The Ultimate Shopper shop smart. buy smart.

You would think that in the year 2017, buying a vehicle would be like buying a gallon of milk, RIGHT? Well how’s that idea working out for you? Not so much, is it...

But “they” said the internet will make this so much easier, the wonderful utopia of no hassles, easy process and express lane checkouts! The internet - The one place where I can get all my answers online and just walk-in and pick-up my vehicle. Sounds like most of us drank the same Kool-Aid, BUT I have good news for you!

These days’ shopping for a vehicle seems to be a long and daunting task. I remember 20 years ago when my dad and I would go "window shopping"; or as he called it, “kicking tires” all while trying to avoid the peculiar, eccentric and boisterous salesmen. I know you're laughing, but you know what I am talking about - that stereotypical sales guy, the older man, poorly put together in a cheap suit, who smokes two packs a day, and then... in his deep, raspy voice says to you, “so what’s it gonna take to make this beauty yours today?”

Car shopping in 1990 was a time in our lives when you made plans for the entire weekend to read the local newspapers (if you don't know what that is, ask someone over 30 please =) and planned your route to look around and gather information. In some ways, I think most of us would prefer those times again.

Between all the research trying to find the right vehicle, to getting a fair price; you can easily find yourself becoming overwhelmed with too much information. Sorting through the garbage is tough, but you can DO IT! I put together this shoppers guide for my valued fans, friends and clients alike. My honest and sincere goal? To make your experience more focused; to save you the hassle and runaround from dealerships and to truly simplify the entire purchase process.

Take my advice… it's the exact process that I have personally used and recommended for years. This is for anyone who is a serious buyer of a new vehicle, so please don’t screw this up!

Now take a long deep breath...

First things first: Before you take my advice, you need to KNOW what brand and model (relatively speaking) you want to purchase. I am only giving you this advice to take you from shopping for a vehicle to buying one. Let me be clear – Shopping for what you want is half the battle, but that is up to you to research and decide. I simply preface this for the fact that not everyone understands what they really need and want, but that this is all about you!

I am NOT the guy to give you advice on what you should buy whatsoever! But, I am the one who can give you the strategy of HOW to buy. One more thing before we begin the simple process - ladies and gentlemen: Caution - DO NOT be misled by advertising!!! You should honestly know that you cannot buy a fully loaded vehicle for nearly the same price as a base model. 99% of advertised lease specials and low payment offers are based on an entry level model, provided you have good to excellent credit AND with money down and it never includes taxes or registration fees.

...What's that thingy we used in grade school called again?

Do yourself a huge favor and find a loan calculator tool (they even have lease calculators too) and why not dust off that good old fashioned calculator (or use the one on your smartphone – now that’s smart!). These basic tools can do you wonders when your “sales person” starts throwing out numbers.

Okay, so are you following me yet? ... Let’s do it!

Homework is essential…

  • Know what you want - Have you narrowed your search to three or less models? (color and options are okay to change, but don’t spin your wheels getting price quotes on more than two models). Too much information at one time will only confuse you more… stay focused or go back and rethink what vehicle you really need and start over.
  • Know where to shop - One of the most important parts is finding what dealers to choose. Ask yourself, “Do I have any experiences (good or bad) with the closest dealer?” I will say loyalty does matter to most dealers, not all. Don't assume because you bought there before, that they have a great deal waiting for you again. Always follow my process BEFORE you go.
  • Know their credibility - Find at least two dealers in your area (if possible, three) and google them for reviews; especially for sales experiences. You do need to understand and consider that every dealer will have a bad review – that I can guarantee! But in the past 6 months, look for more positive reviews to see if it’s a dealer worth contacting. You may even get some useful insight and advice too.
  • The Personal - If any friends or family members can share their personal experiences about a dealer specific to the brand you are looking at, that helps a lot too. Be selective in who you ask to make sure you get a trusted opinion. Some people created the bad experience simply because they did not prepare themselves. Some simply made a poor choice and find it easier to blame the dealer. All in all, you have to trust the dealer you are doing business with.

You are almost ready to take the plunge... so keep up with me.

Okay, so now you know what you want and basically what dealerships you plan to get pricing and would purchase from. Next, you need to make contact - I always recommend going online to their website directly to get a general “feel” and "look" for the dealership. I prefer to read the "About Us" page to see how they started and if they are family owned - Family owned is VERY important to me, because the money I am spending stays locally. Hey, even web stalking the staff photos can be fun (don't judge me).

Along with getting to know the dealership on a personal level, the website will also list most of their inventory online, but don't let that distract you. I know this because dealer’s inventories change so rapidly, plus they can locate almost any new vehicle you desire at another dealer for the model/color/package you want. Let them work for you!

Look for a Fleet or Internet manager...

So after looking online, your best bet is to find the Fleet Department or Internet Sales Department contacts. A smaller dealership may not have this type of department, so ask for a Sales Manager. Also, look for a staff page or about us page and that’s going to lead you to my best advice – emailing the person in charge!

Sounds like a lot of work, but you are almost done! Now you need to email the Director or Sales Manager (some dealers use both or even eCommerce/Internet Manager titles). The trick is to stay away from submitting a contact form or vehicle request online. 90% of the time I say this because you are typically sharing information with multiple people and even possible third parties. Another problem is that you could get lost in the crowd with a delayed response or even no response at all (we all have bad days where the delete button is more useful than working, right?) or you may even find yourself with someone inexperienced to answer your questions, which is very frustrating.

Okay, so back to your well organized, thoughtful email… keep it short and to the point. The person receiving this email receives hundreds of emails a day, so state that you are shopping a few local dealers (don’t say, “I’m shopping EVERY dealer in the state" or you will probably be ignored and deleted) and you are looking for the best deal. If you are open to (I recommend being open to two colors) multiple colors or options, be clear about what you absolutely DON't want first. I always recommend (in the discovery/shopping phase) to build a vehicle like you want directly on the manufacturer website (No, you WILL NOT have to give up your personal information to do it), then print this off or save it on your computer. You can share this with your contact and see how close they can get to a match for you.

Get the numbers in writing before you make a decision

Once the quotes start coming in, your final request from any dealership needs to be a copy of the factory invoice (YES, they CAN give this to you) and a full disclosure of the numbers; which is typically called an “OTD” or “Out The Door” price request. The proposal, purchase order, disclosure (or whatever they call it), needs to be in writing and detailed. If they cannot put their offer in writing prior to you going in, then don’t waste any more time with them. A dealer who is genuinely credible will be transparent and upfront with little to no hassle.

DON'T FALL FOR THIS TRICK - Most dealers, salespeople and managers will offer to beat another dealers price in writing, whether they will or not DOES NOT MATTER! You need to get their offer in writing BEFORE you go. Don't fall victim to this trick - Make sure you have everything from them first and a legitimate offer to compare, BEFORE moving forward.

My last bit of advice is this… "value"; more importantly, your value is essential. Your time and money are paramount; so think about what your time is worth and how you are being treated while going through the process. The dealership that earns your business is the one who answers your questions promptly, provides you with all the information upfront and genuinely makes the effort to help you by providing you options. The choice is now yours… Go get yourself a smokin’ deal and enjoy that new ride (and extra money in the bank)!


This article was written by a leading industry consultant, who has been dedicated to making the automotive industry more accountable and transparent to consumers for over a decade. Our mission is changing the image of the industry, one dealer at a time.


Created with images by JESHOOTS - "wallet money credit card" • mdanys - "scream and shout" • qimono - "idea empty paper" • nemopaice1 - "Junk car in fron anf junk trailer"

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