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There’s no fancy medical term (you know, like anthophobia - the fear of flowers) for people who are afraid of visiting a car dealership, but there should be, because there are lots of sufferers out there.
In fact, a US study found some 52 per cent of Americans feel “anxious or uncomfortable” about visiting a dealership, mostly because they’re afraid they will be taken for a ride by the sales staff. And no, we’re not talking about a test drive.
That’s a lot of people, and they deserve a cool collective name for their concerns, and so we shall now call it rip-off-ophobia. Better still, we’ll show you how to cure it.
With the end of financial year around the corner, dealerships will soon be promoting EOFY sales, and given the sluggish start to the Australian new-car market this year - and that was before the coronavirus pandemic hit - it’s likely that there has never been a better time to score a bargain on a brand new car.
Having lost several months of sales opportunities, dealers will be desperate to off-load models. And when you combine that with the traditional EOFY sales, you have a bargain bomb just waiting to be detonated. You just need to know how.
Here’s the deal; there are actually three ways most dealerships make their money.
The first is on the margin applied to each new car (though that number can be much smaller than you might think), the second is on optional extras or post-sale perks, like your ongoing servicing. But it’s the third way you want to tap into here.
Dealers are given sales targets that are handed down from the manufacturers themselves. Then, if they hit those targets, they receive a sizeable bonus cheque. And we do mean sizeable: payments can climb into the six figures for dealers that consistently meet their sales obligations.
So, when one of those hefty cheques rests on either cutting you a deal on a new car or letting you walk away, you can bet they’re going to work pretty hard to get that sale.
There’s no magic formula to timing your run perfectly, but we believe hitting the dealership around the middle of June is the best time to strike a healthy deal. Any earlier and the dealer will still be full of confidence they’ll hit their target. Any later, and you run the risk they’ve already hit it, and so your sale becomes irrelevant.
But in the middle of the month, when there’s no guarantee they’ll meet that magic number, every single sale counts, and that puts you in the box seat.
One of the best things about buying a new car is that you know exactly what you’re going to get. This isn’t a back-alley deal behind a pub for a TV that may or may not turn on when you get home, this is a mass-produced item identical no matter where you buy it from. And that’s exactly what you want to use to your advantage.
We recommend never buying a car without first visiting (or at least phoning) three dealerships. Unless you’re buying something exotic, you’ll no doubt find three examples close to your home, and, as we said above, no matter which one you buy, you’ll end up with the same vehicle.
So, shop around, because - as we learned in the first tip - every dealership will be at a different point in the race to meet their targets, and that means some will be more willing to discount than others.
It’s important to go in pre-armed with information. You don’t have to take the dealer’s word for the size of the discount you’re getting. Do your research (and might I suggest CarsGuide.com.au?) so you know what you’re shopping for, and how much you should be paying. Then it’s a simple matter of going with the deal that’s the furthest below that number.
If you’ve been paying attention, and I trust you have, you’ll remember the second way dealers make their money, and that is on the extras you sign up for when you buy your new car.
There are plenty of things you’ll be told you simply must have, but most of the time, you just don’t need them. Like the extended warranty you’re offered when you buy a new toaster, these things have largely been invented to line the retailer’s pockets, as opposed to protecting the customer.
So, paint protection? You don’t need it. Tyre insurance? Ditto. Rust proofing? Would you spend tens of thousands of dollars on something that is going to rust if you don’t protect it? Don’t be a fool.
Even things like roof racks and tow bars should be priced up on the aftermarket before you commit at the dealership.
You will always - always - get a better deal on a registered dealership demo than anything you have to place an order for, mostly because the former is taking up space on the lot and they’ll be keen to see the back of it.
And yes, I know there are some fears surrounding dealership demos, namely that you can’t know who has driven it, and how they’ve driven it, before you take ownership, but the truth is that dealerships often register cars so they can count towards their sales tallies, and so you can find plenty with a handful of kilometres on them that are every bit as new as a vehicle that has just come off a boat.
And there you have it, four surefire ways ensure your EOFY deal is the best you can get. Happy hunting!