When I was reading Ron’s article at the Wisdom Journal about retail ripoff tactics, I was reminded of my dad’s purchase of an ill-fated Olds.

The Olds wasn’t a bad car or anything and he made a lot of great decisions. But unfortunately a teenager ran a light right into him and completely demolished it a mere 3 weeks after he bought it. On the plus side, he was able to buy a very similar one, since it hadn’t really depreciated (it was used to begin with).

Anyway, while buying that Olds, he made a number of good decisions that made the whole process a lot easier and probably got him a better deal.

First, since this was “his” car (as opposed to the one my mom drove), he began the car-shopping process alone. This gave him time and freedom. He didn’t have to worry about us getting cranky. He didn’t have kids who might become attached to one car and who could then be used as leverage by the dealer. He also didn’t have to buy that day. After all, it’s not like he’d made a family trip of it.

Then when he’d made the choice and gotten everything worked out with the dealer, he had us come over and look at the car just to make sure the whole family, particularly my Mom, approved. Then he signed the agreement and we were done.

Some thoughts of my own:

– If you need to buy as a couple, find babysitting for the kids (or leave them home if they’re old enough). It’s a lot less stressful if you don’t have bored, cranky, hungry extra people waiting around while you’re talking to the dealer. You have more time to work on a better deal.

– Pack a snack. After a few hours, especially when I’m in a stressful situation, my blood sugar plummets. I get headaches and feel tired and I just want to get home. That’s like being a wounded animal around hyenas…not a good idea.

Include a water bottle and ask where the fountain/bubbler/water cooler is if you need a refill.

– Bring a book, MP3 player, etc. Treat this like a plane flight or long car drive. Bring whatever you need as a passenger to entertain yourself. If you bring a book, make sure it’s something fun that you can enjoy reading while you wait. Don’t repeat my mistake of bringing War and Peace to the Emergency Room. That was dumb, I was too tired and not interested. Better choices might be James Patterson et. al.

Or tell them to stop wasting your time…but you might as well be prepared for some waiting.

– Dress flexibly. It might help to have some kind of cardigan/coat handy. You never know if the dealership will be uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold. Prepare for both.

– Bring a notebook. Take down what the dealer tells you and put it in writing. That way you can easily refer to it later.

Don’t let the dealer have the home-court advantage. Make yourself comfortable by packing well.

For thoughts on the actual car-buying process, try the guest post on my site about buying a “new” car by Curtis of RealWorldFinance$, or Gather Little by Little’s 3-part series on buying a truly new car, GenXFinance’s 10 Tips for Dealing with Dealers, and Frugal Trader’s analysis of “Confessions of a Car Salesman”.

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Car Buying Tips
February 26, 2008 at 10:16 pm


My Dollar Plan February 24, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Great tips! We’re going to be in car buying mode soon. Although we might bring the kids, so we have an excuse to get out of there quickly!

Hilda February 25, 2008 at 2:43 am

Awesome tips, especially the snacks. Just want to add:do lots of research online before you go to the dealership. Make sure you know what you want from a car and your price range and be firm.

Glblguy February 25, 2008 at 6:09 am

Thanks for including my article!

We’ve actually brought our kids a few times and kept them right in the office with us. While a bit devious,we actually let them act a little crazy in hopes it would make the dealerships want to get us out of there fast 🙂

MillionDollarJourney February 25, 2008 at 6:20 am

Tips on buying new cars seems to be a popular topic in the pf blog world.

Thanks for the mention!

Ron@TheWisdomJournal February 25, 2008 at 7:50 am

Thank you so much for your kind words and for including me in your article!

I really enjoy reading your blog and getting your insight.

Jesse February 25, 2008 at 11:04 am

Great article, buying a car is one place where you most definitely WILL get ripped off if you let them. I also would suggest downloading my “offer guide” on my downloads page. Just another tool to help know what you should be paying (for a new car, not used).

Wooly Woman February 25, 2008 at 12:36 pm

I hate buying a car, the sales people drive me nuts. But you have some excellent suggestions on how to make it bearable! One I would add would be do your research ahead of time so you know what type of vehicle you are looking for- otherwise you never know what the sales person will try and sell you.

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