Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Buy a Used Car

My woman and I set out several months ago and saw two deals fall through before finally finding success. I am sad to report that bait and switch is alive and well and the truth finds no purchase in the vocabulary of a used car dealer. The people you find employed as used car salesmen are those whose ethical lapses got them kicked out of pickpocket school.

It was hard work to not get ripped off, and we’ve only had our new vehicle for a few weeks so cross your fingers and stay tuned. But it has been a learning experience. Buying a used car will be easier if you follow these rules:

1.      Never accept bullshit prices. When you see a price listed and then see some small print about the price being the “Internet price” or the “financing price,” walk away. Do not do business with any car dealer that wants to tack on as much as 20% simply because you’re not willing to go into more debt and earn them a bigger commission because they’ve signed you up for financing.

2.      Take your vehicle to your own mechanic. If you don’t already have one, look one up on the Internet and call ahead of time and make an appointment to get whatever car you’re interested in checked out. Don’t trust any dealer that won’t let you take a vehicle to your own mechanic.

3.      Utility uber alles! Pick the vehicle that will give you the most use. Pay no attention to what it looks like or what your friends are driving and pick what makes the most sense to what your needs or and how you live your life. Unless you plan on invading a desert country or being a douchebag in an ugly vehicle, you will have no use for a Humvee. Likewise, you can’t fit a dead deer in the trunk of Prius. Think about how you live your life and what you do every day or every time you drive? I know people who didn’t buy a car because it didn’t have any cup holders. It was sleek and sporty, but sleek and sporty does you little good if you’re spilling hot coffee on your genitals every day.

4.      Research everything. There is no excuse not to be super informed on your car purchase. You can find out detailed information online on any vehicle worth buying and read lots of customer reviews. One truck I almost bought had two active recalls on it. Since the recalls would be serviced for free, it was even more inexcusable that the dealer hadn’t done that before putting the vehicle up for sale. Know this kind of thing. Spend the money on Carfax, and don’t trust the dealers to provide you with that. It is nice for dealers to do that, but at least one dealership I considered buying from had been accused of providing false Carfax reports.

5.      Go with your gut. Does the car dealer give you the creeps? Is there something that just doesn’t seem right about everything? If the sales people or their manager (they love the tactic of getting a pushy manager involved and playing good dealer/bad dealer with you) act as if they’re trying to rush the sale, something is wrong and you should probably walk away from it.

6.      Resist the bait and switch. The first dealership we visited pulled a blatant bait and switch. When the salesmen realized that we were interested in cheap vehicles and were planning to pay in cash, they sent us to random, far-away corners of the lot looking for a van they advertised at an inexpensive price. The story we got was that the vehicle was probably not there anymore. “We sell hundreds of cars every week.” They continued to play ignorance as to the location of the van listed for $4,995 until one of the salesman walked by it as we were walking with him and quoted us the wrong price on it. “This is a Toyota Sienna but it’s $8,000,” he said. We noticed that it was the very van they had advertised on the Internet for $4,995! We pointed that out for him and began looking over the van. He walked away. We put a deposit down on the van. It ended up being a piece of shit that we didn’t buy (see #2), but we made them make good on their ad.

7.      Test drive everything, three times if you need to. Don’t buy from any person or place that won’t let you do test drives. Those are either scam places or auction houses selling to dealerships. A test drive is a no-brainer. The only thing a dealership should want from you before you do a test drive is to see your driver’s license. One dealership said that we could only test drive vehicles if we put a deposit on it first. No dice. This was the same dealership that listed a truck on the Internet for $2,000 less than they did on their lot. The dealer said that once we gave them a deposit on it, “Then we know we can do business.” We walked away after saying a pleasant goodbye.

8.      Pay cash. Don’t get bogged down in financing unless you have to. There are many car dealerships that really don’t want to deal with people paying cash. I watched many a hopeful salesman deflate on the spot and write me off in their minds when I mentioned we were paying cash. Salesman will try to sell you something above your price range and they’ll say how easy financing will be and how glorious your life will be with an expensive car with the magical power of financing. Fuck ‘em. You don’t want to get involved with the dealerships that are relying too much on commissions from financing. The more they want to focus on financing, the less effort they put into giving a shit about cars.

9.       Ignore time pressure. One of the sleazy dealerships had signs several places telling customers to remember that, “The car you looked at today is one that someone may have put a deposit on yesterday…” and the tactics of the manager and salesman were in the same vein. Ignore those time pressures and understand it’s a bad sign that should make you think twice about buying from the dealer. The person trying to rush a sale is the person who doesn’t want you to get a good look at the vehicle or the terms of sale. 

10.  Join AAA. I seemed to break down a lot more when I was too poor to spend the money on an annual AAA membership. Even if you never use it ever, it’s worth it just to avoid the jinx of not having it.

At the end of the day, we drove away with a used 2003 Ford F150. It is big and it is hard to park, but it’s what suits us and we love it.

1 comment:

used cars vauxhall said...

“You don’t want to get involved with the dealerships that are relying too much on commissions from financing.”- so true. Stay away from these car agents and focus instead on those who rely on the quality of their used cars.