Car Shopping Shouldn’t Drive You Crazy

That old sedan you’ve had since college has just about had it. The odds of it starting in the morning are 50/50 at best. Bicyclists pass you on residential streets with a look of pity in their eyes. One guy offered to buy it from you last month, but then you found out he works at a scrap yard.

But every time you think of going to a car dealership, you hesitate. You don’t want to feel intimidated by high-pressure sales tactics. You don’t want to feel like you’re crazy for wanting the best deal possible, either.

So don’t go to a dealership that will treat you like that. Find a dealership that will offer you a good price without a lot of hot air.

Buying a car is serious business, regardless of if you go with a new or used model. A good dealership won’t pressure you one way or another. Instead, their staff will be happy to chat with you about your specific needs. If you want a hybrid, they’ve got hybrids. If you want an SUV because you just found out you and your spouse are expecting twins, they’ve got those as well. It should be all about what you need, not about which cars they’re trying desperately to clear off the lot.

Hidden fees have a nasty habit of popping up at less-reputable dealers. If there’s a prep or delivery fee, that should be stated up front, and it should be reasonable, not ridiculous. Some dealerships think that they can start jacking up the price once you’re about to sign on the dotted line. Don’t be afraid to walk away if that happens. In fact, one of the best things you can do is be willing to bail if a dealership is giving you bad vibes. If they’re disrespectful or condescending, if they talk only to your spouse and ignore you, that’s a bad sign. Don’t put up with that sort of treatment.

A good dealership will let you know about any special offers that may be expiring soon, but they won’t act like you’ll be singlehandedly responsible for the heat death of the universe if you don’t drive off the lot today with a new car today. If you wanted to feel pressured, you would go to one of those shady timeshare presentations.

Think of a car lot like a gym. Some gyms will jump on you the minute you walk in the door, trying to upsell you on the premium personal training package, the spa package, the haircut package, etc. Quality gyms, however, take time to listen. They realize some of their customers want personal training and some don’t, and that’s OK. Some people prefer cardio to weight-training. Some people are there every day, while others are lucky to make it twice a week. There’s no one-size-fits-all answers for fitness, just like there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for buying a car.

You want a car that lasts, not one that you regret buying a few hours after you’ve signed all the legally binding paperwork. A smart car salesman will recognize that repeat customers are the best indicator that they’re doing a good job. Word-of-mouth is more valuable than even the biggest billboard on the busiest freeway. There are reputable dealerships out there. Whether you find it on the first try or have to visit a half-dozen places, you’ll find a place that’s right for you. And once you’ve found the right dealership, you’re that much closer to finding the right car.