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My Experience With Buying a Car From a Dealership

By Erik Folgate

My first experience with buying a car on a dealer’s lot came a couple of weeks ago. My 1995 Nissan Altima had come to its end. A big, huge, hairy truck plowed into the Altima in a parking lot and pretty much totaled the car. It was actually a blessing, because then I didn’t have to spend the money fixing it up to make it pretty enouh to sell. I’ve always had clunker cars up until now, so buying a car at a dealership was a very new experience. I don’t like buying new cars, so I went to an “up-scale” used car lot, if there is such a thing. My wife and I went back and forth to different dealerships looking at full-size sedans and a couple of small SUVs. We started looking at 2006 Hyundai Sonatas because they were in our price range, they looked nice, and they are a very smooth drive. Plus, we could get a Sonata with a V6 engine that was in our price range. I was ang. little skeptical about buying a Korean car with the track record it has had in the past, but Hyundai has definitely separated itself from Kia by a mile. Many reviews by magazines like Motor Trend and Car Buying Guide say that Hyundai is getting closer and closer to Toyota and Honda type quality. I know, it’s hard to believe, but all you really need to do is drive a newer Hyundai, and you’ll see what they are saying. So, we found the Sonata that we really liked. It was a nice, midnight blue color, had about 30k miles, and the interior was very clean. And so begins the adventure. Here are a few things that I did to help prepare myself for negotiating and buying my “new” used car.

  1. Do your homework. I did a lot of online research before I decided on the Sonata. The beauty of the internet is that you can read hundreds of opinions about cars from real owners on sites like Epinions.com.
  2. Go to kbb.com, which is the site for the kelley blue book value of all cars, and get a range of what you should be paying for this car given its mileage, features, and condition. Create a range that you are willing to pay. You want a magic number. If your magic number is $13,500, then you’re not going to walk out the door for anything more than $13,500. If you get anything less than that, then you’ve done a great job, but you’re walking away if they won’t do $13,500. Catch what I’m saying?
  3. Negotiate price AND repairs. If you’re buying a newer used car, there should not be that many defects. If there are, the dealership should pay to repair them. Any scratches, dings, and paint fading should be negotiated in the sale. Salesman may be more inclined to throw in new paint on the bumpers or a thorough interior cleaning than they are with knocking off $500 to the price. Although, you can sometimes get them to knock down the price because of these imperfections.
  4. Learn to walk away. Sometimes you have to walk away from a deal, and know when to do it. If you’re arguing over a $100 and you really want the car, don’t walk away from it. If it’s a matter of $500 or more, than hold your ground and the salesman may come running at you while you are walking off the lot.

I ended up buying the Sonata for a price that was in our price range, and I got them to throw in re-painting the back bumper and touching up a scratch on the front bumper and driver side fender. We got a decent deal, but I’m sure the dealer made good money on the sale. It was definitely a learning experience, but I think we were satisfied when we drove away from the lot. I couldn’t really complain with the car, because the windows roll up and it doesn’t rattle my teeth out when I sit at a light. If you’re in the hunt for a car, my suggestion is to buy used and stay strong in the negotiation process. The ball is ALWAYS in your court when it comes to car buying!

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • http://chickpealove.com/blog chickpea

    Congrats on the new[er] car. I just got a 2007 Sonata last week and I definitely love it. Because this is my first car, I was considering the Chevy Cobalt, but since my parents just bought a Hyundai Sante Fe and Tucson in January, I figured it would be a good idea to go to the same place they went to and try to cash in on a buyer loyalty bonus. I was looking more at the Elantra because it was a bit smaller, but the Sonata had better incentives (it’s a lease, FYI).

    I spent about 2-3 weeks researching different cars on Edmunds.com and Epinions.com, so I was aware of the pros and cons of the cars I was considering. Before going to the dealership, I came up with a number that I could afford (I’ll be in law school this fall), and stuck with it.

    It’s funny because I know 5-10 years ago many people would rather walk than drive a Hyundai. My mom had a 2002 Hyundai Accent and so many people dogged her for having a “small, cheap Korean car” but the joking stopped as gas prices rose. I would definitely agree with Motor Trend about Hyundais moving up in the market. Give them a few more years and they will be in direct competition (quality wise, etc) with Honda and Toyota.

    Sorry for the looong comment!

  • Pingback: Car Buying Question

  • http://www.evenlevel.com el

    I’ve been thinking about getting a used sonata as well. The prices are great and a lot of them are now better equipped than an Accord or Camry. The quality has improved significantly over the years and the basic warranty is better than Toyota’s or Honda’s.

  • http://www.thetaoofmakingmoney.com Golbguru

    Seems like bad times for Nissan owners. I have been recently whining about my car – a Nissan Altima that finally broke down on us. Later sold it to a junk yard for a few hundred dollars in as is condition.

    Toyed with the idea of a Hyundai, but finally settled for a Toyota Corolla.

    After the car buying experience, I am working on this series about tips for buying used cars – covering topics from car inspection to dealing with dealers and stuff (I won’t stick the URL here to avoid making a self-promotion attempt); do spare a moment to have a look at it.

  • Belababe

    Hi can someone please help me? I just purchased a used car and don’t want it I have been trying to get Sansone Route 1 Auto mall in NJ to take it back! I feel I was taken advantage of and am paying way to much for the car…… I don’t know how the loan went threw when I didn’t disclose any financial information I never signed for a loan only the contract. I did sign a promissory note to give a 3500.00 down payment today 2/10/12 which I didn’t give because I am trying to fight and have them take the car back! I never gave them a dime and I still did not put insurance on the car so how did the loan go through if the couldn’t register it? Can someone please help me I think they even left a message impersonating the police saying I need to contact Sansone because I have THEIR car and owe $3500.00 and have no insurance on it and if I don’t contact Sansone the police will put out a warrant for my arrest! Can they do that? I really don’t want this car! Supossely the loan went threw and they say they were paid so how at this point could they say it’s their car? Please anyone help? Thanks :(

  • http://www.manhattansgreatest.blogspot.com/ Dennis The Menace

    I cannot believe how little a used car is worth I took my car to carmax. And I was offered only 1200 dollars for a mazda protege 1997. This was in 2007. The car had just 5700 miles on it. The car was in pretty good condition.

  • http://fountaincarleasing.com/ Fountain Car Leasing & Sales

    “Learn to walk away” is one of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to car shopping, new or used.

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