10 Tips for How to Buy a Car from a Dealership

A Car salesman advice on how to buy a car from a dealership





So I’ve been married to a car salesperson for 28 years! And one thing he knows is that I hate it when someone tries to sell me something. I want to research, try out the product and make my own informed (or emotional) choice. Many people dread buying a car because they don’t know if they’re getting the best deal or not. Buying from Craigslist or Autotrader can be unsettling because there are so many scams out there. So what do you do when you’re on the car lot and are faced with a live car salesperson? Well, let me give you our 10 tips for how to buy a car from a dealership!

I know I’m biased, but my husband is a great salesperson. The proof is that his customers love him and continue to come back to him because they know that he has integrity. He’s honest, will give them the best deal and will help them find the best car to meet their needs/desires. So I thought I would share some of his advice on the best way to buy a car from a dealership.



Before you buy a car from a dealership - checklist of what you need to know

How to Buy a Car from a Dealership

Here is exactly what you need to do and what you need to know when buying a car from a dealership directly from an experienced car salesman.

1. List Your Needs and Wants

One problem is people go to the dealership and they don’t know exactly what they want or need. They waste their time (and the salesperson’s time) and may leave frustrated that they didn’t find the car they hoped to find.

So first, make a list of your needs and wants in a vehicle. Think about how many miles you’ll be driving and what you’ll be using the car for: Vacations, work, pleasure, errands, taking kids to school, etc. How many different people will be driving the car? How many people will be riding in the car on a regular basis? Be thinking of the size of the car you want and the type of vehicle you want–SUV, truck, mini-van or car. Bringing this list with you or knowing it will help you in buying a car from a dealership–or anywhere, for that matter.

10 Tips for How to Buy a Car from a Dealeship DiscoverCreateInspire.com

2. Decide on Your Budget

Know your budget before you go to the dealership because ultimately, it will determine what type of car you are able to buy. Be realistic. And don’t let anyone talk you into spending more. The questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • How much are you able and/or willing to pay per month?
  • Or is the bottom-line amount most important–the total you will be spending?
  • Are you wanting to finance the car or pay cash for it?
  • If you’re wanting to finance, how is your credit?

Be upfront with the salesperson about your finances so that he can help you as best as he can. Remember that he wants you to be able to buy that car and a good salesperson will let you know your options for financing. If you really don’t know how things work, talk with a friend or family member who has financed a car before. Ask them to go through how it worked for them and maybe even have them go with you when you purchase your car.

10 Tips for How to Buy a Car from a Dealeship DiscoverCreateInspire.com

Financing Vs. Leasing a Vehicle

If you finance your car for lower payments and for a longer time, you may end up being what dealerships call “upside-down” on your car. That means that you will owe more than it is worth–more than you would be able to sell or trade it in for. If you drive the car very little and put very few miles on it, this might work out okay for you. The average car gets 12,000-15,000 miles per year. If you put a lot more than that, the value of the car will go down quicker.

If you are the type of buyer who wants a new car every two or three years, you should really consider leasing a vehicle. You will get all the warranties and you won’t have to worry about resale or trade-in value. You can turn it in at the end of your lease, and lease a new car of your liking. All you have to consider for leasing is the monthly payments.  The monthly payment on the lease of a new car is often cheaper than the payment on a five-year loan on a new car. With leasing, you can have a lower payment on a basic car, or you can have a similar payment to having a loan with more equipment and amenities.

3. Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Once you narrow down the type of car you want, do some research online as to the pros and cons of specific models. Check for: Gas mileage, safety ratings, reliability, and for used cars, check the Kelly Blue Book price compared to what the cars are listed for. For new cars check True Car to get the average selling price for new vehicles.

10 Tips for How to Buy a Car from a Dealeship DiscoverCreateInspire.com

4. Look Up Cars on the Dealership Websites

Check out the inventory on the dealer’s website and be familiar with the prices of the cars you are interested in. If you are willing to drive an hour or two away, sometimes you can find a better deal on the car you like, so be sure to look up area dealerships and check their websites as well. Always call to find out if they have the vehicle in stock before driving far to see it. Talk directly to a manager or salesperson and ask them to hold it for you.  Get the person’s name and phone number of the person you talked to, so that you can confirm it if necessary.

5. Find the Best Salesperson

When you know the basic models you are interested in, start asking friends and family for recommendations for a salesperson. It really makes a difference when you get a salesperson who has integrity and who you can trust.

It’s a good idea to call ahead to make an appointment with the specific salesperson. Ask for them by name when you call or call them directly if you have their number. If you just show up, the better salesperson may be with other customers and you could get shuffled off to a less knowledgable salesperson.

