Car Buying Advice

Car Dealer Shopping

Car Dealer Shopping

How do you decide on a car dealer?

Today most car shoppers start their car search online. The vast majority of car shoppers are focused on two things. The first thing is solving a transportation need. The second is how to pay for solving that transportation need, also known as car financing or car loan shopping or new car budget. There is another point of focus that’s equally as important…. who will you buy your car from? I don’t mean if you are going to buy from Joe, John, or sally; but what dealership will earn your business.

For most of us car shopping is painful. Most of that pain comes at the point of purchase. Car dealers have a bad reputation in most parts of the country. This makes it tough for the honest car dealers that want to earn your business and value their customers to stand out from the crowd. The question is how do you know who is who?

Finding the right dealer is like finding the right car. You will have to do some research. The internet is your friend. You can gather a lot of information on the web, but you have to decide what’s important to you. You may discover that the best car dealer for the make and model you’re shopping for is located 30 miles away from your front door. Are you willing to make the drive or would you rather tough it out through a poor buying experience working with the dealer that’s 10 minutes from your front door. If driving and extra twenty minutes is too much to bear, then think about how far you have been willing to drive to meet that someone special.

If you are willing to drive 30 minute for a date or dinner with friends, then you have to be open to expanding your car search travel options. It’s like saying that you are willing to pass on Mr. or Mrs. Right, because they don’t live in your zip code. The funny thing is that you are likely to have your car longer than your last relationship. So, don’t be afraid to drive a little.

One of the more powerful online tools today is business reviews. Sites like Yelp, Google,, Auto Trader, Edmonds, and Dealer Rater can really be helpful in narrowing down your choice of car dealer. You have to be cautious of anyone that has all 5 stars. The sad truth is most anyone with all 5 stars has probably rated themselves. Any business at some point is going to make a mistake. Making a mistake or doing something wrong is not the problem. The real problem comes from how the company/car dealer handles what goes wrong. No manager can watch every employee 24 hours a day. You should look for some 2s, 3s, and 4s. Additionally, you should pay special attention to how the dealer responds to the upset customer. Most sites allow for some form of public interaction between the customer and the business. I can’t imagine that there is a dealership that has never did something wrong. They are in the business of selling mechanical devices with moving parts – something is going to o wrong at some point.

Hispanic family shopping for a car

Other Key Points to Car Dealer Shopping:

  1. How long has the car dealer been in business
  2. Check the dealer’s Better Business Bureau record
  3. Size of Inventory — size matters — more cars usually means a better deal for you
  4. How responsive were they to your email communication (yes, you should contact the car dealer electronically first) – it’s a good way to eliminate car dealer that’s not customer focused.
  5. Visit the car dealer’s website… do you like what you see?

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Closing Thoughts on Car Dealer Shopping

Finding the right dealer is not just about making a good customer experience decision. It is also a about making a good financial decision. You want to buy from a dealer that can give you a good deal. Let’s face it; we rarely develop a relationship with our retail dealer. For many it’s a transactional interaction. Make sure you get a good deal too. Check with the folks at True Car to see what other people have paid for the car you’re shopping for before you buy.

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