Car Buyer's Guide: Sweetener turns sour for buyer
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It pays to get any special long term sweeteners in writing
Frank purchased his new car back in April 2014 in the belief he was to receive three years of free servicing.
“I’m sure there was a free service offer at that time, which influenced our decision to purchase. Our dilemma is twelve months down the track and come time for the cars first service there is no such offer on the local dealer's records.
"We did purchase the car out of our region but assumed the offer made at the time of sale covered the whole country” says Frank.
To make matters more complicated, there is nothing in writing on the sales agreement from the selling dealer to suggest the vehicle is eligible for future free servicing. “We are now starting to think we are confusing 3 years warranty with 3 years free service” adds Frank.
He would like to pass his experience onto other Driven readers and advises some caution and to seek clarity when or if such offers are being made.
Frank - the free warranty verses chargeable routine service period is one which traps and confuses more new car buyers than you would think. It can become a tough assignment when the routine service rolls around, for workshop staff to try and explain the differences between the two, and the sometimes high costs of routine servicing. It’s certainly not the ideal way to get the service department/customer relationship off to a perfect start.
It’s another good reason for new vehicle distributors to consider building routine service costs into their pricing structures. I don’t know anyone who enjoys taking their vehicle in for a service. It’s inconvenient, and regardless of how well the service staff spin the benefits, in the eyes of the customer, it simply is a cost they would love to avoid.
New vehicle distributors who include a service package at no extra cost currently, or even as a fixed price, certainly provide their dealer network with something positive to say about the need to have the vehicle serviced. And a happy customer is highly likely to be a repeat buyer.
But we digress.
A new car sales manager once told me, at times their biggest competition didn’t come from other franchises, it was in fact other dealerships selling the same product as them, offering better deals.
Incentives to buy from a particular dealer can range from offers such as: free or heavily discounted accessories, an inflated trade in price, free servicing or even free fuel for a specific time. They are all sweeteners waved under the nose of potential buyers in the hope a salesperson can quickly close a sale, and to help stop the buyer from shopping around other dealerships selling the same product and trying to negotiate a better deal.
Some of these discounts or special offers are generated from new vehicle distributors head office, and cover the whole country. Others can be specific to one particular dealer. In the case of a nationwide campaign, there’s little point in shopping around or moving outside of a region to purchase if you are drawn toward a particular vehicle by a promotion. An offer of free servicing for a period of time for example, would apply to the entire dealer network.
On the flip side any offer made by one dealership may not carry any validity if the vehicle was taken to another dealership who sell and service the same brand and model.
The free service is a good example. Your local dealer is not going to honour someone else’s promises and would need to be guaranteed payment before the vehicle is collected after its service.
Recouping those costs would need to be sorted out with the selling dealer, ideally before the vehicle was taken in for service.
Private buyers usually don’t mind travelling out of their home towns to purchase a new vehicle. It’s a special and exciting occasion that doesn’t roll around very often for most, a chance to take in the sights of another part of the country and to turn the whole experience into something of a holiday.
Travelling too far to have a vehicle serviced however can be a different story. The local dealer (if there is one) is a much better option.
So it’s best any special offers made by individual franchise dealerships are put in writing and you seek clarification on just what it is you are going to receive. Sales staff can be very transient at times and one year can often see a lot of changes in dealership staff.
To help keep relationships positive closer to home, it’s not a bad idea to talk to your local dealer about other options you are considering. Who knows what they may be able to come up with to gain your business. It may not match another dealer in dollar terms, but come service time or when you need a little help or advice they just may go that extra mile for you.
Plus there is every chance they will remember your name when you walk back into the showroom or service department.