A few decades ago, a female car buyer might have been expected to be primarily interested in the size of the glove box and the colours of the duco and upholstery! Unscrupulous used car salesmen might have regarded a lady buyer as ‘fair game’ and hoped she didn’t have a male friend!
Despite their knowledge, however, ladies often find the process of inspecting vehicles and dealing with car salesmen quite daunting. And both men and women can benefit from a few pointers on how to get the best possible deal.
1. List your needs, and consider which features are most important to you. Then research to find out which cars come closest to your ideal. The World Wide Web provides a wealth of information to help you compare safety features, fuel economy, overall running costs, and general performance. Look on forums for comments from owners of the brand and model you are considering. If you see someone stepping out of a parked car like the one you are thinking of buying, ask them how they find it. Most people love to talk about their car, and are pleased to offer you helpful information!
2. Find out what the car you want is really worth by visiting sites like Redbook & NRMA’s Carwise. These sites provide price guides for different makes and models depending on age, condition, and kilometres travelled. Remember that special features and accessories, a better brand of tyre, remaining registration, and the general condition of the vehicle affect its value, and Redbook doesn’t necessarily consider all of these factors. Also, Redbook is more accurate for common makes and models. Rarer vehicle types are harder to value accurately.
3. If possible, take a friend with you when shopping for cars to keep you level-headed. Be careful not to be blinded by snazzy sales pitches. And avoid any temptation to be influenced by a salesman’s charm or good looks!
4. Ask about price, warranty, and what the dealer will offer as a trade on your old car (if you have one). Be sure to query the dealer about any hidden costs. Demand a "drive away, no more to pay" price, even on a used car. Check what accessories are fitted or offered.
5. Take the car for test drive, and make sure you test it up and down hills, on straight stretches, around bends and over speed humps, and in heavy traffic. If possible, test it on a stretch of rougher road, particularly if you are likely to be driving it on rough surfaces. Ask the seller about safety features and any special performance features like special gearing for driving in snow or pulling out of bogs.
6. If it is a used car, ask about its service history, and investigate if it has ever been badly damaged in an accident and what repairs were carried out. Were genuine parts used? Was it repaired by a competent professional. Did the previous owner dispose of it immediately after repair. (If so, that might indicate that the owner wasn’t entirely happy with the repair job.) Also consider how many kilometers it has travelled. How much registration is left? That contributes to cost – sometimes considerably. Check for tyre wear.
7. Be sure the car comes with all the required safety and compliance certifications and a warranty.
8. To ensure the car isn’t stolen, do a security check by calling your state’s transport authority. This is particulary important when buying privately.
9. Ask someone with reasonable mechanical knowledge to check the car over for you. Are the seats comfortable. Do the seat adjustments work correctly? Are all the seat belts in good order? Do all the lights and indicators work correctly? Do the windows go up and down properly? Do door catches and locks work? Check the windscreen washer and wipers. Check that air conditioning and heating systems work and the radio and CD player function correctly. Test the horn. Pump the brakes, and check their responsiveness when test driving. Listen for any crunching or grinding noises, squeaks or squeals. Is there any sign of smoke from the engine or exhaust? Does the engine get very hot? Does the engine look reasonably clean? Look under the car for signs of oil or water leaks.
10. Is there a car manual, service book, jack, and spare tyre somewhere? A completed log book usually indicates that the previous owner cared for the car. Records should have been kept to evidence that it was serviced regularly by an authorised repairer.
Get the car checked
The Roads and Motoring Association in your state (NRMA in NSW) offers an excellent used car inspection service. They will go over the vehicle thoroughly for you, and provide a condition report.
You can take this back to the seller and negotiate price reductions for any minor faults found. Ideally, you should arrange to have an inspection done before you start price negotiations, but at the very least be sure any purchase agreement is subject to a satisfactory report and agreement that the seller will fix any faults found.
Poker faces win in price negotiations! Never let the seller know you are enthusiastic about a vehicle. When a salesman thinks you are ‘hooked’, the discounting and concessions stop and the hard sell begins!
Most sellers expect buyers to barter the price down, and set the initial price accordingly – so if you agree to pay the asking price, you are likely to pay considerably more than the seller wanted. That’s true of both new and used cars. New cars have a recommended retail price (RRP), but dealers offer all sorts of discounts, cash back deals, and extra accessories to win your business. Ask about insurance, roadside assist, and extended warranties. Ask the dealer what extras he is prepared to throw in to win your business. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Women are often excellent negotiators, and when dealing with salesmen, a figure-hugging skirt still wins points! But if you lack confidence, consider using a professional negotiator to handle price negotiations. Private Fleet has a record of securing amazing deals on new cars, and can now offer great prices on used cars as well.
When you Take Delivery…
Before finalising payment, insist on an inspection of your car in daylight. Make sure there are no dents or scratches (or none that weren’t there before if it is a used car.) Check again that lights, windows, door locks, air conditioning, heating, stereo, etc. all work. Check that the kilometre reading on the odometer hasn’t increased unreasonably since you agreed to buy. Verify that tools, jack, spare tyre, etc. are in place.
Make sure all paperwork is done correctly. Contact the Motor Registry in your state for details of requirements if you are unsure. You should receive a registration certificate in your name and evidence that CTP insurance has been arranged. Especially for used cars, check that the engine number, VIN number, body type, year and model details, and number plate all match the information on the registration certificate.
Ask the salesman to provide basic instruction on how to operate the vehicle and all accessories, and to tell you what you need to know to look after your car correctly.
Finally, if all of this sounds daunting, or you are pressed for time, consider seriously the benefits of buying through a car broker. Brokers can handle all of the checks for you, and are experienced at negotiating the best possible deals.
Through its high volume sales of new cars, Private Fleet gains access to a large number of trade-in vehicles. These would typically be sold to wholesalers, but Private Fleet is now able to offer great deals on these cars directly to used car buyers. You’ll get a great deal, and you can buy with confidence that all the necessary checks and verifications have been taken care of for you. It’s a delightfully easy way to get a great buy!