Friday, April 28, 2017

Do Your Homework on Car Shopping

We all know about homework, right? The idea is practice and learn how to perform better when it counts. Whether in the classroom, arts, or sporting arena the value of preparation cannot be denied. If we recognize that homework is valuable for these purposes then it must be beneficial for major purchases. 

Purchasing an automobile is one major purchase where proper homework can payoff in considerable reduced cost. Researching information surrounding a vehicle purchase BEFORE meeting a seller is really a necessity to make an informed transaction. 

To keep things simple, below is a basic homework list for potential car shoppers;

1. What to buy? You know what you like so research a list of vehicles that you are interested in. Consumers Reports is a great resource for research on reliability, strong points, and weak points of vehicles tested. For pricing information and are excellent resources. You as the buyer should NOT be paying the retail value on most vehicles. Split the difference between wholesale/average trade-in and the retail value for an offer price. If buying a new vehicle you should work up from the invoice price, not down from the MSRP price.This is a fair price to both the buyer and seller. If you have a trade-in vehicle be sure to obtain the pricing info on it as well. You can usually obtain more for your vehicle by selling it yourself but that process is not always convenient for everyone. A CARFAX report is relatively inexpensive and well worth the price if the seller does not have the report available for your review.

2. Where to buy? The world wide web has opened up so many more sellers with vehicles available. Online shopping sites allow you to customize and search for exactly the type of vehicle you want. We have seen more and more members buying vehicles out of the area, especially if the vehicle being sought is limited in supply. Be leery of online offers that request a deposit to "hold the vehicle" for you as often these are just pure scams. It's always good to buy local and support local dealers when possible but keeping local dealers honest by checking pricing elsewhere is the right approach to doing your due diligence in obtaining a fair price. If buying a used vehicle from an individual it is important to promote safety in meeting locations, and avoid carrying large sums of cash until you're certain of a deal. It is advisable to meet in a public place such as a financial institution parking lot or police area. 

3. How will you pay for the vehicle? Amazingly this factor is often neglected until the vehicle has already been selected and that car fever is at a high level. The emotional side of us just wants to get the deal done and move out to the road in that shiny new ride. You may have negotiated a great deal on the vehicle but if you don't do you homework on financing (if you needing to finance) you are a prime candidate for paying too much. Dealerships especially make a considerable amount of profit from the financing and various add-on's that they will offer on a vehicle. Do you homework on available loan rates and offers, knowing the full terms and conditions connected to them. You might hear a "low as 1.50% APR" rate offer but then discover that the low rate is only available for 24-month financing for a A-rated credit score. Everyone has risk-based pricing meaning that your actual loan rate will be determined by your credit score and length of the loan. Shop around and know what the rate could be for the term you will want. A pre-approval is a great way to find out exactly what is available to you. Don't forget to research what your insurance costs will be as well. 

4. Avoid the "How much are you willing to spend?" game. I have had dealers to ask me that question and I always answer "What it's worth." If you reply with a desired monthly payment amount they will find a vehicle within that range and have you paying that amount much longer than you would like. You would also likely be forever upside down on that vehicle, meaning that you would owe more than the vehicle is worth.  This upside down situation makes it much more difficult to sell or trade that vehicle later on. 

5. Read what you're signing. You need to know what is the final Annual Percentage Rate (APR), monthly payment, term of the loan (how many months), and any fees or charges associated with the loan and paperwork. There are several dealers now charging extremely high document fees of $500, $600, & more. You can negotiate a lower price of the vehicle as a result of these higher document fees. When shopping different dealers find out what the different document fees are. 

6. Do your homework on add-on products as well. One big seller on all vehicles is Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) that covers any gap that might exist in an accident total loss situation between what the loan payoff is and what your automobile insurance will pay. Dealers sell this product for upwards of $500 and higher where NAECU sells the product for $199. Extended warranties, roadside assistance programs, and other products will be presented as well so research these as well before adding to the obligation. 

Doing the proper homework on all aspects of a vehicle purchase will make you an informed buyer and reduce the possibility of paying more than you should for a transaction that you will be living with for multiple years.