Your dearest Dad has been a rock throughout your life, and the yardstick by which all men in your life are measured. He was there for your life’s every success from your first ballet recital to your college graduation. He also held your hand through every heartbreak from that first big breakup with your high school boyfriend to getting passed up for that big promotion at work. He’s helped you navigate the often perilous road through adulthood with love, patience and understanding. He’s challenged you when you were coasting, inspired you when you were flagging and bolstered you when you were waning. He’s helped you with everything from your homework to moving house. He’s also always been on hand to offer practical tips and quotidian wisdom that have helped you to grudgingly become a grown up. Yup, our Dads are virtual fonts of knowledge and we can come to rely on them so much even in our adulthood that we come to see them as infallible.
As knowledgeable as they may be, however, they’re not always right about everything. Most of us, for example, take our dads with us when buying our first car. They regard it as part of their duty as men and as fathers to help us navigate the perilous minefield that is car buying and we feel safe and reassured by their presence. They teach us the right questions to ask and what we should be looking for in a vehicle. They also fill our heads with assumed truths that we take with us every time we set foot on a car lot thereafter. Unfortunately, while many of the truths he clings to may have been absolutely appropriate when his Dad took him to get his first car, they may not necessarily bear scrutiny in today’s market.
Maybe they’re not all out to get you
Remember that movie Matilda? Remember how Danny DeVito’s character, Mr. Wormwood would try every dirty trick in the book from cheating the mileage on his cars to filling the engines with sawdust to make them run quieter, in order to rip customers off and charge them inflated prices for rickety death traps to make a quick buck? You’ll be delighted to learn that that’s not how car dealers operate. And while there was a time when the industry had a semblance of this mentality, it does not hold up to the realities of the digitally led and ultra competitive market place of the 21st century.
Lots of Dads teach us to have an almost adversarial relationship with the auto industry. It’s only natural since their every instinct is to protect us, but the auto industry has changed a very great deal even since the turn of the millennium. Sure, it’s changed a great deal in terms of how technologies have changed the way cars run and massively reduced their reliance on fossil fuels (though we still have a way to go yet). But the auto industry has also (by choice or necessity) had to change to put customer service and transparency first.
As consumers have more and more choice, many of the main dealers are throwing billions of dollars at the problem of customer retention. For independent dealers, the notion of trustworthiness, honesty and transparency are integral to their brand and the reason that customers go to them rather than main dealers, despite the benefits that better financed dealerships are able to offer. Thus, it’s simply not in the interests of car dealers (whether main dealers or independents) to be duplicitous.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Daddy dearest was wrong in telling you that you need to keep your wits about you.
The internet can be your friend
Most people in your Dad’s generation use the internet pretty liberally, but are wary of using it for major purchases like a car. They may see the digital domain as a perfectly safe place to purchase a new book or maybe even some clothes but the notion of buying a car online is probably anathema to them. But as our retail habits favor digital transactions more and more, many consumers prefer to buy their cars online. Like all online transactions, it’s safe and secure and because online dealers have far fewer overheads than dealers with a physical presence, you can get a great deal too.
Even if you aren’t crazy about the notion of buying a vehicle online, there’s a whole lot that the internet can do to help you get the best deal possible. Before you set foot on a car lot, you should have a good idea of what you want and how much you want to spend, and doing online research can be a tremendous boon in facilitating this. Moreover, a little online research can help you to educate yourself on pricing structures so that you can go into a dealership with a clear idea of what’s reasonable to expect to spend.
You can find more details at Car Buying Strategies, but basically it boils down to this. Dealers want you to believe that the invoice price on a vehicle reflects what they paid for it. It resoundingly does not. If you can find out what the dealer paid for the vehicle you have your eye on, it puts you in a much stronger position and allows you to work out a reasonable price that suits you.
It’s not always a great idea to haggle with sales professionals
When your parents were buying their first cars, the negotiation process was probably a battle of wits; a well meaning but ultimately adversarial exchange between consumer and supplier at the end of which there can be only one winner.
Today… It’s not so much like that. Most sales professionals in the auto industry are targeted on their volume and as such it’s in their best interests to work with you rather than against you in order to achieve a price that’s reasonable to you. While they may be incentivized to upsell on little extras like protective treatment on the paint work or a fixed price servicing schedule, their primary focus is getting your signature as quickly as possible.
For this reason, you should not negotiate with them. No haggling, no banter, no concessions. No leaving the dealership in faux outrage and hoping that they chase after you. None of the theatrics that may have been part of the fun in your Dad’s day but that you simply don’t have the time for in your busy life. Tell them the price you are prepared to pay. Let them know that you will gleefully sign the paperwork right here and now if they’re prepared to meet your price. Let them to the negotiating with their managers on your behalf. It’s in their best interests to get you to commit to the sale, so they’ll happily risk irking their manager if it means they get your signature on the dotted line. If they’re not prepared to meet your price, simply leave your number with them and tell them to call you if they change their minds. If it’s reaching the end of the month and the sales person desperately needs to hit their target, you’d better believe they’ll call.
In an effort to retain customers and ensure outstanding customer service, some brands will not even grant the sales person their commission if they do not score highly on the inevitable customer satisfaction survey. This means that they do not get their bonus unless you leave happy.
Just something for you to think about.
Buying new is not a waste of money
When you were a teen you had a limited budget and your dad probably put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that you found something that was safe and in good working order yet was affordable on your (probably limited at the time) income. Thus, all those inviting, gleaming new cars on the dealership’s lot were likely off limits. They were far too expensive for your budget and your Dad probably pushed you past them towards something more reasonable. In your adulthood, however, while an older, less reliable vehicle may cost less upfront there are so many advantages to buying new that buying used may well be a false economy. Sure, there’s the old adage that your car loses value as soon as you drive it off the forecourt but this may be something of an oversimplification. The value of your vehicle is far more dependent on the whims of the market and the condition of vehicle itself. While a new vehicle represents a pretty big investment but there are some pretty compelling cost advantages;
- The benefit of a 3 year warranty, protecting you from repair costs due to manufacturing defects.
- New cars have a greater profit margin than used cars meaning that you have more bargaining power.
- You will have greater resale value whenever you upgrade.
- You will have more favorable finance rates.
Plus… new car smell!
Your Dad may be acting in your wallet’s best interests, but he may not be the best judge of what’s right for you in your adult life.