"Inside Information" Helps Get
The Best Car Deal
"Outside-The-Box" Car Shopping Tips:
If you're a "smart" car buyer, you're probably already doing what everyone recommends on the internet ... Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com, CarFax, Autotrader.com, etc.. Well, that's all fine and good. The more information you have, the better price you'll likely end up with.
And while I'm totally appreciative of the way the internet has been leveling the playing field for car buyers and putting pressure on Car Dealerships to improve the way they do business, the standard car-buying advice on the internet has become just that ... standard. And it also has some built in limitations ... limitations that can be quite costly.
Here's some tips on upping the ante even further on the Dealers and stepping outside the standard internet research box.
Here's The Problem:
One of the biggest information gaps that still exists on the internet is the lack of concrete data on vehicle value and pricing. It's a simple question consumers want to know, "Am I really getting a good deal, or not"?
I don't want to get on Kelley Blue Book's case, or NADAGuide's, or any of the various online pricing services. They do indeed provide important information that is very beneficial to car buyers. And I always recommend their use.
However, as someone with access to much more price information than the typical consumer, I can assure you that it's not unusual for their retail and trade-in pricing results to be off by as much as several thousand dollars.
Sometimes they are spot on, but many times they are not. I'd say they are better at providing a "range" rather than concrete prices consumers can depend on.
The reason for this is that they don't just look at regional retail and Dealer Auction (trade-in) prices. While each has their own proprietary formula, they add in more subjective factors such as supply and demand for a particular model and seasonal trends, among others.
The result, in my humble opinion, is more of an educated estimate. And when subjective factors are worked into a formula, the odds are increased for descrepancies from one service to another ... and outright errors.
To me, knowing real, live recent prices is the key. Knowing what a car actually sold for this week, last week, last month is the real crux of the matter. If consumers had this information, they would know if they are getting a proper trade-in price when buying a new car. And they'd know if they're getting a good price when buying a used one.
So, let's talk about some solutions to this information gap.
Check eBay Final Selling Prices:
Dealers are well known for selling cars at their best prices on eBay. If you can buy a vehicle at or less than what they've been selling for in the last few weeks on eBay (excluding classic and exotic models), then you're getting a good price.
Just search for your vehicle on eBay, then click on "advanced search". And then click on "completed listings". You have to be an eBay member to get this information. If you are not, it's free to sign up.
Check Dealer Auction Prices:
Wow, this would be incredibly valuable information when either trading in a car and/or buying a used car. But how does a non-Dealer get this recent, nonpublic information?
Call your bank or credit union and explain you're thinking of buying or selling a car and ask them to run a Manheim Market Report (MMR). Manheim is the largest Dealer-Only Auction operation in the country and any lending institution worth their salt has access to this data.
The numbers you'll get are the actual prices Dealers paid and is the most accurate representation of trade-in value that there is.
Get A Trade-In Offer From Carmax:
CarMax is now in 23 states and continues to grow. And they will buy cars from consumers, even if not buying a car from them. And we've found that most of their offers have been accurate and fair.
So, you have a much better chance of knowing your vehicle's true trade-in value by bringing your car to CarMax for a quote. You can then weigh that number with any other Dealer you are negotiating with. Is their offer less? Why?
If you do not have a CarMax close by, perhaps you have another no-haggle, Super Store in your area that might be worth trying.
Get The Inside Scoop On your Car's Maintenance History And Condition:
Has the car you're interested in been well maintained? Get a copy of the CarFax or AutoCheck History Report. If either a Dealer or private party is unwilling to provide it, you're not interested in the vehicle anyway. Almost all will give it to you.
From the report, contact the Dealership closest to where the vehicle was registered. Explain that you're interested in purchasing the vehicle and would like to give them the VIN to learn if there are any open recalls on the vehicle. Once they give you that information, ask them about the maintanence history of the vehicle.
While they can not legally make a copy of it for you, they can go over it with you verbally. And if it's not the right Dealership, either ask the current owner (if dealing with an individual) where it was serviced, or try another local Dealership of the correct brand.
By doing these things, you'll be far ahead of the typical "informed internet buyer" and will be much more likely to get the right car at the right price.
And Happy Car Hunting! - Josh