The January blahs are over; February could not have come soon enough – for me, you, and car dealers and their manufacturers, too.
To borrow from T.S. Eliot, a great and greatly depressing 20th century poetic genius,: January is the cruellest month.
Yes, yes, in The Wasteland, Eliot said April is the cruellest month, what with its promise of hope and renewal that will surely be dashed by disappointment and regret. But as DesRosiers Automotive Consultants president Dennis DesRosiers points out, in the car business, January is what he calls a "troubling month for vehicle sales and not necessarily just because of the weather."
This January, new light vehicle sales in Canada were actually up a tick, a tiny, tiny tick (0.3 per cent). But in raw numbers, January was a slow month, as it always is.
"The primary problem with January sales numbers lies with year-end numbers the previous month," says DesRosiers in a note to clients. "In December, some vehicle companies are under tremendous pressure to meet specific sales targets and will often go to extraordinary lengths to move product off of dealer lots … dumping vehicles into fleets and aggressive dealer and consumer incentives are a few of the tools used to bring sales forward.
"We often see double digit increases in December as sales are pulled forward followed by double-digit decreases in January when reality sets in. Add some bad weather into the mix and it is near impossible to identify sales trends based on January sales."
February, however, is a different story. If you want or are in need of a new ride, new and better deals come out this month, so, to borrow again from Eliot, you no longer need to lie about "Like a patient etherized upon a table."
If you want a sporty 2014 Subaru WRX, for instance, the sharp shopper should be able to negotiate at least $6,000 in discounts. A racy Mustang GT coupe? Strive for at least $7,500 is negotiated cuts to the sticker price.
The very good and very useful Volkswagen Tiguan should be had with nearly $4,000 is sales sweeteners. Or a Lexus crossover? The RX 350 with all-wheel drive is teed up with $6,000 in incentives for the right buyer.
Negotiating is part of the deal, however. So those daring to venture into dealer showrooms after a January hibernation should, as Eliot said, take time "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet."
In honour of February, then, here are 10 things to think about as you prepare for and execute a new car buy:
1. Do the research: Of course this is a hoary bit of advice, but it holds true every time. Decide on the type of vehicle you need, narrow the list to three, any one of which you could live with, and then get your facts straight on everything from pricing to horsepower.
2. Let the salesperson do most of the talking: Treat car sellers like border guards. Let them ask the questions and only answer those questions. Don't say you love the car and don't share anything about how much you can pay – both in terms of the total price and monthly payment. You should know the latter before you set foot in a dealership. Research.
3. Leasing, or stretching out financing payments to seven or eight years because you're tight for the down payment and even tighter when it comes to the monthly payment: Really think these issues right through to the end of eight years. That is, if you lease, it makes the most sense if you're swapping out for a new ride every three or four years. If you're financing over eight, be sure you're going to love that ride six years from now. Think these things through.
4. Dealer financing: Lots of car makers and their dealers are offering 0.0 per cent AND cash discounts. So look for those. But for other buyers, it may make the most sense to borrow from a low-interest credit line. Do the research.
5. First-of-the month purchases: Sometimes this can be the right call, sometimes not. Just know that as the month winds down and sales targets look tough to meet for certain dealers and manufacturers, richer deals often come out to play.
6. New-year purchases: We discussed this already. There are January exceptions and Deals covered many of them last month.
7. Do the new deal before saying anything about trade-ins: This seems obvious, but many buyers make the mistake of lumping in their trade-in with the new deal. Don't. Treat both as individual transactions.
8. Going green: Really, is a hybrid what you want? Yes, you'll save at the pump, but you're not likely to save enough to recover the hybrid price premium. The marketplace is awash in very good, very fuel-thrifty cars that cost half as much as any hybrid. And diesels? Great torque and terrific fuel economy and range. But diesel pump prices are up a lot in Canada this year. That cuts into your fuel economy savings.
9. Play the game: Look, car dealers are very competitive. Visit several and play one against the other. Also dig into the dealer's reputation for service. That will matter for the next four years of that new-car warranty.
10. Control your emotions: Of course it's exciting to buy a new car. Enjoy it. Revel it it -- after you've done the deal. Treat car buying like I treat emails that really aggravate me. I write my reply, then sit on it for 24 hours. Do the same with a new-car offer. Take it away and sit on it for 24 hours before you pull the trigger. You'll thank yourself.
Deals of the Week consulted with www.unhaggle.com, www.carcostcanada.com, and other sources on these offers. As usual, pricing information here is subject to change and dealer discounts vary, so consult your dealer for all the final details, including expiry dates for all offers.
2014 Subaru WRX 5 door hatchback
- MSRP: $33,395
- Freight, dealer prep, air conditioning tax: $1,785
- Dealer discount (estimated): $2,000
- Factory discount: $4,000 (manufacturer incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $29,180
- Total price with 13% HST: $32,973.40
- 1.90% financing for up to 60 months available but not with factory incentive
2014 Ford Mustang 2 door Coupe GT
- MSRP: $40,099
- Freight, dealer prep and air conditioning tax: $1,700
- Dealer discount (estimated): $3,600
- Factory discount: $4,000 (manufacturer incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $34,199
- Total price with 13% HST: $38,644.87
- Cash incentive available with 2.99% financing for 72 months or 3.99% for 48 or 60 months
2014 Lexus RX 350 AWD 4 door
- MSRP: $46,150
- Freight, dealer prep, AC tax: $2,130
- Dealer discount (estimated): $2,300
- Factory discount: $3,750 (manufacturer incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $42,230
- Total price with 13% HST: $47,719.90
- 3.99% financing for 48 months available, but not with cash incentives
2014 Volkswagen Tiguan 4 door Auto Highline 4Motion
- MSRP: $37,440
- Freight, PDI, AC tax: $1,745
- Dealer discount (estimated): $2,250
- Factory discount: $1,500 (manufacturer incentive)
- Taxable subtotal: $35,435
- Total price with 13% HST: $40,041.55
- 1.90% financing for 48 months available with a $500 factory incentive
Pricing information source: www.unhaggle.com and www.carcostcanada.com. Calculations based on Ontario customers. Please note that while the information above is accurate at the time of publication, incentives are given at the discretion of individual dealers, and may be changed or discontinued at any time. Where noted, "dealer discounts" are negotiated with the customer on a case-by-case basis. Unhaggle Savings are actual discounts received by Unhaggle customers.
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