I’ve spent the past nine years in the retail automotive industry and let me tell you that my happiest customers are always the ones who are the most helpful in keeping things simple and actively participating in the process.
What do you mean by that? Great question. There have been lots of blogs and articles that try to warn you about car salespeople and paint us in a very negative light most of the time. That’s absurd. Just like anyone else who goes to work to make a living, automotive salespeople do the same thing. So here’s a few things you can do to keep the process quick, easy, and effective to ensure a pleasant experience.
- Do your research prior to arrival. In today’s internet happy world, there’s almost nothing you can’t research prior to arrival. Look at all the possible makes and models you’d be interested in, check out the reviews, and also research the dealership and their sales staff that you are likely to do business with prior to arrival. If you think you’d do well to work with a certain person based upon a personal or online recommendation, then request that person on the phone and set an appointment to meet at a specific time and date. Just showing up doesn’t always constitute availability either, so referring back to the last statement, make sure you have an appointment. After all, you don’t just show up at your doctor’s office expecting to be seen right away. You always call first! Your sales professional will appreciate that and ensure they do their best to help you.
- If you plan to finance or lease, have an idea of how your credit report looks prior to stopping in. There may be issues you’re unaware of that may hinder your chances at the best rates and terms, so it’s always a good idea to check the report ahead of time to clear up any of these possible issues prior to arrival.
- Leave your negativity somewhere else. If you may have had a bad experience elsewhere, just do whatever you need to do to come in with an open mind and if you’ve done your homework properly, you can impact the outcome tremendously.
- Depending on where you do your shopping, be mindful that the person you’re buying from is providing a service. Not unlike waiting tables at restaurants, the salsesperson you are working with most likely doesn’t collect a minimum wage and is more than likely on a commission only pay plan. Respect their time, knowledge, and patience with you as you decide. A true professional will not be pushy or short with you if you show them this courtesy. Most likely, they will go beyond the norm to ensure you get the best possible experience in order to win your business. That commission is the incentive. Don’t waste their time and they won’t waste yours. That being said, unless you feel that you can commit to an appointment, don’t make one.
- Be open and honest about your wants, needs, and budget. If you share this information with your trusted adviser, he/she will be able to mentally weed out anything they may have that wouldn’t be a fit and narrow things down to your best possible matches. (In terms of budgetary concerns, if you tell the person you’re working with that you really like that new Land Cruiser the dealership advertised for $83,000 but also mentioned you have no trade, weren’t buying it outright, not leasing, and with no money down, they can explain to you that mathematically, it just won’t work to keep your payment at $300/month no matter how great your credit score is and help you find a vehicle that would be more suitable and realistic for your budget. And just so you know, I’ve seen this happen a lot to people over the years. Not everyone does the math on things prior to coming in to the dealership. (See #1 again.)
- Come prepared with all possible documents and information that may be asked of you. This usually includes your driver’s license, current insurance card and agent information, current vehicle registration (if trading to switch your vehicle tags from the old car to the new one), 3-5 standard family and professional contacts (for finance/lease requirements), and sometimes proof of residency (utility bill in your name at current address, etc.) and proof of income (recent pay stubs) when financing or leasing.
- Research incentives and special rebate programs. Not all salespeople are alike and most won’t inquire about special incentives you could be eligible for like college student or military incentives. It’s also good to have an idea of how the leasing programs work at each dealership because there are some that are fantastic and others that aren’t so great.
- Know how the vehicle handles and drive it! With each passing year, modifications are made to every car and individual trim packages within each lineup, so last year’s version won’t always feel like the new version. The off-road suspension will probably feel different than the sport suspension. Make sure you drive the model you intend to pick up and make sure you like how it feels to you. Believe it or not, not everyone will test drive their vehicle before signing up and then taking it home for good. Eliminate buyer’s remorse before committing to paper with a proper demonstration drive with a qualified salesperson or product specialist.
- If you’re planning on trading, clean out your vehicle prior to arrival. It saves tons of time, keeps appraisers from feeling weird about driving the car for maximum trade value offers, and if you do a good job of it, it will guarantee you don’t forget items in the vehicle that you might try to get back later only to find out the car was sold elsewhere.
- Verify future maintenance requirements for your purchase and where to have the work performed to comply with the warranty.
- Make sure you have contact information to reach the salesperson, sales and finance or business managers, and the service adviser should questions come up later and keep them with your manuals in the glove box.
- Remember that when you’re buying or leasing a vehicle, you are not just getting the vehicle. You are opening up a new relationship with the dealership, the salesperson, and the support team (service dept.). If you paid attention to these steps and followed the advice, your experience will also net new friends and a place to visit with them from time to time.
I’m always available to answer questions and help where I can. If you’d like to reach out to me, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text me during normal business hours at (304)437-WILL. To learn more, read the ABOUT ME section of this website. I’m looking forward to connecting with you!