In this blog, we’ll address not only how to buy a car, but how not to buy a car. It’s important to know where most people go wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes.
Autotrader published an article based on a series of surveys that reported a shocking stat; 69% of people who buy a car have buyers remorse.
The article gives two reasons for the post-purchase pit in the stomach of consumers. 1. They felt like they overpaid or 2. They ran into mechanical problems shortly after the purchase. Most consumers think they know how to buy a car but this stat exposes a fault in the system. Cars often fall short of customer expectations because the price isn’t right or the quality doesnt match what they paid. There are several must-haves to knowing whether the quality matches the price. As we go, we’ll explain what to look for, what people miss, and why 69% of buyers say they want to do it over.
Here’s the short answer. Consumers are far too confident they’re getting their money’s worth when they buy. They end up overpaying for cars in below-average condition because they trusted bad information. Then, that misinformation is used as fact to decide what’s a good deal and what’s not.
The problem starts with the approach. A buyer’s first misstep is thinking they can make a cost to quality comparison on multiple vehicles using automotive comparison tools designed for consumers. These are things like third-party sites (Edmunds, car gurus, and cars.com), price guides, dealer listings, and history reports. While they can be helpful in the hands of an expert, they don’t paint the full picture. We’ll talk about that next.
The problem worsens as research continues. Most buyers research with these automotive comparison tools because we’ve all been convinced they’re the best source to gather information and compare cars. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them but it’s imperative that they’re used as a small part of the story. Unfortunately for car buyers, dealers use these same tools to show the good things and cover up the bad. This might seem small but, in reality, the tools have given dealers leverage to exploit buyers by creating confusion around price and quality.
As a consumer, it’s hard for you to truly know the actual price or condition of cars by searching online. Without these two things, it’s impossible to compare apples to apples. Trust us, your ability to find out whether a car is a good deal is not for lack of effort, intelligence, or time spent researching.
Amongst all the researching, car buyers get lost in finding “the best deal.” Without knowing it, the tunnel vision towards finding “the best deal” distracts buyers from reality. It isn’t simply the lowest price. The reality is, a deal happens when the price matches the true quality of the car. To find it, there are three things you need to consider.
1. THE ACTUAL CONDITION– When thinking about the actual condition of the cars you want to compare, remember not all similar cars are in the same condition. Many buyers believe the condition will be equal across cars with the same year, make, and model. It’s remarkable how often we see similar vehicles have a significant difference in quality due to how they were treated and where they were driven.
2. THE OUT-THE-DOOR-COST– The out-the-door cost of the cars you compare is what you need to focus on, not just the sticker price from the listing. Things like hidden fees, trade value, and listed price factor into the actual price. Since every dealer will be different, the online comparison you think you are making could be far off.
3. THE COMPARISON– When comparing multiple cars, side by side, according to their quality and cost, big mistakes can happen. Often times, buyers use inaccurate assumptions about quality and instinctively use the sticker price only. This distorts the comparison.
Think of it like booking a hotel room online and not knowing how many stars it has. When most people hotel shop they use the star rating to sort by quality. The hotel industry utilizes the star system to create consistency among hotels by having regular independent evaluations of overall quality. If you can’t see the quality rating you can not make a helpful comparison. Having this independent quality rating helps hotel shoppers know whether or not the price is reasonable.
1. Even if you learn how to negotiate, the sticker price you use to make your initial analysis is a moving target. Deceptive dealer pricing tactics are used to show a price that gets you excited, but in the end, it’s not the price you pay.
2. Regarding the actual condition, the real question is, “Do you have, in hand, a report from a recent independent mechanical inspection on all the cars you are considering?” The answer is likely no, making the comparison unhelpful at best, misleading at worst.
Without a system to independently rank quality, the real price, and without deep industry knowledge… you can’t make a helpful comparison. This inherently will put you on the path to be a part of the 69%.
These hoops to jump through and landmines to dodge are why consultative car buying is trending upward and fast. Consumers are tired of feeling helpless. Even with all the automotive comparison tools designed with consumers in mind, dealers have the upper hand. Much like a casino where the house wins in the end, the odds are stacked against the consumer in the car industry. Buyers can win and get a fair deal, but it’s a gamble against the odds according to the 69% of people who want to go back. So, what’s the answer? How to buy a car? Use an expert. Don’t confuse an expert with a dealer. Their expertise lies in closing deals once you get to the dealership. We don’t sell cars, rather we help people buy cars. This has been our calling card for 40 years, long before it was a trend. Now, consumers are itching for someone, an expert, to tell them they’re making the best decision. There’s no better way. Learn here why consultative car buying is trending up or read how our heritage has positioned us as an organization to raise the bar in car buying.
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