Financial Series

Car Shopping Part 1: Interested in any type of car?

Car shopping shouldn’t be a stressful experience. It is tedious, and will take a lot of time, but it shouldn’t be stressful. Here are some fun tips to help you get together a spreadsheet that allows you to figure out how to look for your car. If you’re like me, and hooked on a specific car, don’t worry I’ll address your needs specifically in Part 2.

For our people who are interested in all types of cars: 

Car salesperson: “May I help you?” 

Me: “No… Just Looking!” 

Does that happen to you? It happens to me way too often. I personally don’t like going out to dealerships and looking at cars. I think it’s a waste of my time and the dealer’s time. Instead I try to do all the leg work remotely — and figure out all I need to do before having to speak to a real person. To the introverts who are reading this — you’re welcome. To the readers that are all about making spontaneous decisions.… this might hurt. 

Do we need to say it at this point? Pull out that spreadsheet and start figuring out what kind of features are important to you. Below are just some popular descriptors that come up. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list of the features a car could have, but it’s a great beginning. You can always exclude anything that you really don’t care about — that will just make your checklist a little shorter.

  • Details:
    • Year, Model, Make, Color
  • Safety
    • Brake assist, lane keep assist, back up camera, blind spot assist, alarm, traction control, stability, tire pressure monitoring system, airbags
  • Infotainment
    • Bluetooth, technology, carplay, apple play
  • Audio
    • Speaker type, radio, other similar features
  • Interior
    • Color, Seat material, seat type, lumbar support, number of rows, how many seats, types of windows, matting, keyless entry, remote start, steering wheel type, cruise control
  • Exterior 
    • Head lamps, fog lamps, heated mirrors, powered mirrors, moonroof, wheel type, tire type, spare tire type
  • Transmission
    • manual/automatic, gear number, reverse gear ratio, gear ratio(s)
  • Engine Details
    • Engine type, fuel type, horsepower, RPM, torque, Displacement, configuration, number of cylinders, arable valvertrain, valves, compression ratio, EPA city fuel, highway fuel, combined fuel
  • General
    • New, CPO, Used, Kelly Blue Book Price, Edmund Price, Sports model?

Go ahead and highlight all the different things that are important to you, and insert them in all the columns. In addition to all of this, you will also need to add, price, dealership name, taxes, Out the door (OTD) price. To get the OTD price you’ll need to call in and request a quote from the dealership. It’s helpful to keep track of all the people you spoke to, and keep all the information straight. 

If you’re fast, you can get all the online research done in about 5 hours.  If you are not trying to be too quick about this, then it could take a couple days to go through. Calling all the dealerships will be a full time job — so grab a cup of coffee, a snack, plant that butt on the chair, and start dialing. 

In my experience, saying “I have a buyer who is interested in this model. Can you give me your best OTD price?” Say “thank you — this will be a competitive process, and the buyer will be taking in offers they believe is fair. Is there any way you can lower the price?” They don’t need to know that you are the buyer. Not until the end! Just keep a record of all the prices that you negotiated down. This will play a role in how you decide the winner. 

Now let’s talk about pricing. For those of you who are reading, and already know what you want, click to Part 2.


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