Start by searching our website. If you’re paying cash, you can just look for vehicles that are within your budget. If you’re going through your bank or credit union you can just search the amount you’ve been pre-approved for (though leave some room for TT&L if you don’t want to pay that amount out of pocket).
If you’re going through our in-house financing program then you want to search for vehicles within your down payment budget. That’s usually going to be about 20% of the asking price, which means you should expect to pay $2000 on a $10,000 vehicle.
Comparing the retail valuations of the vehicle with the dealer’s price can help you determine whether or not the asking price is fair. However, remember these valuations are really only guides.
If you’re paying cash or are pre-approved for a loan you can use them to do a little negotiating, but you should be aware they can’t tell you anything. Prices go up or down depending upon whether the vehicle is in demand and whether or not the vehicle is rare, or common. In addition, different dealerships offer different levels of service which can ultimately impact the price that you pay.
It’s always best to mention your trade-in at the very end of the process. That means you’ve picked out your vehicle and you’ve negotiated the price. When all the numbers are set in stone you can have your trade appraised.
You want the trade appraisal to be separate from the car deals. Otherwise, it’s easy for the dealership to play with the numbers in a way that gets them more money but still looks good on paper. Raising the price of the car by lowering the value of the appraisal is a very common game.
This usually happens if you’re looking at vehicles which are worth more than the amount we can lend to you. This is also going to happen if your debt to income ratio is too high to allow you to comfortably pay the notes on the vehicle. We’ll always try to put you into a car you’ll love, but finances do present some unique challenges and limitations that we have to work within. If the dealer suggests a car you can always ask to see the others in that price range if you don’t like what he’s suggested.
You should always test drive and inspect the vehicle before committing to a purchase. Start by walking around the vehicle. Check the tires. Look under the hood. You don’t have to be a car expert or a mechanic to make a note of cracked hoses, leaking fluids, or odd smells. When you’re driving the car turn off the radio so you can make note of any strange sounds. Look for problems with the steering. If the ride seems especially bumpy it could be a sign that the suspension is wearing down. A noisy or smelly muffler is also a very bad sign. If indicator lights come on during the course of your drive make a note of it. You have the right to discuss these issues with the car dealership, and you can ask the dealership to fix them. If you do ask for repairs, make sure any promises are documented in writing before you take delivery of the car. These promises should be written into a document called a “We Owe” document. Read it thoroughly. Make sure everything is on it. Note that you should never use these mechanical issues as a way to negotiate the price. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you present this information to the dealer when you are negotiating the price of the car he’ll work the price of fixing these issues into the deal and you will end up paying for them. You want to negotiate a price, and then make the sale contingent upon these repairs so the dealer ends up paying for them. This is the dealer’s merchandise: make sure he’s selling you good merchandise before you fork over your hard-earned cash. If the dealer is trying to make you a bad deal, walk away: there are other car dealerships in town.
Chances are you’re not enough of an automotive expert to truly catch every issue that’s hiding under the hood from a quick test drive. Fortunately, most reputable dealerships provide you with a free vehicle history report from one of the two most trusted providers, which are CARFAX and Auto-Check. A reputable dealer will have already made price corrections based upon this report. If an automobile has been in a previous accident, for example, then the price of that car will be lower than a one owner vehicle of the same make and model.