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Buying A Car: Tips For A Good Car Dealership Experience

Thinking about buying a car? Our auto contributor shares some tips on how to get a good deal and walk away with a good experience.

Buying a car may be one of the most stressful things you ever do. Whether it’s new or used, a car is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy.

While the internet has helped consumers arrive at a dealership armed with more information, that hasn’t really changed the overall dealership experience. And depending on that experience, it’s very easy to feel you’ve gotten a bad deal.

Auto contributor Mark Savage feels your pain. So, he and fellow contributor Dan Harmon share ways to navigate a dealership to help you come out with a good car at a fair price and have a good overall experience as well:

Savage offers these tips to help you prepare for that big purchase:

  • Go to Kelly Blue Book to look up the invoice of the car you are interested in: "There's always some wiggle room, but at least you have a starting price to go in with and work from there."
  • Don't get lazy: "People may look up the price, but they go in and get influenced by color ... or features ... and salesman are professionals at this. They know what to play up and how to maneuver and try to get people to take what they would like them to take."
  • Act like you're not sure about going forward with the purchase: "That's a key negotiating tactic."
  • Trade-in last: "Know what you're willing to pay for the new car and negotiate that first. Leave [trade-in] out on the table ... Then when you know what you're going to pay for the new car ... if [the dealership] comes back with a [trade-in price] make sure they write it down on the sheet immediately."
  • Stay within your price range: "Go in knowing what you want and what price range you want. We'll probably have a couple thousand-dollar range, probably ... but know that before going in and that way you're not negotiating on their terms."
  • Know your credit rating before going in if you're applying for credit: "Credit unions are great at car loans and they usually have a little lower rate than other people and many times you can pay them off a little more quikcly."
  • Go where you're wanted and go where you're treated right: "There are certain dealerships that really are strong at the customer service and at servicing your car afterward. And I’d say those are the dealerships I would want to go to because I know that they are interested in me as a long-term customer, not just as a quick sale."

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage on Wheels, for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Savageonwheels.com. He is also editor of Scale Auto magazine, part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha. He joins contributor Dan Harmon regularly to talk about cars.

Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.
Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.