How do I buy a car?

If buying a car is something you fear, this is a must-read for you as not all garages are the same.

They may have the same product, maybe it’s the vehicle you have already decided to buy but you just can’t bring yourself to go and buy it as you dread “the process”.

Well, good news once you have finished this article you will be in a better place to make that purchase as I will tell you all you need to know to understand why some dealerships have “The process” and some just want to help you make the right purchase.

Buying power

Let’s get this out the way early, you will have seen lots of advertising where a big dealership claims to have better buying power than others due to their size. We have split this in two, to tell you the difference this makes.

Used cars – yes a large supermarket-style dealer may have great buying power, this doesn’t always make them the cheapest or the best. Yes, they can bulk buy 50 ex-rental cars from a rental agency, there are a couple of things to consider here. yes, they might get them slightly cheaper than another dealer buying one car, this could be good for you but

  1. Are they passing that saving on?
  2. Have they prepared the car as well as the dealer buying one or are they just giving a choice of 50 where the dealer buying one may have been fussier about the one he is buying than the used car buyer buying 50 over the phone?

The other thing to consider is the used car buyer for the large stores, has targets to meet on how many cars he must buy to keep the dealership full of cars to sell. I can’t tell you how many times I have been outbid at auction in the past by buyers just trying to meet their quota, not taking great care in what they are buying.

I remember one instance, a few years ago now, watching a guy buy a Ford Galaxy and paying quite a lot over the trade guide price for a nice car, however, this car had over £1,000 of paintwork before you could sell it. So, I asked him if he had seen the damage on the far side of the car that we couldn’t see from where we were and he said “yes, it doesn’t matter I just need to buy so many to keep the preparation garage busy and to fill the forecourt “someone will buy it”. Whereas the smaller dealer may be paying a lot more attention to what he is buying as he wants it to be as nice as can be and have good providence to make it more desirable, it may not always be the case, but there is usually a reason if something is cheap.

New Cars – Having worked in all different size car dealerships, I can confirm they have

  • the same margins,
  • the same bonus structures,
  • the same manufacturer retail offers
  • often the same availability of cars

So why do we see different prices, this could be down to many reasons and there are many questions to ask to feel happy with what you are getting.

  1. Is it the latest model? this may not be important to you, if you change your car regularly it may be important when you go to sell it back in part exchange or sell it yourself, or if it’s not the most recent model am I making saving for buying it over the latest model.
  2. I know the car I want, what am I getting? Yes, you could buy a car from two different garages for the same price, but get a completely different ownership/purchase experience. A lot of this is covered in the next chapter of busting the sales process, but let me explain a little here.

If you are a regular online shopper it is easy to compare prices and look for what fits your needs, you can press a button and get it delivered to your door by a delivery man, let’s call this the Amazon experience, yes you can do this for a car. I love Amazon but not for everything, it has its place, but I still like to buy locally if I can, especially for big-ticket items. I know if I have a problem I have someone I can talk to, to help me get it sorted, and they will hopefully care as they sold it to me if I have read the reviews on the company and done my homework this is normally the case.

A recent example of this was my wife and I shopped for a new kitchen, we looked national companies and local companies, we did many miles looking for the design we wanted, what decided on the kitchen was the person we bought it from and that he was local, we got close to the design we wanted it wasn’t exact, but he cared about the outcome.

Busting the Sales process

Over my 30 plus years in the motor trade, I have seen and experienced many different sales processes, some to benefit the customer but more than often set in place to benefit the company, so that it can control not just staff and results but also the way the customer is treated during their time in the dealership.

You may have experienced many of these yourself over your years of buying cars but may not have realised what was going on for example

  • The salesperson you are being served by must keep running back and forth to s sales controller or sales manager
  • You can’t buy the car you have chosen unless you have seen the business manager
  • When you have handed your part exchange keys over to be appraised by the used car department – you get a price for your car but your keys haven’t materialised.
  • You go for a test drive for 3 miles around the block with the salesperson who just keeps talking about the feature the car has.
  • You just want a price for the car you want to buy but can’t as they have a sales process I once heard a customer say I went to ??? and they said it would take an hour to get me a price. Lots of garages will not give you a price until you have had a test drive with them, even if you have had a test drive elsewhere.
  • Do salespeople appear to be ignoring you? This isn’t as common now but there was a selling process that involved you having to be n a certain part of the showroom before the salespeople were allowed to approach you, sounds good but as the customer, you didn’t know this, sometimes you just couldn’t make it up!

If you set your agenda, try to keep to it and make it clear what you have come in for and what you are looking to achieve on the day before you meet or when you meet your sales advisor/salesman.

What is my part exchange worth?

Now, this can feel like the million-dollar question sitting only second behind how much you are paying or the new or used car and yes the two will be linked as it will determine how much you need to pay often referred to as changeover price.

There are far more ways of doing your homework online, there’s always that annoying advert by Phillip Schofield about putting your reg number into We Buy Any Car to give you a starting point but remember they will want to mark the price down for any damage to the car or alloy wheels, tyres being low or lack of service history so just use this as a starting point.

When taking your car to be appraised for a valuation, remember that it is easier to attain the best price if the dealer can see what they are buying, so make sure your car is relatively clean and the interior is not cluttered, have all the service history and the V5 registration document with you, maybe worth showing them the spare keys, as well as these, are very expensive to replace on some models and a lack of one will affect the value of your car.

Don’t get excited about what looks like is a lot of money for your car as the offer may be linked to the one car you are looking at, you need to be comfortable that the ret of your purchase is at the right level for you, for example, is the car fairly priced and if you are taking finance are you comfortable with the rate and term. You may be familiar with the term “there is only one way to slice a cake” meaning you may be paying more in another part of your purchase to give you a higher price for your part exchange.

The offer to you.

Does it feel right? Can you afford it? Do all parts feel right to you? Are there conditions attached to the offer?

At some time in our lives, we have all had an offer that is too good to be true or on the other side a very tempting offer, this is the time to sit back and think about it and if it’s a timed offer (only available today) you have to ask yourself (or the salesman) why? and do you want to deal with someone applying pressure as you may need this person/garage in the future if you have any issues with the car in the future? Peace of mind is not overrated.

There is only one available? When buying a used car this is very true as every used car is individual in its ownership, history and mileage, but there will be something similar most of the time but not always straight away, sometimes with a new car this can be true but a lot of the time another will come out of the factory sometime soon.

If you are buying a car on finance, affordability is something any self-respecting garage will take you through in one way or another as it is part of the FCA (finance conduct authority) protection for responsible lending, in the same way, a bank would take you through this for a loan.

After all this, it has to feel right.


How do I buy a car?
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