But with a few simple tips and a little confidence, savvy shoppers can put themselves in the driver’s seat of their dream car with a minimum amount of sticker shock and a maximum amount of pride.
New or used? For many the attraction of that new car aroma is irresistible, and considering the current low financing rates and zero-down packages, there are deals to be had. When you buy a new car or truck, you can choose from a wide variety of vehicles in your size and price class. You can select your favorite color. You can choose a leather or cloth interior. You can equip that new car with whatever features you need or want and adorn it with high-tech gizmos such as a communication, entertainment or navigation system. And then there’s the confidence you get from a full warranty and the lack of wear and tear to begin with.
“Some people are just new-car people and others are just used-car people. There’s really no right or wrong answer,” said Steve Meister, general sales manager at new car dealership Bill Brandt Ford in Brentwood. “It’s really just a matter of what works best for each individual.”
And what works best is having a plan, so prospective buyers should get their financial house in order before heading out to the dealership. Conventional wisdom says that a car payment should not exceed 20 percent of the buyer’s monthly income, so tally up your monthly expenses before you fall in love with the car of your dreams. And don’t forget to figure in insurance and maintenance as well; owning a car is an expensive investment.
“Most of our customers have done their homework on the Internet before they even walk in the door,” said Meister. “They’ve researched interest rates and rebates and in many cases they know more about the vehicle than the salespeople do. It’s just a very good idea to have your ducks in a row.”
Still, there are advantages to be gained by going the pre-owned route. For years, the long-held belief was that buying a used car was taking on someone else’s problems, which was enough to keep many potential buyers off the used car lots. But not anymore, according to Steve Hambaugh, general manager of Why Buy New in Brentwood.
“The fact is that the minute you drive off a lot with a new car, its value immediately depreciates by as much as 20 percent,” said Hambaugh, whose dealership specializes in pre-owned trucks, vans and SUVs. “There is no longer a stigma associated with buying a used car; people know it’s a good value and it makes good sense.”
Used car buyers also have the advantage of more closely tailoring their budget to their vehicle. The price of a new car is established by the manufacturer and the invoice price that the dealer pays. But used-car prices are more flexible, based as they are on considerations such as mileage, model year and overall condition.
And thanks to the Internet, there’s also a way to help keep used-car surprises to a minimum. CARFAX is a nationwide computer database service that provides vehicle history reports. “CARFAX really is real, and if a salesman won’t show them to you, turn around and walk out the door,” said Hambaugh. “If (the dealer) is reputable, they’ll have the CARFAX – period.”
Whether you’re buying new or used, the key to remember is that you’re the one in charge.
Both Hambaugh and Meister agree that a confident attitude – as well as working with a well-known, reputable dealer – can make the whole car-buying experience enjoyable.
“The bottom line is that you’re the customer and you shouldn’t be put off by the salesperson or the whole scope of the operation,” said Meister. “For us (Bill Brandt Ford), the majority of our business is families and we are a family-run store, so when you come in with a price you want, we’re going to give you that price. We understand that your time is just as valuable as ours and we want you to be a customer for life. Buying a car should be, and can be, a good experience.”
Why Buy New is located at 8111 Brentwood Blvd. For information, call 925-626-7320 or visit the Web site at www.whybuynewautos.com. Bill Brandt Ford is located at 8100 Brentwood Blvd. For information, call 925-634-3551 or visit www.billbrandtford.com.