Relying on a salesperson to choose the best car for you, instead of doing your own homework, is possibly the worst kind of car-buying rip-off and there's no-one to blame but yourself.

While a good salesperson can help you select from what's available at her dealership, you can't expect her to tell you that a competing product is superior or more suited to you. That's not her job.

It's up to you to honestly assess your needs, read the reviews and test drive a few cars to make your selection. If you've done all that and still end up with a dud, then maybe you can blame a salesperson if it makes you feel better.

"Sorry, but your credit sucks"

Those free credit report ads on TV do make one good point. No, not that you should sign up for their services but that you actually should understand your credit.

That way, when you go car shopping, no-one can tell you your credit's not good enough to get the best possible auto financing. Unless, of course, it isn't. If you really do have bad credit, well, that's all the more reason to be careful.

The best approach is to shop for credit before you shop for a car. Having pre-arranged financing puts you in the best possible bargaining position.

"Check out this low monthly payment"

It's easy to shrink a monthly payment. Just stretch out the loan, right? Taking a five or six year loan instead of a three or four year loan always makes the payments easier to swallow, but you'll end up paying more money in the end.

You also increase the risk that you'll end up "upside down" in your car when you decide to trade it in or sell it. (That means you still owe more on the car than it's worth.)

These sorts of extra-long loans are becoming less common as credit markets remain relatively tight, according to Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for automotive website Banks and finance companies just aren't as willing to lend money for six years as they used to be.

"Leasing will save a lot of money"

Yes, in the short term, leasing does save you money.

When you buy, you're obviously paying for the entire car, figuring you'll get some money back when you trade it in. When you lease, all you're paying for is the difference in the car's value from the day you take it off the lot till the day you return it, plus interest and fees.

But, once the lease term is up, you're back to having no car and you've got to start all over again. Oh, you could buy it instead of giving it back but you'll wind up paying more than if you'd just bought the car to start with.

Once common on luxury cars, leases are becoming more common on non-luxury cars and even on cheap compact cars, according to analysts at

There is only one time when leasing make sense and that's when you're absolutely sure you're not going to want to keep the car. Otherwise, buy it.

"What if something goes wrong?"

Most cars today come with warranties that cover the engine and transmission -- in other words, the stuff you're really worried about -- for five or five to 10 years while covering everything else on the car for about three years.

If someone tries to sell you an "extended warranty" keep in mind that the parts you really care about, the expensive parts that make the car go, are already covered for a long time. In fact, there's a good chance you won't even have the car longer than that.

"Your seats will always look like new"

Your car's paint could get chipped, scratched or faded or the fabric seats could get stains. Sometimes, auto dealers will sell you paint protectors or fabric protectors.

The big sales pitch here is for the warranty. If your seat gets a stain on it later, they promise to fix it.

Remember, these things are priced for profit, which means that it's unlikely you'll come out ahead in the end. At best, you'll pay a lot of money to fix a minor paint scratch or seat stain you would have rightly ignored otherwise.

You're better off acknowledging the possibility that you may need touch-up paint or a steam cleaning some time in the next few years. Just pay for it if you do.

"Your old car's not worth that much"

Car dealers make little, if any profit, selling new cars. Used cars, plus the service department, are where the real money is. That's why car dealers are so interested in your trade-in.

It's up to you to get a good, realistic sense of what your trade-in is worth. Web sites like Kelley Blue Book's can help before you go to the dealership and to negotiate a good deal for it. If you're not satisfied with what the dealer is offering you can get more by simply selling the car yourself.

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