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Friday, March 25, 2011

Prudent Penny: Car Buying Tips

Show of hands. Who hates car shopping?

If I counted right, we've had 12 cars in 35+ years. Some had been used, but most were new. This is the one point where Greg and I differ like night and day. As long as he can afford it, he wants a new car. He will not negotiate with me on this.

So for the last couple of decades I've had to deal with new cars. Up until Tank came along, each of us drove sports cars. And I desperately wanted another one, but Tank is a little too big for a sports car, so it was a truck for me. 

Only someone like me would buy a car determined by the family dog. LOL.

Since we've done this shopping dance so often we go in prepared. Before we walk into the showroom we already know the stats, the price and the available warranties. The only thing left for us to choose is the dealer and the color of the car.

If you remember only one thing from this post, remember this: Ask the dealer what the drive-out price is, NOT the monthly note. The first thing they're going to do is sweeten the deal by showing you what a "low" note they can offer. Uh-uh. That's just a ruse. Get the total price first--then you can discuss notes.

And be wary of their tactics. They'll try to manipulate your emotional triggers, skillfully using your children, your gender, or your prestige as a motivator.

One slick young man tried to embarrass Greg when Greg refused his 'final' offer. I could barely keep from laughing when the kid counters with: Well, Mr. Zannini, maybe it's too much car for you. (It was a sports car.)

Greg never missed a beat. He got up and said: "You're right, maybe it is." And he motioned to me that we were leaving. We got as far as the showroom when Mr. Slick comes running after us (with his boss right behind him). He met our price within fifteen minutes.

Then there was another salesman who kept going on and on about the leather interior and the cup holders with me. I finally cut him off and said: "Let's see what she can do." And I took him for a ride he didn't soon forget. :grin: I was born to drive a sports car, baby! He stopped patronizing me after that and we talked about turning radii and gas mileage.

To be fair, we met an honest sales person once. We've bought two cars from him, and we'll likely buy others from him too. That's how decent he was. No pushiness. No mind games. He gives us his best offer upfront, which so far has always been lower than what we expected to pay.

There are still good people out there.

Here is my checklist for car buying:

• Do your homework before you enter the showroom. Know all the stats and prices so you'll be able to tell right away whether the salesperson is trying to pull one over on you.

• Put your game face on. It's your money. Don't let them tell you how to spend it. You are always in control. It's up to them to make it worthwhile to you.

• Drive the car and push it (but safely). Brake hard. Punch the accelerator. Turn it in a complete circle to see where the turning radius is. Get on the highway and see what it does at higher speeds.

I won't lie. I am very hard on my vehicles. If it can't keep up with my demands, it's not the car for me.

• When it's time to deal, ask for the drive-out price--not the monthly note. Pretend you're going to pay for it in full. And by the way, if you do pay cash, that's leverage. I think our last five or six cars we've paid in full. It always gets us a better deal if we take the notes out of the equation.

• How can we pay cash so often? We save for our cars. It's not that hard. The more you can pay at closing, the less you'll pay in the long run. That interest is a killer. I can do a lot with that money if I don't have to use it on a note. I'd rather do without a little now, so I don't have to do without later and for a longer period of time.

Saving requires planning. Decide how much you'll need for that new (or used) car and divide by however many months it'll take you to save. 

• The thing to remember when car shopping is that YOU are in charge. You know what you can afford. Don't let them push your buttons. 

• If you know you're a cream puff for the hard sell, take someone with you who's tougher. There's courage in numbers. The salesman will have to persuade two of you.

What was your favorite car?  Mine was a Mitsubishi Eclipse. Loved that car. Never gave me a minute's trouble. And it was very, very fast. :grin:


Darke Conteur said...

When our Kia finally died (on the highway, no less), Husband and I were supposed to go TOGETHER to buy a car. Next thing I know, I'm being dragged to the car lot to get a look at our new car.

I will admit, I did love it, but still... :P

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: Death on the Highway. Doesn't that sound like a good title for a book? LOL.

I feel for you. I'm always being dragged to car lots. The only time I refuse is when Greg wants to look at motorcycles. :shudders:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i drive a chrysler sebring and i LOVE IT. It's a v6 and has a lot of power. It's also very roomy and has a huge trunk! Alas, all the newer models have smaller trunks.

