Buying or leasing a car and truck can be easy, fun and quick. Or it can be painfully difficult, confusing and slow.
You have heard of -- or personally experienced -- the long, frustrating, and nerve-racking car buying experience. You see a vehicle you like, start working with a friendly salesperson -- who shows you the vehicle and takes you for a test drive -- then you are passed on to a trained "closer" whose job is to convince you to say "yes," then to a finance manager, who sells you additional items that you either don't need or are grossly overpriced.
Hours later, completely exhausted, you leave the dealership with a vehicle, only to discover the next day that you really did not understand the numbers and may have overpaid. Or just as likely, you never know, until you try and turn in the vehicle three years later, only to find out that the original deal was not in your best financial interests and that you are stuck with the vehicle until you pay down more of the loan.
Why does this happen? The reason is simple. You buy a new or used vehicle every 3 - 5 years. You are an expert in your profession (e.g. doctor or nurse, electrical worker or business owner). No one expects you to be an expert in the car buying process. But the selling dealer does it every day. There is an asymmetric knowledge base -- they have the knowledge, and you might not.
If it were just about "the price," many of the online car buying sites (e.g. TrueCar, Cars.com, CarGurus and more) would be a sufficient way for you to buy a car. But in most cases, the process is much more complicated, and involves the cost and terms of financing, an extended service plan, after-market upgrades, as well as the value of your trade vehicle.
Car deals can often be complex. A vehicle concierge service, such as CARtegrity, can navigate it for you, saving you time and money - and the aggravation of "haggling" with a dealer. A car advisor can also find the right dealer and negotiate the proper terms that will be in your best financial interests.
Eight Buying Factors to Consider
Below are the eight of the biggest factors for individuals to consider when purchasing or leasing a new vehicle.
1. Value Your Time: Consider retaining CARtegrity or a similar car buying service. Do you have 10 - 20 hours to invest in research, visiting one or more dealers, then sitting through a 4-hour car buying experience? How frustrating is it when you arrive at a car dealer wishing to purchase a particular unit you saw online, only to hear, "sorry, it has been sold.” CARtegrity or others can cut this process down to just an hour or two.
2. Learn What You Want: Focus up front on what type of vehicle type you want (e.g. a mid-sized SUV or luxury 4x4 truck) -- even the brand that you might prefer (e.g. Ford, Toyota, GMC). Then, you or a car buying service can get to work.
3. Value Your Trade: A major source of dealer profit is to "UA the trade." That stands for "under-appraise the trade.” In other words, a fair trade for your current truck might be $12 - 14k, but a car dealer might offer you just $10k, hoping you will just say "yes." If you accept, you have left at least $2k on the table. You can easily appraise your trade by going to KBB.com.
4. Price: The vehicle price is often negotiable. Additionally, on new vehicles, there are sometimes "factory rebates" of which you should be aware. Independent new car dealers are competitive with one another, so talk to two or three, not just one. Do your homework or ask CARtegrity to help you do it.
5. Financing: In California -- unknown to most consumers -- car dealers can legally "mark-up" an interest rate 2 - 3%, depending on circumstances. This does not mean that they have to do so. Rather, it is a source of additional profit to the dealer. Leases are even more complicated, requiring substantial financial knowledge to navigate, to make sure you get the right deal.
6. Term: Focus carefully on the term of your loan and determine what is best for your budget and anticipated vehicle use. For example, if you drive 30k miles per year -- which is atypically high - you might want to take out a 36 or 48 month loan, not the typical 72 months, unless you plan on putting down a large cash down payment; otherwise, when you try to sell the car in a few years, you will likely be very "upside down" on your loan.
7. Extended Service Plans: Many of these products are excellent and pay for themselves. For example, an extended service plan that covers the vast majority of repair items up to your chosen mileage (e.g. 100k miles). But this does not mean that you should overpay for a plan. CARtegrity has seen instances where a new car dealer attempts to charge $2k, $3k or more above their cost. Certainly, car dealers have a right to make a profit -- and should be allowed to do so. So long as it is not "excessive."
8. After-Market Items: On certain trucks and performance vehicles, there are often "after-market" items, such as custom wheels / tires, exhaust, level lift, custom lights, paint et al. Beware of dealers who list just the total price and won't break down these items by individual cost. CARtegrity once saw a dealer that listed the "package" at $25k. CARtegrity found an independent vendor that did the same quality job - or even better -- for half the price.
We want you to have the best experience buying or leasing a vehicle and we are here to help. Remember, knowledge + planning = best outcome!