Tell the salesperson on the phone the type of cars you are looking for–make, model, year, color. All the things that are important to you. They either know or can quickly look up what is in their inventory. Also, many car dealerships have multiple stores in their network, so your salesperson



6. CarFax and AutoCheck

For used cars, ask your, salesperson, for the CarFax or AutoCheck. This gives a quality score as well as owner and accident history for every used car out there.

Before you test drive a car - what you need to know

7. Before You Test Drive a New Car

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to choose your top two vehicles. Maybe you like one more than the other, but keep an open mind. Things you need to consider:

Are you willing to sacrifice the color you want to save money? Maybe you’ve always dreamed about having that red car or black truck, but what if they have a silver one at a very discounted rate? Are you willing to give in and get the better deal?

Decide what other factors are important to you. Some things to consider:

  • Is it comfortable?
  • Is there good visibility?
  • Does it have the equipment that you want or need?
  • If people are riding in the back seat–is it spacious, comfortable, convenient?
  • Will the trunk size accommodate your needs?
  • Does it have good gas mileage?

8. What to Look for When You Test Drive a Car

Next, it’s time to go and do a test drive. Be sure and test drive both of the cars you’ve picked out. And don’t buy until you’ve driven both! Even if you are convinced ahead of time of what you want, your second choice might surprise you. Or you might get a better deal on it.

Go through the checklist as you are looking at your car. And it really wouldn’t hurt to bring a printed list with you. It’s easy to forget your train of thought as the salesperson is doing his job and going through all of the amenities of the car or giving you their pitch. If the salesperson doesn’t automatically list the amenities, be sure to ask about them. Even see if they have a list of them for each car you are serious about.

When driving it, be sure to drive at various speeds to get a feel for the car. How do the gas pedal and acceleration feel? How are the brakes? Remember, though, that it always takes a little time to get used to a new car. Is this something you could get used to easily.

10 Tips for How to Buy a Car from a Dealeship DiscoverCreateInspire.com

9. Should I trade in my car?

If your car is an older car–say more than 10 years old–you always can sell it for more yourself than the dealer will give you for it. Check the Kelly blue book price to see what your car could sell for before going in to buy a car from a dealership. The Kelly Blue Book will give you both trade-in values and resale values. From there you can make your decision and know if the dealership is giving you a good value for your car.

While selling your car yourself may bring you more money, many choose not to because of the hassle. It can be time-consuming to sell your car yourself. You have to advertise, find time to show it, find a safe place to exchange cash, and then possibly go without a car while you are attempting to buy your new car.  The benefits of trading in a car are that it’s easy and convenient and you can transfer your license plates to your new car which saves a few dollars. The right decision is really up to you.

And did you know that you can still trade your car in even if you still owe money on it? As your salesperson about options.

When you bring in your car to a dealership to trade it in, bring it clean, but don’t spend money detailing it. The dealership will give you less money if you have a lot of junk that has to be cleaned out. Also take any extra keys, books, and title and registration to be ready to trade it in.

tips to buy a car from a dealer

10. More Tips for How to Buy a Car from a Dealership

a. Many people dread buying a car at a dealership because they don’t like the price-haggling process. When possible, go to dealerships that have the prices on the cars and prices online. Be aware of the fine print online–like price doesn’t include destination charges, processing fees, taxes, etc.

b. When being quoted a price, be sure that the dealership spells out to you the cost of the car, any discounts, AND the trade-in value of your car in writing.

c. Depending on the commission/pay plan of the dealership, it is often best to go purchase a car the last few days of the month. This doesn’t matter so much for dealerships that don’t pay on commission. When you call your recommended salesperson to make an appointment, it wouldn’t hurt to ask him if they are paid on commission or not.

d. Don’t go when it is almost closing time. You don’t want to be rushed to make a decision because they are closing.  Go during the day in daylight so you can see the cars better. As mentioned above, for the best service, make an appointment with your salesperson so he is expecting you.

e. Sometimes a dealership will have cars that they are wanting to move–as in they are very motivated to sell. It may be because they have too many of the same color or same equipment, or not very popular color, oldest ones in the lot–like the previous year’s model–or something like that. If you are willing to be flexible on these things, you can sometimes get a pretty good bargain. Ask your salesperson or the manager if they have any cars that they are selling at a special price for these reasons.\

11. Bonus Tip – Rethink the SUV

Lastly, according to my husband, “everybody” wants an SUV. Be aware that they cost more because they are four-wheel or all-wheel drive. The supply is less than the demand, keeping the price of even the used SUVs higher.  Mini-vans can have the same or more space than an SUV and generally cost less. The insurance on SUVs costs more, as well, and the gas mileage is not as good. If you are not needing the space, a sedan or coupe car could be a more affordable option for you.

Hopefully, my husband’s tips for how to buy a car from a dealership will help you get the car you really want and need. Do you have more tips? Let our readers know if the comments below! If you have more questions about buying cars, post in the comments and I’ll be sure to ask my own expert car salesman!

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