Kim said...

We all still laugh about the time my father-in-law came thisclose to walking out on a car deal of $0.39. He was paying cash and haggled over the thirty-nine cents until the salesman caved. He just didn't want to pay change. :D

I hate buying new cars (although nothing beats new-car smell), but I love when the salespeople see me and think, "Woman = stupid about cars." The joke's on them when the jaws drop as I talk circles around them (I LOVE cars. My first car was a 1967 Ford Mustang that used to break down all the time. Once upon a time, I could rebuild a car from the tires up. :D)

My favorite car is a tie between that Mustang (I still have the pony grill from it, though the car's long since died) and my '78 Pontiac Grand Prix. If it's fast and muscle-y, it's my kind of car. To this day, nothing beats a good old American muscle car. Someday, when the kidlets are grown, I WILL have another Mustang. Someday. :D

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Yes! Big trunks are mandatory. At least Yvie doesn't take up much room. You could drive a Mini Cooper and she'd still be comfortable. :grin:

Kim said...

**sigh** My father in law almost walked away OVER $.039. Not of. Need. More. Coffee. **facepalm**

Maria Zannini said...

Kim: Wouldn't it be fun if we went car shopping together. LOL.

I LOVE your father-in-law!! Reminds me of mine.

Maria Zannini said...

Kim: That's okay. I understood. LOL

Deborah said...

We're not car people, really. Once we get a car we tend to drive it till it goes no more, and if we're particularly fond of it, we'll just keep on keeping it, like our 1991 BMW convertible. It had mice in the trunk a few years ago.

Found you on the follow list, and liek the way you write about all sorts of subjects as well as writing and books.

Maria Zannini said...

Welcome, Deborah! Yes, we talk about all sorts of things here.

I hear you on keeping cars until they're dead. Actually, my husband keeps them running until it starts to get costly, then it's off to car heaven--or the dealer.

Your mice have very good taste. :grin: I wouldn't mind a BMW convertible either.

Joanne said...

The last two cars we bought were for our daughters. They were used, and we by far saved thousands by purchasing through private parties rather than a used car at a dealer. One was from an estate, and one from an elderly couple eliminating one of their vehicles. Both cars were in excellent condition, and the factory warranty was still in force for several months on both. So we did okay.

Mike Keyton said...

We have a Mitshubisi lancer, and it is a durable workhorse, never giving us a moment of trouble. It has one flaw, the kind of flaw that 'test drives' never show up - unless the test drive is over a hundred miles long. It's dammned uncomfortable. It may be because the seats are fairly low, it may be just the seats. But after a long journey the entire Keyton family suffer from sore bottoms and backs

Angelina Rain said...

Great advise, Maria. Perfect timing too as my husband is looking to buy a car. That’s one thing I’m good at is car buying. When I was nineteen and fed up with not having a reliable car, I convinced my parents to take me to a car dealer so I could get myself a newer car. I did my homework and went in mid-January (perfect time to buy), I picked out a car that at that point was only two years old and had less than 25,000 miles on it. Had my mom, the careless driver in the family, test drive it. Then when the dealer told me the price (which I think was $8,000), I told him that I really like the car but refuse to spend more than a penny over $4,000. That day, I drove out of the dealership with my own set of wheels.

Krista D. Ball said...

The only cars I've owned are the Pimp Mobile ($800 Olds Tornado) and a 1965 MG midget, completely original (which I lost in my divorce).

We have a Jeep right now...given to us by The Engineer's parents. I like how cheap that was ;)

Cathy in AK said...

I would *love* to have a sportier car (I'm drooling over Kim's '67 Mustang, even if it did break down all the time :P ) but we are a practical people. Plus, I have a bit of a heavy foot : )

Recently, our minivan became more costly than it was worth. It was giving us problems and we had decided to go car shopping later in the summer. But while Husband was in the Big City to get it fixed, it die on him 3 times in as many days. Yeah, AFTER it was repaired for a different problem. He called to say he was buying a car ahead of schedule and what did I want. We had been doing casual homework on vehicles, so we were mostly prepared. He bought a Subaru Outback--the quintessential AK vehicle that isn't a snow machine or dog sled--that I absolutely love. It was our first new vehicle since the van, 13 years ago.

