People hate buying cars, because they think the seller will take advantage of them.
That is why many financial advisers offer car-buying help as a concierge service. Some advisers will call ahead to negotiate for you, some will go car shopping with you and some will go the whole last mile and arrange for a car delivery, so you never even have to set foot in a dealership.
Buying a car “is the second-largest expense our clients are likely to have after buying a house,” said Rick Kagawa, a certified financial planner in Huntington Beach, California.
Here are three tips from financial advisers on purchasing a car:
Shop online first - with an open mind
If you walk into a dealership for a test drive, you are going to get the hard sell, so financial adviser Larry Ginsburg does what he can to keep his clients at home until he has a deal wrapped up for them.
Ginsburg, based in Oakland, California, finds out what they want in general terms - never asking about a color - and then researches what is available at nearby dealers. You also can use a service like TrueCar.com or car-buying portals like Costcoauto.com to get an “upfront” price on your own.
Another pro tip: Ask for the internet sales person at the dealership.
“They will give you a decent price upfront,” adds Kagawa.
Be careful not to get swayed by sales pitches, though. When Kagawa recently went to purchase a Jeep Cherokee for himself, all the car-buying services were within $300 to $500 of each other. He narrowed his choices down to two dealers who both had white models in stock and started to negotiate when one offered $5,200 less than the sticker price and the other was at $6,000.
Car salespeople are trained to be hard closers. They will play you off among various people in the office, and go back and forth from their computer to a mythical supervisor to get approvals for each discount.
Never tell a dealer you need a car that day, even if you are one of the several hundred thousand people from a hurricane-ravaged area whose cars got flooded.
“Say six months. Say you’re doing preliminary research,” said Ginsburg. It’s also a good idea to say you are considering a purchase with another manufacturer, he adds.
Stick to your budget
Ginsburg has fired clients who want to buy cars that are way too expensive for them.
“One client wanted to buy a car that was more than her annual salary,” he said with a sigh.
For financial adviser Michelle Buonincontri, coaching on the budget is the major part of her service. Her clients at New Direction Financial Strategies near Phoenix tend to be women who have been recently divorced or widowed. Many of them are first-time solo car owners.
Buonincontri shows them how to review their credit, shop interest rates and insurance and, in general, to understand the true cost of vehicle ownership.
She also practices what she preaches. When she went to buy a used car for her teenage daughter three years ago, she figured out her all-in budget was $8,000 and told the salesman not to waste her time with anything over that amount.
“Of course, he showed me a car that was $4 000 ahead of that. He went back and forth to supposedly speak to his manager. I said, ‘No deal,’ and I left,” Buonincontri said.
A week later, the salesman called back and offered her the black Honda Accord - loaded with extras and including the registration and tax - at her target price, and she took the deal.
“That was my price point, and it was worth it,” Buonincontri said.