Tips When Making an Appointment with a Used Car Dealer
If you’re shopping for a used car and have decided to look at one for sale by a used car dealer, there are a number of things you should do before actually setting foot on the lot. Keep the following in mind:
Research the car. Hopefully you have a pretty good idea of the kinds of cars that interest you most. If not, spend a little time thinking that through, as well as how much you can afford for a monthly payment if you’re going to finance your purchase. When you come across a car that interests you, the first thing you want to do is examine a vehicle history report on it. If you’re not familiar with how these reports work, read our previous article: How to Read a Used Car History Report. If the dealership’s website doesn’t make one available for free through its site, consider that one red flag against the dealership. The best used car dealerships make history reports available on all their cars free of charge. Then compare the price listed for the car with prices on similar vehicles online in your area to see if it’s generally in line and check the book value at sites like Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book. Most dealerships post lots of pictures of each car for sale. Examine those photos carefully because they can sometimes tell a story about the vehicle was driven and what condition it is now in. Also check the VIN for any open recalls (see our previous article, Where do YOU Stand on Auto Recalls?)
Research the dealer. Explore the dealership’s website and see what you can learn. Things to look for include the following: Does the dealership operate on a firm-pricing, haggle-free model? The best used car dealerships present competitive, fair prices up-front so no one has to waste time negotiating. Is there a money-back guarantee? The better used car dealerships will allow you to return a purchased vehicle within a certain timeframe (3-5 days, usually) for a full refund, no questions asked – as long as you didn’t damage it or drive it a zillion miles. What kind of warranty do they offer on their cars, if any? The better the warranty, the more confidence that dealership has in the cars it is selling, which is a good sign. Does the dealership have a finance department with robust network of lenders? It saves you a lot of time if you can shop for the car and the financing all in one place.
Make an initial call. Call the dealership up to find out as much as you can. First, confirm that the car is still available. Dealerships vary widely in how well they stay on top of managing their online listings, so sometimes the vehicle you’re interested in may have already been sold and just wasn’t removed from the website. If they still have the car, then you can get into specific questions you may have about it from your initial research. Ask them how long the car has been on the lot, what repairs have been done, and what kind of reconditioning process it’s been through. If the dealership does offer financing help, ask any questions you have about that, or if they will accept whatever financing you may already have arranged with your bank or credit union.
If everything looks and sounds good, go head and make the appointment to see the vehicle in person and test-drive it as well. You may well be on your way to a new ride!