We've just bought a new car. Buying a car in America is a challenge. There are plenty of guides on line as to the best way to approach the dance between purchaser and sellers. My favorite is the Kelley Blue Book. My cousin who sent three kids to college buying and selling cars always carried one. It also seems to be the one which dealers favor the most.
Things have gotten a lot better now that dealer invoice costs are available on line. At least now you can know how much you could be shafted it you took the first price that the dealer suggests. Most of the people that I know go into these negotiations very well armed.
Of course there are dealers who have "no haggle" pricing which I believe was pioneered by Saturn. I somehow think you end up paying a little more from these dealers, but its definitely a lot less work.
Taking the easy way out, you miss the opportunity to take part in a real American ritual, car negotiating. It really is a dance with the participants doing a careful circling to try to understand the skill set of the competition and the desperation or needs of each party.
Lesson number one is never ever fall in love with one car. It that happens you're hosed as the Canadians might say. Be prepared for the inevitable "that's the last one on the lot syndrome" if you do make that mistake.
While it requires more time outside of large metro areas, visit other dealers to learn what they're selling and the available inventory of products in which you're interested. You can also shop on the Internet without actually buying, though we have been very successful buying over the Internet when you're doing a cash purchase with no trade. It is probably the best way to get a great deal.
We've sold most of our cars over the years as opposed to trading them in on a new car. It's a lot more more work but it makes a lot of sense unless you have a relatively expensive car. Privately selling a $20,000 car is a lot more of a challenge than selling a $6,000 car.
I also spend lots of time reading Consumer Reports and checking out reviews on the Internet before we purchase a car. Most dealers make plenty of money servicing vehicles so I have no problem taking a vehicle I have bought out of town and having it serviced here in town. I got my first MDX by flying to Tallahassee, Florida where they weren't nearly as in demand as they were here in the land of mountains, ice, and snow. The second one I bought at the dealer who serviced the first.
Actually service was the reason that we got a new car. I had completely lost confidence in the dealer where we bought the other car. They had demonstrated a level of incompetence that I have rarely seen in an authorized dealer. There were really no apologies forthcoming from the management so I didn't have any confidence that they could do a good job taking care of our car as we went from 50,000 miles to 100,000 miles.
We travel a lot with kids spread from Northern Virginia to the Charlotte, NC area so when I want a car taken care of, I want it done right. Though this dealer eventually got it right after they put their "best mechanic" on it, I suspect we had their worst mechanic previously, and it ended up costing us money that we should not have had to pay on a car from a well respected manufacturer. The car didn't have enough miles on it to have real problems so my words to summarize the problem are "high tech car, low tech dealer."
In a world where cars increasingly are manufactured with fewer and fewer defects, my suspicion is that some mechanics are not getting the type of training that they need to service these increasing sophisticated vehicles.
Car service probably deserves its own post, so I'll close by saying that we were able to save about $3,500 by knowing the car purchase two step. We ended up paying less than $1,000 over invoice, and obviously the dealer was happy because he took the deal. They even respected me by not trying the old let's split the difference tactic. Of course it helped that I already had a dealer willing do that well on a similar car. I might have been able to squeeze the dealer more, but the car I wanted was pretty hard to find so having watched five disappear during my dance, I decided to go ahead and move.
I'll be reporting on the high tech features of the new car eventually, but right now I'm consoling Glenda who greatly misses her car of five years. Last night she even worried about it sitting outside at the dealership instead of in our cozy garage. It was a great car, and we enjoyed it a lot, but we will never buy from that dealership again because of their service.
Now there's a story for a book, the difference between men and women on how they view their cars.