More than a full century since cars became affordable to the working class and available via a network of franchised dealers, a significant percentage of car buyers remain repelled by the perceived difficulty of buying a new or pre-owned vehicle. With today’s available resources (including this site) there’s no reason for it to be difficult, even for those buyers completely new to the process – or those so familiar with car buying they hold nothing but contempt for the process. With all of that, each passing day brings new information and perspective to the consumer, along with a new era of relative enlightenment (believe it or not) in the automotive industry. Here, then, are recommended steps in making your next automotive purchase as painless as possible.
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Know What You Want
This may seem obvious, but within the wide-ranging selection of automotive brands, vehicle types and – not incidentally – vehicle costs, the available choices can be dizzying. Given the variables, and aiming for the (relatively) painless purchase process, it’s important to know what you want or, at the very least, narrow your choices. And those choices should include a self-evaluation of your actual needs and wants, an accurate – perhaps via a third party, such as a loan officer – look at what you can afford, and a critical analysis of what’s available within your budget. Ideally you will select a vehicle type (car, truck or SUV) within your price range, and two or three preferred brands or models within that vehicle type. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to peruse independent reviews of your chosen vehicles, including – but not necessarily limited to – Consumer Reports, assorted ‘buff books’ and (again) this website. It’s also valid to ask a friend or associate that owns your preferred model to provide you with feedback on its purchase and (of course) his or her long-term satisfaction.
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Identify A Dealership To Do Business With
Even with vastly improved quality and reliability, you still need the occasional dealer visit for service and repairs, especially during your vehicle’s warranty period. To that end, consider convenient dealership access in your purchase deliberations. A convenient dealer may be one closer to your work, closer to your home or something between the two, but for best results consider a dealer located within your routine, and not one – unless no other choices are available – well removed from those communities you live in, work in or are engaged with.
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Build Your Own
You still haven’t taken a demo drive, and driving before you buy remains one of the basic tenets of car buying, but the best place to select what you want to buy is online, using the ‘Build Your Own’ tool, available from most manufacturer websites and navigable through Autoblog’s Year/Make/Model pages (pictured: Audi A4). Once you’ve selected the model, trim level, colors, options and accessories, most sites will also supply a loan calculator (as does Autoblog) to help in determining if your choice – or choices – is/are available and affordable. Print out the build sheet and also store it digitally, as you’ll want to share it with prospective dealers when soliciting a bid.
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Drive Before You Buy
Although the general news media suggests autonomous driving is just around the corner, know that the hype surrounding autonomy is well ahead of the reality. Whatever automobile you buy today or tomorrow will undoubtedly be on the road ten years from now, and may be in use for another ten beyond that. A road test must be an integral part of your shopping process, and should be more than a 10-minute around-the-block tour outlined by your dealer; rather, it should be a well-considered route reflecting the type of driving you’ll actually do. And if the vehicle you’re choosing has more than one powertrain option (and both are affordable) you should drive both; as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. A base powertrain may be perfectly adequate and an optional powertrain completely unnecessary, but it behooves you to balance your wants against your needs. Comparative efficiency is almost always top-of-mind, but efficiency shouldn’t come at the expense of lackluster acceleration or a fatiguing ride at highway speeds.
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Once Your Selection Is Made, Put Your Purchase Out For Bids
At this point, virtually every dealer has an online center in response to those not wanting to endure and/or suffer the back-and-forth (typically) necessary in a showroom negotiation. Autoblog provides two variations of an online purchase via the Smart Buy and Get-A-Quote processes. The first is a true ‘no hassle’ quote, while the second represents a purchase range, allowing some fine tuning between you and the seller. And we’d add this: If, in taking a demo drive or drives at the dealership (which is the only way to obtain that drive, short of a rental), know you’ve taken the time of a sales representative working – in most instances – on a straight commission. So if going the online, get-a-bid route, make one of your solicitations for that bid to the dealership where you obtained the demo, and indicate clearly the name of the rep you’ve dealt with.
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Make A Decision!
You’ve now selected the vehicle type, brand and model, driven the cars or trucks you most want and obtained your cost quote. Now it’s time to weigh both the tangible and intangible aspects of your purchase. Tangible, of course, is the vehicle and its purchase price, while the intangibles are things like dealership location and its reputation. Even those vehicles with sterling reputations for reliability and longevity will inevitably need something. If you’ve purchased from a dealer with a reputation for taking care of its customers you’ll be further ahead; keeping it hassle-free is – and always should be – an ongoing strategy.