How to Make the Worst Part about Buying a Car a Little Less Miserable

  • Share
  • Read Later
Sam Jordash / Getty Images

Could there be a way to eliminate not only the stress and hassle of buying a new car, but save you time and money as well? You bet there is.

The results of a new survey naming the worst part of buying a new car aren’t particularly surprising. At the top of the list: negotiating price. The vast majority (62%) of participants in the survey, conducted on the behalf of CarFinance.com, pointed to haggling over prices as the aspect of car buying that they hated the most. The next worst part of the experience, arranging or negotiating car financing, got just 20% of the vote.

While most people don’t enjoy the games played and price negotiating at car dealerships, one group of consumers seems to hate it more than others: Gen Y. Ideally, millennials wish purchasing a car involved little or no haggling. That’s not how things work—not if you hope to get a decent price anyway—and so Gen Y tends to view the car buying experience as extremely stressful. Perhaps the uncomfortable, stressful ways cars are sold and prices are decided upon are among the reasons why this generation has been largely uninterested in car ownership.

(MORE: 12 Things You Should Always Haggle Over)

Ideally, millennials, who came of age with Twitter and one-click online shopping, also want the car purchase to be a quick transaction. Typically, dealerships like to drag out the experience, with salesmen taking slow walks back and forth to “ask the manager” about pricing and options, and with buyers being forced to endure pitches for upgrades, financing, extended warranties, and whatnot. The idea is to wear the consumer down, so that he or she is too tired to think, haggle, or put up a fight anymore, and winds up agreeing with whatever the dealership presents.

It’s not unusual for the experience to eat up several hours, and that’s several hours longer than many consumers wish it would take. Recently, an Edmunds post suggested a fairly simple solution to eliminate many car-buying headaches. Not only does this recommended method save time, it also gets rid of some of the stress and pressure, and ideally helps you think—and negotiate—better.

What’s the suggestion? Handle all of the negotiations via phone or e-mail, and get your new-car purchase delivered to your home. By doing so, you can “avoid hours of waiting at a dealership and also means you don’t have to run the gauntlet of high-pressure sales in the finance and insurance office,” according to Edmunds Philip Reed. The strategy of never setting foot in the dealership has been recommended before, but considering that today’s consumers are more time-sensitive and comfortable with online shopping than ever, the idea of home delivery especially makes sense.

(MORE: Will Millennials Change How Cars Are Bought and Sold?)

Reed explains how, after you’ve finalized pricing details via phone or e-mail, home delivery works:

Your salesperson will drive the new car to you and bring the sales documents for signing. When the salesman arrives, verify that the car is the year, make and model you chose, and that it has the agreed-upon equipment. Be sure that it is in new condition (even new cars can suffer scratches or dings during shipping). Check to make sure it doesn’t have more than about 100 miles on the odometer (from test-drives and the delivery).

The entire transaction can be completed in about 20 minutes. By contrast, picking up a new car at a dealership can easily take up three hours, even if you’ve already negotiated the price and payment method.

(MORE: Waste Not: Can Old Food Really Be Repurposed?)

If you’re negotiating from your laptop, rather than in the high-pressure environment behind a desk at a car dealership, you’re more likely to be in the state of mind to notice and make a stink about details such as “doc fees.” These are the charges for all of the documents involved in taking ownership of a new car, including registration, processing paperwork—and even the costs of paper, ink, and postage.

Advocates such as Consumer Reports say that doc fees should never amount to more than $100 or so, but an Arizona Republic story highlighted just how varied the fees can be. The average cost of doc fees in Florida is $610, highest in the country. In Arizona, among the top 10 for highest fees with an average of $398, an investigation revealed that some dealerships charge as little as $199, while others tack on as much as $539. Some states, by contrast, cap the maximum amount dealerships can charge in doc fees at $100 (Louisiana), $75 (New York, Minnesota), or $56 (California).

(MORE: 4 Rules for Getting a Car Loan)

The takeaway is that, in states where doc fees aren’t capped, consumers can and should ask for a break when the charges are unreasonably high. Dealerships may claim that it’s against state law for them to adjust their doc fees, but there’s always something they can do for you. Two examples: giving coupons for free oil changes, or simply lowering the agreed-upon purchase price.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

13 comments
FountainCar
FountainCar

One thing to recommend to avoid getting surprised by fees and such is to unequivocally state that you are negotiating the out the door price as opposed to the purchase price.  Companies like us also exist to do the negotiating for you, and like mentioned in the article, we will pick up the car and deliver it to you, all documents taken care of, with no surprise fees.  Actually had an experience recently where a client was outright shocked that there was nothing tacked on to the price he had negotiated when we delivered his BMW.

Albin
Albin

I think you do have to be in the mood to bargain, to get the best deal.  The "easy" ways are just ways to pay more money and ignore the fact.  My last car buy was while I was involved in a negotiation at work, so I was in "in the zone" and feeling fierce enough.

My suggestion is to research, test drive and decide on a brand, model and all add-ons before any serious dealing.  That means internet, but also breaking away from pushy salesfolk after some test drives, and that's very good practice. 

