I once worked as a car salesman. I learned a few key things:
- you don’t need full teeth to be a winning car salesman.
- the nicer a salesperson is to a customer, the more that customer overpays.
As you can imagine, I also learned the car sales playbook during my time in the industry. and, of course, I’m willing to share exactly what I learned.
- this tip will save you: $5,000+, buying the wrong car.
- you want a great deal on a great car that fits your budget and your lifestyle.
- they want you to overpay for a car you don’t need so they can move it off the lot.
even if you sidestep the sleazier sales schemes offered by dealers, you can’t get a good deal without doing some homework. Don’t walk into a showroom without information on reliability, safety, and pricing. know exactly what makes, models, years and trims you want to buy, and whatever you do…
don’t ask the dealer for recommendations
a common (and costly) mistake many car buyers make is letting car dealers make recommendations.
objectively speaking, this is a terrible idea simply because your priorities and theirs are completely different.
For example, let’s say you walk into a Subaru dealership. You know you want a Subaru, but you’re not sure which one. so you explain to the salesperson that you’re looking for something comfortable, with a good ride quality and room for kids and a dog.
they recommend a subaru ascent, the company’s new three-row SUV. They talk smooth transmission, compliant ride, and show you how the third row folds down. checks the boxes, so he starts signing the paperwork.
If you’d done your own independent research, you’d know that the 2021 Subaru Ascent ranks second on Consumer Reports’ ignominious list of 10 Least Reliable Cars.
so why didn’t the seller warn you?
simple. their priorities and their priorities are different. the distributor is trying to move product, regardless of quality, and customers who don’t know better, who don’t do their own research, are easy targets.
You should always tell the dealer what you want, never the other way around. And if you need help figuring out which cars you want, follow these three tips:
- check out reviews from both professionals and users on sites like edmunds, kelley blue book, and consumer reports (consumer reports is a paid subscription, but worth it for car buyers) .
- ask actual owners about their long-term ownership experiences on sites like reddit and make/model specific forums (eg miata.net).
- Once you’ve narrowed your list down to three or five cars, test drive your top picks at a local carmax. carmax is a low-pressure environment where you can test up to five cars from different manufacturers in a single afternoon.
- used cars are cheaper. pretty self explanatory.
- new cars depreciate quickly. new cars can lose up to 40% of their value after the first year — money you’ll never see again.
- used cars are just as good. a well made used car will last over 200,000 miles with regular checkups and oil changes, which means a 2019 camry with 18,000 miles is less of one tenth throughout its useful life.
should i buy new or used?
this is an old question with a very complex answer.
My personal recommendation is that you buy a pre-owned car from a manufacturer known for its reliability, such as Hyundai, Toyota, Lexus, or Mazda. these are some of my reasonings:
but that’s just an opinion. To help you decide, check out our articles on when to buy a new car (or a new used car) and the case for buying a new car.
I’ll say this: don’t let a dealer sell you last year’s model for this year’s price. In December, all current year models will instantly lose over $4,000 in value simply for being last year’s model. however, dealers will not reduce the price until mid-March.
know the value of your trade in advance
Another very common mistake is letting the dealer underprice your trade-in. this one really does sneak up on customers because by the time they’ve negotiated a great rate on a new car, they’re just itching to get rid of it