How to deal with a car dealer

So my wife and I have decided to bite the bullet and replace my junker-of-a-car. It’s been a decent clunker. But she’s starting to leak oil like a sieve and it’s usually 3 or 4 turns of the crank before I get ‘er started. So, it’s time.

There are many different schools of thought on buying cars. Some swear by leases. Some buy new and dump it before it reaches a certain mileage. And others, will never buy a car they can’t pay for in cash.




Today I just want to focus on buying from a car dealership. What you can expect and tips/ideas that have worked for me over the years.

  • Go to a dealer you know or have heard good things about. Buying a car is a big expense. It never hurts to know who you are dealing with. So, ask around – any friends of yours deal in cars? Any family members know of a good dealer? What are others recommending online?
  • Dealers make most of their money from service/parts. The good dealers want to build a relationship with you. Not just try and jip you on a car. They want you coming back again and again.
  • Have a good idea of what you want to spend before shopping. I was pretty naive and impressionable when I bought my first car. The dealer “sold” me on the image of a car and I bought it when I was clearly over my head. It was a lesson learned. A dealer will often ask what you want to pay monthly. Don’t fall for that gimmick. Know what you want to spend and stick to that.
  • Get financing elsewhere. If you can’t pay in cash for a car, it’s best that you get your own financing. The dealership’s interest rates are usually going to be more than at your bank or credit union. (HINT: Credit unions typically have the best rates on loans).
  • A vehicle is a depreciating asset. Don’t forget this fact when buying.
  • Best to buy slightly used over brand new. New cars tend to lose a large chunk of their value after they leave the lot.
  • Check the deals. Currently there are some great deals out there. US News and World Report has a “Best Car Deals” page they update every month with the latest automobile specials.
  • Last by not least: take your time. Unless your car just clonked out on the way to the dealer, there is no need to hurry the purchase. Many dealers (like Saturn) offer a 24-hour test drive. Take ’em up on that. And do your research.

What are some tips you have about car buying?

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