by Diane Perin Hock, as taken from her Going To Pieces blog post.
Yesterday was all about cars. Roger, my husband, and I spent the better part of the day test-driving, which meant actually dealing with car lot sales people. That's always a risky enterprise. Some are just so hard to get away from.
But the day was a success. We narrowed the field down to one option, the Acura
MDX, and I'm totally in love with it (in the way women love a car, but not in
that way men love cars.)
I know, it probably doesn't seem glamorous. But when what would really work is a mini-van, and I simply refuse to drive a minivan (it's a gut reaction thing to those sliding doors, I think), this is a pretty fancy option (hence the "primp" thing above!). This is sort of a cross-over between an SUV and a luxurious station wagon, with a decent third-row seat for when I drive my quilting friends to bay area quilt shows or haul various kids on field trips. And look at that sunroof! I haven't had a sunroof since I was a footloose, child-free working woman.
It was an exhausting day. It started when a fairly manic woman at the Mercury dealership took us out for a test-drive in a Mountaineer (a fancied up Explorer) and the battery died, leaving us stranded and requiring that someone else from the dealership come rescue us. Roger and I had a few panicky moments when we were trapped in the car, waiting for rescue, while the lady took the opportunity to give us a tour of the vehicle's interior features. Yikes! We weren't impressed by the car to begin with, and couldn't get out of that dealership fast enough once we were finally retrieved by another salesperson (driving a Hyundai, no less).
Then, we came home and I spent the late afternoon and evening talking to my dear salesmen friends at dealerships within a 150 mile radius. What's a two-hour drive to pick up the car if you can save $50 per month on the car payment?! By the time the wheelin' and dealin' was done, I was feeling empowered and exhausted. Turns out our local dealer was willing to match the best deal, so I'm headed there today to sign the papers. Gotta get those "end of the month" papers done to get the best deals, I guess.
But I'm thrilled. Ooh, and I did I mention that this has heated seats in the front? Highly useful here in California (!), but a thrill nonetheless.
I've put together some tips for car buying for all you ladies out there. When I think about the process, I'd make these recommendations:
1. Test drive different cars and decide what you really like and want before you talk any numbers with any sales person.
let them try to get you with that "this special offer is only good for
TODAY" thing. The dealerships offer various special offers all the
time, and another will roll around soon. The trick to remember is that
you're on YOUR timeline--don't let them push you into doing something
sooner than you're really ready to.
3. Research online. Read the forums to find out what owners like and don't like about the car you're thinking about. You get a lot of information about features you might not even have noticed that way.
4. Figure out what you can afford.
5. When you know what you want and what you can afford (and presumably there's some overlap!), then call around to different dealerships to see if they can get it for you for what you want to pay. Some places say "We don't talk numbers over the phone," but you can have various responses to that. "I'm a mom with several kids and don't want to bring them all to hang out in your showroom while we talk all this through" (Let them picture a bunch of wild kids running around putting finger prints on everything.) Or "I live far away but I'd come to your dealership to do this if the numbers are attractive. If you can't give me any information on the phone, then I'll be calling the dealership in X town."
6. Don't be afraid to call other dealerships to tell them what you've been offered by another, and to ask for something better. First of all, you're not just pitting them against each other for fun. They're looking out for themselves and trying to get your business, and you're looking out for YOURSELF and trying to get the best price. Second, they'll either tell you that they CAN beat that other deal, or they can't. But I find it works best to be specific, for example.... "The San Francisco dealer will give this to me for $400 a month with $2000 down, but I'd buy it from you if you can do it for "$375 a month and $2000 down." If you ask them to "match it" then that's all they'll do. If you ask them to "beat the deal" they'll maybe shave a few dollars off. Ask for what you want, and they will either say "yes" or they'll offer you something in between. And if you reach a set of numbers that you like and are willing to commit to, ask 1) Has the sales manager/finance guy approved this offer? (that prevents you from getting there and being told "oops, the sales manager wouldn't approve such a low deal) and 2) Does this deal reflect all of the costs, there won't be any licensing/registration/delivery/acquisition/tax/other amounts added? Try to make sure that this REALLY is what you'd be signing for.
7. Once you have narrowed it down on the phone and go to the dealership to sign the deal, don't be afraid to insist that they stick to what they told you on the phone. If they try to add new figures (watch out for them adding "tax" which can amount to a LOT) then don't be afraid to walk away. They are either trying to bluff you and add a bit extra, or they're sloppy with their numbers and maybe you don't want to do business with them anyway. Or it truly was a misunderstanding, but they'll just have to "eat" their mistake because you were clear about the offer you were accepting.
8. Don't feel obligated to pay for or accept "options" that have been added to the car when you didn't want them. Let's say you want a white car with the basic options. The only white one they have has an upgraded stereo system that they want to charge you for. Say "I really don't care about the upgraded stereo so I don't want to pay extra for it" -- they'll either find you a car for the price you want, or not charge you for that option. Don't get sucked into paying for something you didn't want in the first place just because they put it on there.
Diane is a 40-something wife, mom, quilter, lawyer, and avid reader. She juggles these roles and more, and tries to keep smiling as she drops a ball or two every now and again. You can see her thought on her Going To Pieces blog.