I have loved cars for as long as I can remember.
Editor’s note: LeeAnn Shattuck has joined A Girls Guide to Cars as our resident car shopping columnist. A car-purchase expert, she helps her clients to get the best deals on new cars through her business, The Car Chick. She is here to also answer your questions about car buying; email her at [email protected] for her advice, insight and recommendations.
One of my first memories, as a young child, is of sitting in a car dealership while my parents traded our Ford Country Squire station wagon for a 1976 lime green Chevy Vega. Two years later, my father had his first mid-life crisis and bought a 1978 Mazda RX-7 with a 5-speed manual transmission.
I was fascinated by the gear shift and the presence of a mysterious third pedal. My father proceeded to teach me about engines, transmissions, horsepower and torque curves. Soon I was shifting the gears from the passenger seat while he worked the clutch and the gas. A race car driver was born.
Fast forward 30 years, and my love of cars evolved into a passion for educating and empowering other women about buying, selling and maintaining cars. Women purchase 62% of all new cars and influence 85% of all car buying decisions. Yet, women pay, on average, $1,000 more for the same car as men. I don’t know about you, but that kinda ticks me off. Let’s level the playing field, shall we? Starting with my “3 golden rules” for getting a great deal on a new car.
Car Shopping: The Car Chick’s 3 Golden Rules
1. Do your homework
Before you ever set foot on a car lot, do your own research. With over 250 different makes and models on the market, car shopping can feel a bit overwhelming. Make a list of the features that you absolutely must have in a vehicle and which ones would be nice, but you could live without if they don’t fit into your budget. Websites like Edmunds.com, Consumer Reports and A Girl’s Guide to Cars organize the information and provide practical reviews to help you understand the different trim levels, options and price points.
Research pricing and available incentives to get a clear idea of what you should pay for vehicles you are considering. Get pre-approved for a loan through your bank, credit union or online lender (like Capital One), so you know you have the purchasing power before going to the dealership. If you plan to trade in a vehicle, research the fair market selling price and consider getting a virtual or in-person appraisal so you know its true cash value.
Narrow your selections down to your top choices, schedule your test drives at dealerships that have the exact models you are considering. If possible, schedule your appointments for the same day, so you can compare the cars back to back while they are all fresh in your mind.
2. Don’t buy the car the same day you test drive it
The test drive is a critical step in selecting the right car. Putting your butt in the seat of a shiny new car with the latest bells and whistles can be exciting. That’s why it is the wrong time to try and negotiate a good deal. You’re too excited. It’s pretty and shiny and you want it! And the car dealer knows it. That’s why they pressure you to make a buying decision on the spot. They want to capitalize on your excitement. But here’s where you need to exercise a little patience and separate your emotions from your money.
Car shopping is a process, not an event. No matter how much you love a car and want to buy in NOW – don’t do it. Thank the sales person, take a business card, and WALK AWAY. Repeat after me – “I will not buy a car the same day I test drive it.”
3. Shop around to multiple dealers to find the best deal
Ever hear the term, “home court advantage”? Dealers want you to come into their store so they can sit you down in “the box” and talk numbers. It gives them control over the selling process and negotiations. The easiest way for you to maintain control is to keep that home court advantage for yourself. With all of the tools available on the internet today, it’s easier than ever to negotiate from the comfort and safety of your own home. Preferably in your pajamas. Just because you can.
Negotiating over the phone and email makes it much easier to shop around for the best deal. Negotiate with at least three or four different dealers, and play them off of each other. Let them know they are competing for your business, both on price and on customer service.
When comparing quotes, don’t just look at the selling price of the car. Get a full numbers breakdown showing the taxes, tag and title charges, and any dealer fees. This is where you will uncover any hidden costs for things like dealer-installed accessories that you may not want. Insist on a home delivery to keep you out of the dealership entirely. Many dealers have become more open to home deliveries due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Considering a new or used car purchase? Drop a comment below or send us an email ([email protected]); LeeAnn will help you find your perfect new ride!