the new car buying experience.
Pulling into the dealer lot, a giant inflatable, wavy arm tube thing or gorilla eating a tire is the first to greet you. Within moments of pulling into a parking space, the over-excited sales team swoops in, and you won’t be more than arm lengths away from them until you leave.
Remember: You’re in Control of the Situation
They’ll offer to take the keys for a trade in valuation on your current ride before showing you the latest models while fantasies of what they’ll do with this commission dance in their heads
The biggest thing to remember about the car buying process is this: You are in control. If at any time before you sign on the dotted line you’re not comfortable with the situation, you’re free to leave.
Sure, they might pressure you to sign, saying this is the best deal you can get and it’s available for today only. They might have a”hard time” tracking down your keys in an attempt to keep you in the showroom, hoping and wishing you’ll change your mind. And while these tactics are certainly frustrating, the dealer isn’t really in a position to force you to buy.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to bring someone else along to the dealership. Having an extra set of eyes and friend looking out for your best interests makes the process that much more comfortable.
After taking a look around and climbing in a few models, you’ll want to take a test drive.
The Test Drive
Test driving a new car is a relatively straight forward process. As it’s fresh off the assembly line, you can feel confident that all the components are in great condition, unless you are unfortunate enough to be looking at a lemon.
For a new car test drive, you’re going to want to get a feel for the vehicle.
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Can you adjust the seating and steering wheel as you wish? Are the controls laid out well? Does the size of the blindspots significantly impact visibility? How easy is it to maneuver through the infotainment system? These questions, and others, should have positive answers if you want to love your new car, not hate it.
Also, things like cup holder design might seem like a small detail, but after elbowing your coffee for the umpteenth time or not having your favorite mug sit correctly, something as minor as bad drinks placement will strain your relationship with your car.
If you’re feeling particularly confident in your choice, some dealers will allow a 24-hour test, something which should be taken full advantage of. Use this opportunity to pile everyone in for a round of errands, practices, or any other jobs you plan to use the car for.
If it can’t handle what you need it to, it’s time to focus on something that does. Though the sales team may push for a sale, whether not you’re happy with the car, smile and say thanks but no thanks and move onto another one. Remember, you’re in control.
On the other hand, finding a car that checks all the right boxes means you can move onto the next step.
Everyone and their grandma knows someone with a horrible dealership story, with themes like hours of waiting around, intimidating managers, and ridiculous add-ons and extra fees common to most stories.
Don’t focus on those as you begin your negotiations. You’ve done the research, you know what you can and can’t afford. Stick to your guns and don’t get emotional. Emotional negotiating is a bad tactic to use when buying a car.
However, realize that both parties, you and the dealer, are trying to get the best deal, and that the best deal for you and the best deal for them aren’t the same. A dealer would love nothing more than for you to buy the car at sticker (the price listed on the car’s window sticker), while you probably want the car for invoice (the price the dealer bought the car for).
You’re going to end up somewhere between those two numbers, and closer to the middle than either party wants. Which is fine; when both parties are unhappy with a deal, it’s probably a good deal.
Here’s a side note on dealer options. Most dealers make their money with add-ons and fees like extended warranties, paint and fabric protection, rust proofing, and prepaid maintenance.
These up-sells are usually redundant, as the manufacturer has already taken care of it (paint and fabric protection, rust proofing) while others leave you tied to the dealership (extended warranties, prepaid maintenance) or you’ll void the add-on, and end up throwing money down the drain.
Some extras don’t even do anything. Nitrogen-filled tires are a good example. While Formula 1 cars can find performance gains in tires filled with nitrogen, your commuter won’t, at least not an appreciable one.
There’s also the fact that you have to pay to have your tires filled with nitrogen, versus filling them with free air. I don’t know about you, but spending between $20 and $30 for a top up on my tires sounds pretty ridiculous to me.
Anyways, these are all options you’re free to pass on, saving you a few thousand bucks in the process.
Dotting the I’s and Crossing the T’s
Now that you’ve arrived at a number that works for everyone, the paperwork will be drawn up. Before you sign it, make sure to carefully go through the documents, making sure everything is the way it’s been agreed upon.
Once it’s been signed, there aren’t a whole lot of recourse options should you not like some of the stipulations you’ve agreed to. It may be a tedious process at the end of a long journey, but a little extra work now can save a whole lot of headaches later.
After the closing the deal, the dealer will give you the title, registration and other papers. If your state requires insurance to drive the car off the lot, make sure you have that squared away, otherwise you won’t be driving away with your new ride until you do.
And there you have it. Buying your first new car doesn’t have to be as challenging as climbing one of the Alps or feel like you’re running from the bulls in Pamplona. Armed with the proper research and a cool, collected demeanor, you should have a positive experience at the dealer.
If not, there’s always people willing to do the work for you. For a hefty premium of course.