It's easy to get excited by a new car, like the Porsche 911 Carrera S which has a six-cylinder, 385-horsepower engine that gets to 60 miles an hour in 4.5 seconds, and it tops out at 188 mph.
But if you want a chance at getting a good deal on one of the 2010 models, keep that enthusiasm to yourself. It's the only way to walk out of the showroom with your dignity--and your wallet--intact.
In Depth: What Not To Say When Buying A Car
"Dealers kind of prey on the fact that you're going to be excited," says James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, an Irvine, Calif.-based vehicle valuation company. "Getting a new car is fun, and it's exciting, and you can't wait to drive home and show your neighbours. They know that."
In fact, keeping your mouth shut (at least in the beginning) about several things, like how you plan to pay for the vehicle, or the fact that you're not sure exactly what you need in a car, will serve you well when you finally do make a purchase.
To create our list of the worst things to say to a dealer when buying a car, we consulted with car-buying experts from AAA (John Nielsen, director of auto repair and buying), Kelley Blue Book (James Bell, executive market analyst) and NADA Guides, (Mike Caudill, auto market specialist for the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based auto-data Web site). They gave us their best advice for getting the most car out of the shopping experience--and for not being taken for a ride.
One piece of advice unanimously agreed upon: Be careful when you talk numbers. Never go into a showroom and announce what you can afford to pay each month. Odds are, you'll end up paying at least that--plus extra fees, service charges and extended financing payments that the dealer pads into the monthly payment agreement.
"It gives them the framework to then build a program," Bell says. "You're giving them all the ammunition necessary to build a program that magically hits something close to [the price you name] But nine times out of 10 that's not going to be to your advantage. It's going to be to the advantage of the dealership."
Just be clear with what you want, says Nielsen. State which cars you're considering and talk about the overall purchase price of the vehicle, not its monthly payments.
Another phrase to avoid, at least up front, is "My credit's not very good." Inevitably, if you get serious about a particular vehicle, the salesman will find out that your credit score is not up to snuff. But if you tell him outright, he'll know he's got you in a bind.
"You are truly at a disadvantage then, because now the dealer says, 'Look if I can get you financed, you'll pay what I want,'" Nielsen says.
Instead, try to arrange financing with an outside source, like a bank or credit union, and use that safety option as leverage.
"I'd tell the dealer that 'I have financing available, I've been approved, but if you can beat that, you'll get the deal,'" Nielsen says.
If you plan to pay for the car with cash, even better. But don't announce that right when you walk in the door--it'll automatically tip off the salesperson that he should charge you more up front, since he won't be making money off the dealership financing plan.
Research plays a major role in successful car buying. The months before the end of the year are prime times to snatch a good deal on an outgoing 2009 model, Caudill says. So don't tell the dealer he's the only one you're considering. If you know which car you want, how much it's really worth and where it's available, you'll be free to move on to the next dealer if the first one can't meet your terms.
"No dealer has an exclusive product," Bell says. "If you really like that red one, you can probably find it somewhere else pretty easy. Don't ever get caught in the sense of, 'Wow I've got to have this car right now because it can never be had again.'"
Above all, be honest, decisive and direct. Despite all the horror stories about crooked car dealers, odds are that the one you work with is upstanding and provides a much-needed service: You need a car, and he wants to sell you one. There's no reason to be confrontational--just be well-informed, Nielsen says.
"By being well-educated, you can make sure that you're comfortable, so when they tell you something, you'll know right from wrong."
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