Seven Strategies to Evaluate a Car Dealership


Whether you’re shopping for your first car or you’re ready to trade in an older model, choosing the right car dealership has the potential to save you thousands of dollars. It’s also important to do your research to ensure that you’ll be happy with this substantial purchase for years to come. Here are seven things to look for in a dealership when you’re shopping for a new or used car.

1. Get Recommendations
While online reviews of dealerships can give you an idea about the quality of service they offer, these sites may offer an incomplete or misleading picture. Although web research is a good jumping-off point, you should also reach out to friends and family members who have recently purchased a vehicle. They’ll be able to tell you about the purchasing experience they had and possibly even refer you to a specific salesperson.

2. Know About Manufacturer Rebates
If a car manufacturer is offering a rebate on the vehicle you’re interested in, know the terms before you go by printing the offer from the manufacturer website. A good dealer should give you the exact terms offered by the manufacturer, regardless of the purchase price you negotiate. Some dealers keep these rebates as profit, which is a red flag that you should steer clear.

3. Ask for a Walkthrough
Your car dealership should spend time with you for more than just a five-minute test drive. The best sales associates will be willing to walk you through all the features and perks of the vehicle you’re considering, so you have a full understanding of your purchase before you sign the sales contract.

4. Do Your Research
If you’re trading in a car, estimate the trade-in value you can expect to get from a car dealership using an online blue book resource. With a fair price in mind, it will be easy to avoid dealers who offer much less for your trade. You should also have an idea of the MSRP, or manufacturer-suggested retail price, of the new or used car in which you’re interested. This serves as a starting point for negotiation.

5. Avoid High-Pressure Sales
You should steer clear of a car dealership that makes you feel like you have to make a decision right away. A good salesperson will know the value of allowing you to weigh your options. This advice doesn’t just apply to the car itself; just say no to add-on extras like VIN engraving and paint protection. These services cost substantially more when purchased directly from the dealer and don’t necessarily add value to your vehicle.

6. Have the Car Checked Out
Any scrupulous car dealer will allow you to have the car checked out by an independent mechanic before you buy. If the dealer you’re working with balks, insisting that their mechanics have already checked the car out, don’t purchase your vehicle there.

7. Come Prepared with Financing
Bringing your own financing can often get you a better rate than getting a car loan directly through the dealer. As with having your car independently examined, any dealer that doesn’t allow you to do so should be avoided.

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