The internet has evolved into a nice tool to assist people who are shopping for their next vehicle. It’s put the power of the World Wide Web into the hands of the consumer.
A few years ago, if you were shopping for a vehicle, you would buy a newspaper or an automobile want ad newspaper from the corner store. You would start calling car lots and dealerships to see if you could verify that a car was there. Then you had to drive to the car lot. You could look at the vehicle, and with the assistance of a salesperson, you could go on a test drive. If you needed to trade-in an existing vehicle, you had to have their car lot appraiser drive your car and give you an estimate. If you wanted financing, it was sometimes best to do your own finance shopping before you even got to the car lot. If you knew how much of a loan you could be approved for, then that would determine the price range of vehicles you could look at.
The trouble with the old way of shopping was that too much information that you needed to know was controlled by the folks at the car lot. They set the price on the vehicle they were selling. They offered their price for what they felt your trade-in was worth. Sometimes after this traditional car shopping experience, you wondered if you “got a good deal or not”.
There are dozens of car-buying and car-advice websites operating now. Many of them offer information, as well as promote cars for sale. By searching several of these sites, you can specify the make, year and model of a car and start to find out at what prices the vehicles are being offered. The condition, the mileage, the options and so on will also affect the price. By researching online, you can determine the price range that a particular year, make and model of car should be.
You can also research to see how much your trade-in might be worth. Here’s a tricky spot for a consumer -- of course, everyone wants top dollar for their trade in. An owner will tend to overlook or downplay a vehicle’s condition and state that their vehicle is worth more than others in the market. You can imagine . . . if a car dealership makes money by buying inventory at low prices and selling at competitive prices, then it stands to reason that they would always offer a little less for the value of your trade in. You can see that if they offer too high of a price for your trade in, and if they try to resale that vehicle, then they will have to post a higher asking price on it. That might not make them as competitive.
Of course, many consumers are used to shopping in the retail environment. It’s not unusual in the jewelry or furniture markets for a dealer to put a list price on an item and then discount it by 50% -- and they still are selling and making a profit. There is too much information on the internet to allow a car dealer to overcharge too much for a vehicle. Usually, a car dealer will advertise a price that they have researched against their own market. They usually post a competitive price right on their website to prompt a buyer to stop by their store first. So don’t be surprised if a dealer won’t come down too much off of their internet pricing.
Statistics show that an average used car shopper will spend hours looking at inventory on dealer websites. They will check used car prices from multiple markets. They can research to see what they should expect for a trade-in value on their vehicle. A consumer can determine the best interest rates offered by auto loan companies or credit unions. A smart shopper will check consumer reviews of specific years, makes and models of cars to know how much it will cost to maintain a specific vehicle.
Take the time to research before you shop; then you will have a better feeling when you receive an offer of a purchase price or a proposed trade-in value. So, grab your computer mouse and click your way to a search engine before you start your engine to go car shopping. What you find out could save you hundreds of dollars and save a lot of time.
Source: Bob Hurley Ford
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