Car Buying Tips

I came accross this thread at Saab Central and noted it with some interest, given that I’ve just done the whole car-buying thing. In the thread, D.Thomas considers the whole “trade-in” system to be totally unworthwhile, as it takes money that you could have made from a decent private sale (i.e. money you receive that’s over the wholesale value) and hands it straight to the dealer.

Some people don’t mind doing this because of the inconvenience associated with having to sell their old car privately. We traded in our old 900 when we bought our 9000 and I didn’t mind the process one bit. The 900 was going to be hard to sell and the money I received if I did manage to sell it wouldn’t have been much more than the trade value I received.

I think the trick is to do your homework and know the value of both cars involved in the transaction (i.e your trade in the car you’re looking at buying). This will allow you to figure out a changeover price range that you’ll be happy with. In our situation, the automatic transmission on the 900 was starting to slip. This was going to be a major stumbling block in any attempt I may have made to sell the car. The dealer only drove the car briefly before offering the trade price. If he noticed the tranny problem, he didn’t say anything.

If I can offer one piece of useful advice about buying a second-hand car privately (as opposed to from a dealer), it is this: Use email.

All of the negotiations for the recent purchase of my new Viggen were done via email. This arose out of necessity as I lives some distance from the seller and it was more cost effective than calling him. But it also had some extra benefits that I didn’t count on:

1. Get the emotion out – buying a car can be a stressful decision, especially a high value used car. Negotiating via email allows you to compose your thoughts a bit better and not be so reactionary.

2. Get the urgency out – if you’re dealing with someone face to face or over the phone, there’s always a nagging feeling that you have to get some sort of decision made by the end of the visit, or phone call. Negotiating via email also does away with that as people are used to the “to and fro” of email conversations.

3. An audit trail – One of the best things about negotiating via email is that you have a record of everything that’s been said by both parties. If the seller tries to go back on something they’ve said, you’ve got a record you can wave under their nose.

Buying a new car? There’s all sorts of techniques that different dealerships use to get a person out of the yard, into the office and then driving away in a new car. I’ve never bought new, so I can’t say anything from experience.

I did spend some time last night reading this article at Edmunds, though. They hired an undercover reporter to get a job as a new car salesman for 3 months. He worked at 2 different dealerships during this time and wrote up his experiences.

It’s an entertaining and informative read, though it is in 10 parts and takes a while to get through. Well worth the journey though: Confessions of a Car Salesman.

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