Some tricks of the trade will never go away. Despite the fact that the industry is doing its best to rid itself of the old labels; ”dodgy dealers” ”rip-off merchants” and ”con men” there is still room for all the old ruses designed to part customers from their hard earned. During the course of any given day there are stories of buyers returning to dealers, often days after buying a car, only to find that for one reason or another they have bought the wrong car. Sometimes of course it can be the customer, not discussing the purchase with everyone involved in the process or not test driving a car in the conditions it may predominately be used in, but more often than not failing to prepare properly or spending the required amount of time needed for such an important and expensive purchase. Unfortunately this leads to only bad news both financially and emotionally. We have often told stories of drivers taking cars back only to find that their mistake has cost them literally £000s of pounds to rectify, but it’s not always the customers fault. There are unfortunately unscrupulous and unprofessional staff in all industries – you only need look at the bankers and more recently even the people who run the country who are quite happy to rip us all off – so we should not be surprised when it happens. But we should be alert and making the wrong car choice, because we were pressured into it by a smooth talking sales person, should simply not be happening anymore. Whilst we would all acknowledge that we need professional sales staff to demonstrate and discuss their products there are very easy ways to remain in control when visiting a showroom and here are a few tips to get you started:.
An old favourite from MTI. It sounds simple but the old adage of fail to prepare and prepare to fail is still relevant. With the internet we can access information about any car anywhere for any price at the click of a mouse. We can compare specification, model, mileage and price up and down the country in a few seconds. Every manufacturer has their own website with descriptions of every model in the range including engine, trim levels, availability and price. With used cars most car dealers in the country whether independent or franchised will advertise their stock on Autotrader which is a very easy site to navigate, and again compare all the criteria important to you.
Make a list of questions
Any salesman we have ever known will visibly recoil at the site of someone with a list of questions because salespeople are trained to ask the questions not give answers. In the same way as if you were house hunting, most buyers have specific must haves, with a house it maybe a south facing garden in a cul-de-sac, with 5 bedrooms and two en-suites on a non estate location, in a car it might be electric heated seats, sat-nav 5 doors and automatic transmission. Either way there are some wants you will compromise on and some are must haves, if a car doesn’t have your must haves don’t even drive it or take it any further. Many cars have been sold by salesmen saying ”come on let’s just drive it and see if you like it”. Well of course you might like it its 5 years newer than the one you currently own but that doesn’t mean that you should buy it. Make sure you ask the questions that are important to you and only take things further if you are happy with the answers, if not move on to the next car.
Take your time
Always give yourself plenty of time to go through the process, as we have said, so many purchases of cars are made in haste. If you must pop into a showroom ensure that it is just for information gathering unless you have time to take a long test drive in conditions which suit the way the car will eventually be used. For instance there is no point going around the block when you are doing 10000 motorway miles every year! Don’t be afraid to ask questions whilst driving or if you hear a noise or are unsure about something be sure that the explanation you receive is satisfactory.
Be realistic when negotiating
When is a deal a good deal? Only you can tell that, but if you have a great car which you are happy you have bought which has not broken your budget and the salesperson has done everything they promised then it just may be that to you it is a good deal. It’s true certain people just want to buy the deal and the actual car becomes somewhat irrelevant. They’re probably just interested in high fiving themselves at the end of the process, basking in the knowledge of how much money they managed to save so we’re assuming you’re not one of these people and your new car is as important as the price. But remember the basic rule for most dealers is small car small profits! You wouldn’t expect a Corsa, Punto, Fiesta, 107, Clio etc to have the same profit margin as a larger more expensive car. Typically, but obviously not in every instance, the dealer margins on both new and used cars will be between £1,000 at the very lowest end up to potentially £5-8,000 at the highest and it’s your job to convince the dealer to give you as much of this as possible whilst still being happy to look after you properly. However if you drive too hard a bargain you may end up going from dealer to dealer just to save a few pounds and lose a few friends in the process.
Always allow yourself some thinking time before committing
Too many times salespeople have said things like ”if you don’t buy it today you won’t get that deal tomorrow”. Why won’t you? What’s the difference? If someone says that to you make sure you take even longer to decide! Also we often hear stories of pushy salespeople saying ” if you don’t buy it today, my colleague has two other customers coming to buy today, but I am giving you first refusal”. Again if you want the car and it has been a struggle locating the car you want then buy it, if not go away and consider it and if the car has gone (which is doubtful) then it clearly wasn’t meant to be. Better to have missed out than to have lost out!
Get it in writing
Always make sure that anything you have agreed is marked down on the order form and signed by you and a manager. You will often find small print which says the form is not binding without management authority. Also if what you have agreed i.e. a set of mats, tank of fuel, one year’s road tax, paintwork protection etc is on the order, you can take someone to task if these things are not present, and it will save an awful lot of the “we said, you said” routine.
These are just a few small tips to protect yourself from making the wrong choice and there are many more steps involving funding, the value of your existing car and the aftersales care you can expect. In the meantime empower yourself to buy a car and not have it sold to you.
The very least you will achieve is being saved from the costly mistake of buying the wrong car.