We also have a full-size extra cab pickup for wood hauling and other manly duties. The Subaru is mine ; )

Joanna St. James said...

Hello Danica Zannini!
I used to fix my extremely girly mum's car and I love to drive fast. So guess how much i love this post? Since am a brit I have an affinity for teeny cars but I still like a bit of muscle too.

Linda Leszczuk said...

I have to say our best purchasing experience came from our local Saab dealer. None of this 'sales guy running back and forth to the manager' nonsense; we dealt with a manager and he was empowered to deal. By the way - if you want a convertable (I do love my rag tops), by it in the winter. It's the off season so prices are always better then.

Maria Zannini said...

Joanne: I prefer used cars. To save that much money, I can just pretend it has a new car smell. :)

Mike: I know your daughter is tall, so I imagine the rest of you are too. Sports cars aren't made for tall people. Magnum PI always looked silly scrunching himself into that itty bitty Ferrari.

Angelina: Good for you, Angelina!! That's exactly what I'm talking about. I'll bet it felt good to be so empowered too.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: Our first car was an MGB. A lot of our memories were made in that little car. :) And a free car is the best deal of all.

Cathy: The Subaru is a great SUV. I had an Isuzu Trooper at one time. Loved that SUV, but parts were so hard to get back then. I hated to let it go. As trucks go, I'm very utilitarian. It's only when I want to go fast that I require a sports car. ;-) (We lead foots need to unite.)

Joanna: LOL! You smart thing, you. Fixing your mom's car. I know where the oil goes. That's the extent of my car knowledge. If it requires a wrench, I leave it to Greg.

Linda: I did not know convertibles were cheaper in winter. That makes sense. And I hear you on dealing with the manager. I hate all that consulting. I know why they do it, but it wastes my time.

An excellent tip!

Stacy McKitrick said...

We always do our research with Consumer Reports, and the best suggestion they give for car shopping is go at the end of the month. Salesmen are trying to meet their quotas and will do just about anything to sell a car! You just have to find the right salesman (the hungrier, the better).

We bought our Toyota Solara convertible at the end of March, on a rainy day. Had no problem getting it for the price we offered.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I've been driving bigger cars because of animals for years. ^_^ An SUV is the thing to have when all our critters have to go to the vet at once. My favorite is the Toyota 4Runner...that's not known for exploding.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: My sister gets Consumer Reports so she's one of our stops before we make the big decision. They're excellent. Great tip!!

Barbara: Ref: ...that's not known for exploding.

To quote Jayne from Serenity (Firefly): "We're gonna explode? I don't wanna explode."

I feel the same way about cars. :)

jackie b central texas said...

My favorite vehicle was my 1993 extended cab Ford Ranger... It was the only vehicle I bought myself with my own paycheck!

Sad to say it bit the dust a few years ago when the AC went out after spending the money to put a new compressor in it once, we sold it when it killed the compressor we replaced the original with!

Now my favorite vehicle is the 2007 Mazda 3 we bought in 2006, that Zoom Zoom commercial on TV is right it really is fun to go Zoom Zoom in!

However being a smaller car with no frills of any kind it is also not one to take on longer trips as you get very cramped back muscles after about 3 hours or so of riding in it... Short trips are fun though!

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: It's so empowering when you buy it by yourself.

And amen about long trips in small cars. Greg has a little economy car he drives because he drives so far for work and it is terrible for long trips. I hate it.

Lynn Colt said...

I do love my red Prius, but my mom and I are terrible about negotiating >.< Next time I'll need to practice so I don't just cave to the salespeople!

Maria Zannini said...

I'd go with you, Lynn. I usually play bad cop to my husband's good cop.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Hi Maria. New follower here, nice to meet you.
Great post, excellent tips. Especially about the price of the car. That's how my husband & I do it too.

Side note, I have family with same last name as you. Got any relatives in NH? :)

Maria Zannini said...

Hi CherylAnn, and welcome!

Cool. Zannini is not too common a name. We're originally from Chicago. Don't know if any of the cousins moved east. In a fit of mad practicality, we chose the nice sunny clime of the south.

Nice to meet you!