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Several months ago I was in market for a new car – I tend to buy new but also tend to own the car for 5-6 years, so not exactly running it into the ground, but also I do enjoy owning it for 1 or 2 years with no payments at all. I had owned my car for just about six years at that point, and while it still runs great it was also getting to a mileage and age point where it will get a little harder to sell, because it will get a little tougher to finance. So it was time to go car shopping!
I was looking for a vehicle with the MSRP in the $35-40k range, potentially a coupe, but also open to a sporty/performance-focused sedan. In time I had narrowed my list to the Cadillac ATS, the BMW (the 2-series and 3-series), the Buick Cascada, and the Audi A4 or A5. I’ve been a GM guy most of my driving life, and exclusively driven cars made by the Detroit Big 3: a Trans Am, a couple of Camaros, a Grand Am, and a Mustang. So there may be a German-built vehicle in my future, but the selection process for this time around moved towards the Cadillac ATS soon enough.
There’s basically two main ways you could go about your vehicle shopping (especially when shopping new vehicles only):
- You narrow it down to a vehicle you are interested in, take the test drive to confirm it is a car you will want, and then work out the deal you need either by speaking with multiple dealers to get quotes or using an online service that puts the quotes in front of you.
- You are still comparing multiple vehicles of different brands, and negotiate the deal with the one that you like best, or get to final pricing on multiple vehicles and then decide which vehicle to buy based on the resulting deal you work out.
In my case, I narrowed down to the Cadillac ATS before contacting any dealers, and used the test drive as more of a confirmation that I do like the car, feel comfortable in, like the way it drives, and could see myself driving it daily for the next several years. After I felt comfortable with that I reached out to a few dealers (besides the one on the route home from work where I did the test drive) – who I found through partners of Lease Wizard, including CarsDirect and Autos.com
Once I contacted dealers I let them know what I was looking for: the model (ATS Sedan), the preferred colors (black or dark grey), and key features important to me: such as the more fuel efficient engine, as well as features I wasn’t interested in: one example was the navigation system (since there is an application and I can link to the maps and navigation on my mobile phone). The most important thing was that I am both busy and prefer to read an offer and then do my analysis, therefore I asked every dealer I contacted to provide me quotes in writing for both the 24 and 36 month lease and for both 10,000 and 12,000 annual miles included.
Despite being very clear on my request, every dealer proceeded to call me with quote figures. Except one: Penske Cadillac in Torrance California. The internet sales manager provided the information exactly as requested, he confirmed the equipment on the quoted vehicle (it even included a sunroof, which wasn’t a requirement for me), and provided the four price quotes requested for the different terms and mileage in the email response. The numbers were great. I was able to use the tools here on Lease Wizard to calculate the money factor applied, and overall analyze the deals and go through my checklist to ensure the one-pay lease I chose was the best deal for me. That was in the middle of the week; on Saturday I brought my checkbook and wallet to the Penske dealership and signed the papers to take delivery.
I mention these facts about the buying process for two main reasons:
- I do want to call out Penske Cadillac for their great process: number one rule of retail is to give the customer what they want. They did that, and unfortunately too many of the other dealers did not – trying to stick to their preferred process of providing numbers over the phone and then setting up an appointment to get you into their dealership.
- As the consumer do not feel the need to be pushed into buying (or leasing) from a dealership that cannot honor your reasonable requests. If you prefer discussing with the salesperson on the phone, or in all email-based correspondence, or in simply setting an appointment (or just showing up) at the dealership – be clear about that and the dealer should be able to accommodate that. If you want the desired car at a price lower than the dealer would sell it to his own mother, that’s a bit unreasonable. But as long as you feel you’re being reasonable, make sure you find a dealer that respects your preferences and that you feel comfortable doing business with.
The other reasonable requests would include asking about actual selling price and any additional fees (including the dealer doc fee and government imposed fees and taxes), the residual value if you are considering a lease, and the interest rate or money factor that can be offered. Keep in mind that interest rates and money factors will be based on an approval from the finance company – and will in turn be based on your credit. Therefore, knowing about your credit and providing this information accurately will provide the dealership a better chance to provide a quote they will then be able to honor. A common term to ask for is a “out the door price” – this would be how much you would actually buy or lease the car for, including all those taxes and fees. If this is converted into a monthly payment, it will again be based on assumptions on the credit program you’ll qualify for – until the dealership submits the application on your behalf.
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