Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Village Connection, November 2008, "Don't Be Afraid to Bargain"

By Erik Badia

In my previous column, I offered some advice on hybrid cars and what models are available. This time around we’ll talk about actually acquiring a vehicle and what you can do to make sure you get a good deal. Of course with the state of the economy, car loans—as with almost all loans—are becoming scarce. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are nonexistent. Here are some tips for everybody’s favorite pastime, car shopping!
Look around: This is an easy one, but it should be stressed. Don’t limit yourself to just your closest dealer. This island is littered with car dealers and chances are that you will find at least three to five different dealers for whatever make of car you are looking for on the Island. Shopping around at different dealers offers several advantages. First, you can compare prices between the dealers. Don’t assume that because a car has a set price that all dealers will give you the same quote. There is, in fact, quite a bit of variation, as a dealer can build hidden fees and costs into lease and finance payments. Secondly, you can leverage one dealer with another’s price quote. This may not always work, and it really depends on the salesman and dealership. This is helpful if you get a good quote at dealer A, but dealer B has the exact car you want. Most importantly, purchasing and servicing can be mutually exclusive. The dealership you buy your car from does not have to be the dealership where you service your car. If you live in Huntington and buy in Hampton Bays, you don’t have to drive there every time your car needs service.
Don’t be afraid to bargain: Car dealers are out to get the most money they can from you, so don’t be afraid to use some tactics of your own and try and keep some green in your pocket. When you get a quote for a car, and the math doesn’t seem quite right, don’t be afraid to question it. There is almost always room for salesman to lower prices if necessary, the key is making it necessary for them to do so. Good bargaining takes patience and nerve. Do your homework and get quotes online, find out what other dealers are selling the model you want for. Are other dealers offering incentives or rebates? Again, if you get a better quote, bring it in and let the salesman try to match it. Don’t be afraid to push them a little. Sometimes salesmen will try the no-budge approach. If they do so, don’t hesitate to get up and leave. They already have your information, and chances are they will either stop you before you get out of the dealership or they will call you in a short time to offer you a better deal. If they do not budge at all, the likelihood is that you will find a better deal somewhere else anyway.
Talk to banks: If you can’t get something you want, in terms of the lease or finance—for instance, the interest rate—go and talk to some banks on your own. Most dealerships have a network of banks that they work with, and many manufacturers have their own financing systems, but sometimes you can get a better rate at your own bank. If you can strike a good deal, you can take that to the dealer and it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

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