It’s been about 12 years since I’ve been in a dealership – and my dad was with me. I have to admit, I was a little nervous heading into the car dealership on my own (perhaps the two cups of coffee before I left weren’t such a great idea). It also helped that I was well prepared before even setting foot into the dealership.
A HELPING HAND
The idea of this series is to go it alone. But I do have some backup help – LeeAnn Shattuck, Chief Car Chick at Women’s Automotive Solutions, and Anne Fleming, President and Car Buying Advocate at Women-Drivers.com. These female friendly automotive experts know their stuff when it comes to women and car buying, so I feel like I have some big-time heavy hitters in my corner.
Something that will make going into a car dealership less stressful is to know that you are never going to buy a car that day. Ever. It’s just a bad idea. Buying is often based on emotion. I’m the first to admit that I’m guilty of emotional purchasing (you should see my shoe collection). There’s a distinct possibility that if I wasn’t writing these articles, I would buy the first car I drove. This is why it’s a good idea to leave your credit cards at home or bring a friend who will smack you on the nose with a rolled up newspaper the moment you start humping a car salesperson’s leg. You do that and you pretty much lose your negotiating power.
A great tip I got from Shattuck is to research the dealership before you go in. I just typed in the car brand and the city into Google and up popped reviews. There are sites dedicated to dealership reviews (Women-Drivers.com gives reviews based on the female car-buying experience). Of course, it’s going to be hard to find a dealership that has a 100 percent approval rate, but if it’s getting more nays than yays, it’s probably a good idea to find a different dealership to visit. You can even check up on a dealership using the Better Business Bureau – the better the grade, the better the dealership.
FEW CONVERTIBLES LEFT FOR LATE-SEASON TESTING
Another issue I had to deal with was the fact that in October, there aren’t as many convertibles to test drive. I had to phone a few different dealerships to see if they had any in stock. In the end, I did find a few dealerships that had a couple of test convertibles (though, these ones may not have been my first choice). Even if it wasn’t the exact model I was interested in, it was close enough for me to get a general idea of what I liked and didn’t like with that car.
A great tip, courtesy of LeeAnn, is to make an appointment with the dealership with a specific person, instead of just dropping in. That way, you have a dedicated expert with you no matter how busy it is. Tell them exactly what you’re looking for in a particular model, including options and trim levels. If you don’t, the salesperson is going to put you in a top-of-the-line model that’s decked out with all the bells and whistles. And it’ll be hard to say no to heated seats once you have a warm bum. Remind the salesperson that you’re just looking and you have other models you’re interested in, so don’t expect a sale. Let them know they have an hour to wow you, and the clock is ticking!
Anne Fleming mentioned to me that if I didn’t have the money to spend on a new car, it was best if I didn’t test drive one. And I can see why. Once you drive new, you can never go back. So before you step into the dealership, sort out your finances. Get your credit score, check out your bank’s line of credit financing and call in any outstanding loans – you’re going to need all the cash you can get. Remember to allow for any needed extras and upgrades, taxes and fees.
I’m nervous going in for a test drive, I’ll admit it. But I’m also excited. It’s another step toward getting the car I’ve dreamed of. And I can start buying shoes I know will look good with my new convertible. Never underestimate the importance of accessorizing.
- Leave your heels at home. Sure, I can drive in my car with heels, but in a car I’m not used to… that’s another matter. Slip on your sneakers for your first test drive to ensure you’re in total control during the ride.
- Choose decaf. Being wired during a test drive of a car I had no experience with can be nerve wracking. If you’re anything like me, save the caffeine for after the drive is over.
- Know your limits before even going into the dealership. It will give you an idea if you can afford the base model or one that’s fully equipped.
My first two test drives – the Mazda Miata and the MINI Cooper Convertible.