Three people in five feel anxious when the time comes to buy a new car – with stresses over budgets, quality and costs the primary cause.
That's according to research from Shawbrook Bank, which decided to take a look at the car-buying process.
Shawbrook Managing Director Paul Went said: "When choosing a car there are a lot of things to consider, it’s no surprise that some people can find the shopping experience to be confusing and stressful."
So – to take the stress out Shawbrook – tracked down two insiders from car showrooms to explain exactly how to get the best deals.
Between them, they have almost 25 years' experience of selling cars to members of the public and these are their 10 top lessons if you want to get the best deal you can:
1. Be clear on what you want and how much you can afford to pay
Both salesmen said the most important thing was to be sure you do research before heading to a dealership – with knowing what you have to spend the most important thing.
“Buyers put too much onus on the sales representatives which makes it harder for them to give you what you want," one said.
“If they have a clear idea of how much you have to spend, what you are looking for and where you may be willing to compromise, then they’re more likely to get you a better deal.”
2. Shop in February and August
In February and August – the months before new plates are released – sales staff find it harder to hit their monthly targets.
And that means better deals.
"Shopping around at this time of year can be a wise move as staff may be one or two sales away from reaching their target and eager to secure a deal," one insider said.
"To give you an idea of how much tougher it is, our monthly target for February is 20 cars and in March it rises to 144.”
3. There are no discounts on convertibles in winter or four-wheel drive in summer
People think winter is the best time of year to get a convertible and summer is better for buying four-wheel drives (4x4s).
Sadly, that's a myth.
“Most modern convertibles are now hard-top, so they are as well-suited to being driven in winter months as they are summer,” one insider explained.
4. Quarterly sales targets could mean big savings
Quarterly sales targets are the principal focus for sales staff with bonuses shared among the sales team.
That means they're very motivated to hit them, and by "motivated" we mean "willing to cut prices to secure a sale".
One insider explained: “If you’re speaking to a sales exec it can be worth asking how their monthly or quarterly sales are going and whether they’re in line to hit their targets?
"If they’re close to hitting them they may be more willing to compromise and to find a way to secure a sale.”
5. There's more room to haggle with used cars
When buying new cars, minimum prices are often locked in, but that's not as true with used ones.
“The truth is that it’s highly unlikely that a customer will be able to negotiate a discount on a new car as there are fixed pricing structures in place that are set by the manufacturer, which means sales staff have very little flexibility on price,” one insider said.
But when it comes to used cars, dealerships normally have more wriggle room to negotiate as there isn’t the same level of pricing restrictions in place.
6. Are they trying to upsell me?
With new cars staff tend to get a flat commission regardless of how expensive the car is – which means if they are recommending a car that is different to the one you had in mind, then they are probably trying to tell you that there’s a car better suited to your needs.
But with used cars there are incentives for higher prices because staff generally get a percentage of the sale price as a bonus.
7. Being too confident can harm your chances
Being "confident" might hurt your chances rather than help them.
“Many people talk themselves out of a good deal by being too bullish and intent on proving how much they know about cars," one insider said.
"Men love to come in and tell you how big the engine was in the car they used to drive.
“But the best buyers express a clear vision of what they want and are willing to discuss their options with sales staff in order to find the best deal.”
8. Shopping at a dealership offers more protection
The security and peace of mind offered by major dealerships means people are willing to pay slightly more than the market value for cars.
That means private and independent dealers can more competitive prices because by not always providing the same service.
Which means you need to ask yourself if you'd rather save some cash or get the extras on offer in terms of car servicing, warranties and MoTs (if appropriate) from branded dealerships.
9. Don’t rush in to a deal
The main thing to remember here is that you don’t have to take out the finance package offered by the dealer.
In fact, doing that could see you pay a lot more in the end – with watchdogs catching dealers out last year charging customers more interest to get fatter commissions from finance providers.
“Before proceeding with your purchase, it’s important to take the time to research the options that best meet your budget and lifestyle as well as the different financing options available," Shawbrook's Went said.
"A clear understanding can help you to be in a far better position to find the best deal for you.”
Remember, your options range from cash, to taking a normal loan to cover the cost, through to more complex options including PCP, hire purchase or simply leasing – with personal contract hire (PCH) for cars rising 23% in the past year according to the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association.
10. Be friendly to get a better offer
The insiders agreed that if you approach the conversation in an open, friendly and personable manner you're far more likely to get a good deal.
One salesman said: “As a buyer you are always more likely to purchase something from someone you trust and in the same way, a car salesman is more likely to do what they can to help a customer if they like the individual and have a good rapport.”
“If I know you’re a keen surfer for example, we might be able to throw in a discount on a roof rack. Or if I know that you have pets and want to use the car for taking them out, then I may be able to sort out a boot liner.”
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