In this chapter I’ll cover a lot of the basics, such as how the Internet has affected car buying, dealer Internet departments and buying services, and how to choose the right vehicle for yourself. You should consider this essential background upon which to base your buying or leasing decisions. In subsequent chapters we’ll delve into specifics, such as how the dealer makes profit—and how to minimize it, new versus used, leasing, finance, and how to get the most for your car.
RESEARCH AND THE INTERNET
I’ve seen a lot of changes in the two decades that I’ve been helping people get their cars. The biggest have been due to the Internet. While it hasn’t (yet) reached the point of making salespeople or dealers redundant, the Internet has dramatically impacted how consumers shop. When I started as a broker in 1991, the average gross profit per car sale at dealerships was 7 percent, according to the National Automotive Dealer Association (NADA); now it is less than 4.5 percent. That progress is because shoppers are much more informed.
As there are so many great tools to help you research your choice online, I don’t want to try to duplicate them in the Guide. However, I will refer to various Internet resources I trust and feel are useful, with hyperlinks to bring you right there.
Taking the time to do your research before setting foot in a dealer or calling private parties is some of the best advice I can offer; the emotional turmoil that goes hand in hand with the actual transacting of business leaves little time for the clarity of mind that can come when it’s just you, a spouse or partner, and the computer.
What you want to figure out before shopping begins is what car, truck or SUV that fits into your budget is best for you. A dealer’s favorite customer is one who doesn’t know what they want—making them easy prey. And almost guaranteeing the shopper will end up in the vehicle that has the most profit in it, not the one that will serve them best.
If you do your research first, when the time comes time to pull the trigger, you’ll be armed and dangerous. You can also use the Internet to get preapproved on a loan, fix your credit, [links] and even shop your car around to get the highest trade-in bids possible from multiple dealers. In the appropriate chapters, I cover these topics.
Just because it is on the Internet, doesn’t mean it is true
This advice comes from someone who reviews cars online, and it should be obvious, but I still see that odd psychology where people feel that if they read it online, it must be gospel. It’s almost like the 1950s, when TV was new, and anything people saw on was taken as truth, almost without question. Online commentators have many motives for what they post on the web, and not all are in your best interest.
Mix your sources for gaining automotive knowledge in order to get the context you need
Find two or three you really gel with, ones that hopefully represent different points of view. That’ll make uncovering the motives of the commentators easier. And remember: these are largely for-profit enterprises.