My final approach was to identify two separate dealers of the same car and be entirely straight up with both of them.  I found my Toyota on the lot at Dealer 1, told the salesman I would be going to Dealer 2 next, and wanted his "on the road" price - this is Toyota talk for the check I had to write, no trade in or financing to muck the pure buy, for everything including tax and charges.  After the manager routine, he gave it to me.  I told Dealer 1 I was off to Dealer 2 and I'd call him. 

I told Dealer 2 I'd been to Dealer 1 and wanted his own "on the road" price.  He talked to the manager.  When Dealer 2 got back he said he could match but not beat Dealer 1 and he didn't have the car on the lot.   I phoned Dealer 1, said I'd come back for the car at that "on the road" price.  Of course he started prancing around a little when I got back, but I shut him down with Dealer 2's counter offer.  He okayed, I was sent to the back office, said I'd get after market rust proofing and whatever, they made it clear they were glad as hell to be rid of me,  and I had my car and bloody-minded satisfaction.

mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

My mom bought a car through Costco a couple of years ago. No haggling, and it was very easy.

PosterBoi
PosterBoi

I don't know about having a lot car delivered that I haven't seen first, but I did negotiate via fax for my last new Jeep, but it was being ordered from the factory so I wouldn't have seen it first anyway.  I wanted a truck exactly like I wanted with less than 1 mile on it. I faxed the sme thing to 5 dealers within 150 miles and stated I wanted to deal with the youngest salesman on staff. I explained I was a serious buyer, ready to buy now and I would not negotiate the price and to give me their best deal the first time or I'd buy elsewhere.

I contacted the dealer with the lowest price, dealt with a guy on the phone who was 18 years old and had him take an addtional $500 off before I agreed to order it. I told him to have everything ready for me to sign when I walked in the door with the deposit, or I would turn around and walk out. He had everything ready and I told him to call me when my truck came in and to have it running and ready to go when I came to pick it up, or I would cancel the deal and get my deposit back. He did everything I told him to do.

I noticed a dealer sticker (logo) on the back, which is typical of most all vehicles, but they did not order my truck, I did. I told them to remove it. They said they put that on every vehicle on the lot and was their way of advertising. I explained my truck had never been on their lot, that I was not being paid to advertise their business and that if they didn't remove it, I would not take possession. They did what I said.

Be stern when you deal with salesmen and don't ever be nice and don't smile at them. I'm not saying be rude, but stand your ground and make it uncomfortable for them to try to make friends with you. Set a deadline and tell them if it takes more than whatever your time frame is  (like 45 minutes) to get down to business, tell them you will leave and make them believe it. And, if it takes longer than you budget, then do just that. When they stop you at the door, remind them it's your dime and your time and if they can get their act together real quick, then you will consider doing business with them.

GiveMeARaise
GiveMeARaise

"Ideally, millennials wish purchasing a car involved little or no haggling."

"Ideally, millennials, who came of age with Twitter and one-click online shopping, also want the car purchase to be a quick transaction."

"...ideally helps you think—and negotiate—better."

OK...the writer is thinking "ideally" here...we get it!

But these nice, polite suggestions won't amount to a hill of beans as long as state laws keep propping up the bloated, inefficient new-car dealer network rather than acknowledging the 21st century and allowing online and factory-direct sales.

Capien
Capien

Just present what you will pay bottom line (after price, tags, doc fees, etc) then when they want to go talk to the manager let them know you may stop back by later and see if they have an answer yet as there are other dealers you wish to make the offer to.

Some will let you go others will agree either on the spot or before you get to the door, either way you win.

therantguy
therantguy

Gen Y needs to grow a pair. Maybe we should stop raising kids who have never dealt with conflict because no matter what they did, we all told them it was super fabulous and how special they are, and raise kids who can function in a competitive world.

I love negotiating! Pitting dealers against each other is the best part of buying a car!

FLGyant
FLGyant

Wont work...misses the biggest part of a vehicle sales transaction which is the test drive.  I dont think dealerships would invest the miles in getting various cars to a home so that an individual would test drive each.  Could be possible, but I highly doubt it  as car salesmen no longer get promo vehicles to drive around.  Not even the managers are getting the loaner cars.  Just saying...

FountainCar
FountainCar

@mtngoatjoe Are you sure your mom got a good price?  Costco tends to be decent, but you can end up paying more than you should.

Michealbez
Michealbez

Annie said I am dazzled that a mother can earn $6674 in 1 month on the network. did you look this(Click on menu Home)

Alan Mazer
Alan Mazer

I agree.  If they let you walk, your offer was probably too low.  If they pull you back, you know they're interested.  The main thing to keep in mind is that it's your money. When we bought our last car they tried to change the price while doing the paperwork and we bailed.  They must have called us a dozen times after that, claiming that it was simply a paperwork mistake, and begging us to come back in.  Meanwhile we had simply gone to a different dealership and gotten an even better deal.  Don't play the mind games, and take charge of the deal.

drabidea
drabidea

Clearly you don't understand the Gen Y. We know how to negotiate and are willing to negotiate, we just don't see the point. I don't see the point of a car salesman in this day in age. 

The salesman used to be there to help the purchaser get details on different car models or features and to cut down on the paperwork. With computers now there is no need for this. 

All a salesman does now a days is try and negotiate the price when we already know what the lowest price they can sell them for is. All they do is increase overhead that as a consumer could be cutback.

The car salesman is not going to be a profession much longer unless they can find a way to give value back to the consumer.