Cutting Corners at the car lot

Don’t settle for anything less than a car that gets you where you want to go on the money you make

Previous columns in our series

Stay focused when buying a car
Is the car sharing option right for you?

Jane-Harris-ZsovanCALGARY, AB, Jun 6, 2014/ Troy Media/ – You’ve done your research. You know exactly what vehicle you want, and you know what you want to pay for it. Good job. Now you’re ready to rise to the next challenge: putting your knowledge to work in the automobile market.

Shop around

No matter how good the coffee or persistent the sales person is, don’t buy a vehicle until you visit several car lots and checked out the deals online.

When buying from an online site, like kijiji or autotrader.ca, find a local seller. Ensure the car actually exists by insisting on seeing the car yourself. If you like what you see, take it to a mechanic before you agree to buy it.

Be alert to scams: Don’t overpay to ‘help out’ a buyer who promises to reimburse you for the extra cash.

Buy the best car you can afford. Your new car should be in good enough condition to last several years. Buying a $2,000 junker that eats up your savings in repairs, gasoline, and replacement costs is no bargain.

Consider buying fleet vehicles from rental companies, corporations and government departments. (Even the Government of Canada sells surplus vehicles.)

Ask your car dealer about purchasing a demo vehicle. If one’s available, it may only have a few thousand kilometres on the odometer, but you’ll probably get the full benefits of the manufacturer’s new car warranty.

Keep Safety First:

Don’t let shiny paint blind you to mechanical or safety issues. No matter how good your car looks, get a mechanic to inspect it for structural damage or mechanical problems before you sign the purchase deal.

Minimize Interest and Financing Charges:

In an ideal world, we would plan our vehicle purchases long enough in advance to save all the cash we need to buy our dream car outright. In the real world, we usually can’t wait until we have six figures in our savings accounts before heading the car lot, but we can still cut corners on financing costs by not jumping the dealer’s financing offer.

Shop around for the best borrowing terms you can get, and make sure you understand the terms before you sign on.

Negotiate:

If you’re like me, thinking about haggling over prices creates pangs of horror inside your chest. Dull the fear by making sure you know how much the vehicle you want sells for in your local marketplace.

Build confidence in your negotiation skill by practicing what to say. Lines to repeat until they flow off your tongue include, “I’m thinking of buying this car,” not “I really want this car”. Learn to say, “I need at least this much for my trade-in,” instead of, “How much can you give me?”

Remember, you’ll never find what the sales person’s bottom line on price is unless you are willing to walk away from deal altogether. Practice saying this walk away statement: “I am sure your competitor can give me a better deal.”

Read the fine print:

The vehicle sporting the bright red sticker with lowest price isn’t always the best deal. Hidden fees, interest charges, repairs, and insurance can add thousands to the cost of driving it off the lot.

Before you seal the deal on your new car, grab a coffee and settle down in a comfy chair. Read the sales contract from top to bottom. Ask questions about clauses you don’t understand, and don’t be afraid to cross out terms you can’t accept. It’s better to lose the deal at this stage than be saddled with payments or conditions you didn’t bargain for.

Be confident. You have what it take to cut a ‘steal of a deal’ doesn’t rob you.

You’ve done your research; and you know what you want. Don’t settle for anything less than a car that gets you where you want to go on the money you make.

Jane Harris-Zsovan offers her readers practical money advice for the real world.

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