Here’s a really practical, tip-filled article to help you with your next car purchase (pass it along to your friends). In 1996 I helped to start a car business with a friend and I have been purchasing cars for people ever since. I love providing this service and am amazed at what people do not know when it comes to a car purchase. Maybe you have something to add to the list, feel free to comment.
- Look for or find an honest licensed car dealer who also does custom orders/purchases directly from dealer-only auctions. They can find what you desire and not have to necessarily run it through the expensive prep of their retail lot. It is a more direct/custom purchase.
- Cars do lose value; we all know that. But there are brands that lose less value. For example, the number one selling car in the world is a Toyota Corolla. This car will maintain a relatively decent value. Honda’s are similar. You want to go luxury? Try Lexus or Acura, they will not lose their value nearly as quickly as say, a BMW or Audi.
- Save cash for your car. Cash purchasers almost always make better deals. But, if you absolutely have to loan money, find a credit union. Locally we have credit unions with interest rates of 1.49% for used cars.
- Buy used from a dealer who can also repair your car. They will normally stand behind the sale. That said, stay away from the TV guy who says, “Buy here, pay here, even if you have no job.” That dealer will be charging you an exorbitant interest rate.
- Another idea. Locate a “wholesaler.” This is a person who purchases used trade-ins from large dealerships and who prepares them for wholesale, dealer only auctions. Now before anyone rejects auctions as the place for “junk,” please understand that every dealer you know uses them. It is how the used car business operates today. Most every retired rental car and post lease car heads to auction to be sold to the highest bidder.
- Find a dealer who still has a “90-day unit.” Most large volume dealers will send their 90-day units to the auction to sell. If they do not, it looks like they are not selling/moving cars. They will pick up new cars at the auction(s) while they are also selling these units. The dealer would rather sell to Joe Public at a discounted rate because at auction they will often lose money on the vehicle.
- Negotiate a price. If the deal is a non-negotiable offer, be sure to check on floor mats and the most recent state inspection. While you’re at it, ask for the “dealer fee” to be dropped or renegotiate it.
- DO NOT blindly trust Carfax or similar Internet reports. I have seen cars at auction that have had serious repairs while the Carfax states the car is “accident free.” Someone with a good eye, a body shop guy, a really good mechanic can tell if the car was in an accident. There will almost always be paint indicators of such work. By the way, it is really difficult today to find a used car that has not had some kind of fender bender, but I look for that car that was hit in the rear or the backside vs. the front.
- Talk to people; they are your best resource. Find that gently used car that belonged to someone’s grandma who no longer drives. You can also find these cars at estate sales. It is not a surefire deal, but at least you know if the car was maintained properly or not.
- Before trading your car, go to KBB.com and check the “trade-in” price. It will give you an index to work with. I tell most people, don’t trade your car, sell it outright and you will most likely do better without a trade.
- The very best time to purchase a car is at the end of the year, the last three weeks of December. The second best time is at the end of a quarter and the third best time is at the end of the month. These are times where dealers are doing everything they can to sell greater inventory in order to post higher sales numbers.
- Pray. Ask God. Be patient and be in agreement if you’re married. Wait for the best deal, there are tons of cars out there.
- And lastly, avoid “in season” purchases. What does that mean? If your part of the country is approaching winter, it is THE WORST time to buy a four-wheel drive. Purchase those coming out of winter when dealers are attempting to dump them. If it’s vacation time, hold off on that new van, everybody wants one in that season and it drives the market price up.
There you have it. I hope these practical words of advice help you in your next vehicle purchase. Happy shopping!
Bonus: Often persons ask me about “flood cars.” These cars are not allowed to be sold at dealer auctions, but if they slip through be sure to ask the dealer where the car was last titled (its life history). Then do the smell test. A car that was detailed after a flood condition will always smell moist or stale (sour). If the car is sitting in the sun (and it should be), moisture might gather on parts of the window glass — another indicator. Cars can recover from floods, but if the total interior is not removed (including the complete dash unit) and cleaned, the stench will remain. If you suspect something is wrong, you can request that the dealership remove an interior door panel to look for signs of water damage.