Buying from a used car dealer — does travelling save you money?
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The used car market is a little like real estate in the sense that location has a lot to do with how much you’ll pay.
Many of our members call us for pre-purchase inspections for vehicles that aren’t local to them — predominantly in larger cities, having given up on their local selection. It could that a road may save you hundreds, potentially thousands of dollars.
More dealers equal more negotiating power
Thanks to the internet, buyers now have more choice, especially in the used car market. You can scour auction sites for hours and hunt out bargains all over the country.
The further you’re willing to look, the more dealerships there are, and the easier it is to leverage prices against each other. Looking away from home also increases choice — colours, safety features, engine varieties and so forth.
Get everything in writing
When you talk to sales staff on the phone, nine times out of 10 you’re going to speak to someone super-friendly who’s committed to delivering a great customer experience.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but the last thing you want to do is drive halfway down the country only to be told the price has changed or the vehicle you wanted has been sold.
Make sure you have a paper trail of conversations or, better yet, an agreement in writing with an itemised breakdown of costs so there are no sneaky surprises. If you have agreed to the purchase price, it may even be worth putting down a small deposit to hold the car — just make sure it’s refundable in case you’re dissatisfied come inspection time.
Use quotes as a local bargaining chip
Whether you’re from Auckland or Te Awamutu, you can use written quotes from other dealers across the country with your local car sales yard. A detailed competitive quote can be a powerful negotiation tool.
A good way to handle this would be to talk to a sales manager directly and say something along the lines of: “I’d really like to buy locally, however I have the opportunity to save x by driving a little further. You have the exact model I’m looking for, so if you would be willing to match the price we can close this deal.”
There is no telling whether they will match the price, but they might meet you halfway, or at least knock a few dollars off. Keep in mind some dealerships have more wiggle room than others.
If you’re looking to trade in your old vehicle on a long-distance purchase, things can get a little tricky. It’s not so bad if your car is on the older side and you’re willing to take anything for it, but getting an accurate price for your car is almost impossible.
For example, a dealer could say your vehicle is worth an estimated $5000 on trade-in. When you arrive they suddenly backtrack saying it’s the two-wheel drive model, or there are more scratches, dents and stains than they were originally aware of.
If the dealer down the road tries to pull a fast one you can bail, but if the dealer is on the other side of the North Island, it can really back you into a corner.
The next time you’re car shopping, set a wide travel radius you’re comfortable with and start hunting for bargains. Weigh up the risks, do the maths and decide whether the travel is worth it. Saving money is great, but not when it’s at the expense of your own time and energy.