Car shopping should be fun, not stressful


Do you dread buying a vehicle? It should actually be a fun experience, perhaps even thrilling. We’re talking new wheels, here, after all. Factor in used cars and the selection is endless, so coming away happy shouldn’t be a really big deal, right?

Apparently, the problem is not the car, but the actual pothole-filled journey of getting to the dotted line to sign your name. It has always been assumed that women are uncomfortable with the whole thing and, since I joined as a spokeswoman, I’ve found some interesting stats that appear to back that up. Yes, women are involved in almost every car-buying decision. Unfortunately, 25 percent of women also feel uncomfortable and stressed about it. Actually, I would have guessed that the percentage would have been higher. Most women I know would want a “car guy” friend to help out, for sure.

First off, when beginning to look for a car, give yourself some time. In fact, the more time you give yourself, the better the chance you have of scoring the right car at the right price. But which car?

Consider what ride is best for your lifestyle. It sounds like a no-brainer, but plenty of people let the basics slide right by. For instance, the Corvette sports car is fast and fun, but is probably not the best option for a mom with two kids who play a lot of sports. A sport utility vehicle for the single woman living in Los Angeles might not be the perfect choice, while the daily hiker with two big dogs might love a roomy, rugged ride. However, I would not be alone in saying that it’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in a vehicle that’s good looking or presses some sort of emotional hot button. There’s actually nothing wrong with feeding that emotion, but first consider what you really need based on your lifestyle and then look for the hottest vehicle with the right attributes. Write them on a sticky note and tack it to your computer.

Next, get off Facebook for a few minutes (your 237 “friends” will still be there, I promise) and begin researching as much as you can about the vehicles you’re interested in.

There is a wealth of free information out there at your disposal without even having to leave the house, and you must take advantage of it. An obvious place to begin is with the manufacturer websites, which contain the most current model news, photography and even video. Most will let you “build and price” right there so that at least you know what you can afford. Bookmark the cars you like and keep glancing over at that yellow Post-it note to make sure the profile fits. In fact, pay special attention to features and options dictated by that little note. For example, if you feel safety features are crucial, know how many air bags you want, what stability control is (it prevents skids and spins), rollover protection and blind-spot warning sirens.

A knowledgeable buyer is better equipped to make the right choice. Ask any auto dealer and they’ll say that you have just as much product information as they do.

It’s a good idea to print out any dealer quotes and any offers you might find when scouring the newspapers, the Internet or from other dealers so that you have something very specific to refer to. Saying, “You know, that deal you had in the paper a couple of weeks ago? Or was that another place …” is not going to help anyone out. Take the info with you in a neat and tidy folder, feeling informed and reasonably certain about the purchase you want to make. You’re not going to know all the lingo, but most people just let the jargon fly right by because they don’t want to appear uninformed. Hey, if someone says, the “residual is 40 percent,” and you don’t know what it means, ask. The sales staff expects questions.

I recommend visiting the dealership with a friend, preferably someone who is also informed. Moral support is always helpful, especially when it comes to temptation. “Well, I don’t have the white one in stock. Ordering it will take six weeks, but I can give you a heck of deal on silver if you take it today.” You might want the vehicle so badly that you’ll compromise the key features on your sticky note. That’s in your hand right?

Feel free to offer and negotiate. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If negotiations are not going your way, take a little walk and gather your thoughts. Stick to your guns and be prepared to walk away. You have no leverage if you’re going to buy the car anyway. One flaw is that many people wait until an old lease is up before they begin shopping or their car is on its last legs. The additional pressure of not having any wheels at all might force you into a buying decision you might otherwise walk away from.

However, most dealers are eager to make a sale, and if your requests are reasonable and you don’t waver, they’ll often try to meet your conditions. Even if there’s a price gap that’s just too big to overcome, ask about demonstrator models (with a few thousand miles on them) that will often have extra incentives and still have full warranty. And be sure to have a “Plan B” (either a different vehicle or a different dealership).

I’ve always had good relationships with dealerships and I want the same for you. Purchasing a car is a big decision, most importantly the idea of it shouldn’t keep you from diving in. Hey, if you mess up you can sell it, but hopefully these tips will lead you down the right road.


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