Car Choices: dealer or dealer? They're not all the same
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So far in our Car Choices journey we’ve covered whether to buy new or used (or something else we invented called “nused”), whether to buy or lease, what fuel might suit, important tips about insuring a vehicle and more.
That’s a lot of information to take in, but hopefully it will have helped make the big decision about precisely what vehicle best suits.
So the decision has been locked away about which car, model, fuel, finance, insurance: the research is complete. Now it’s time for the exciting part of heading to a dealer to seal the deal.
But where do you buy? From the nearest dealer, or the bigger one that’s 20 mins further away? From your regional town, or head to the big city? What’s the difference if there are dealer choices for your chosen car?
There are a few things to consider before you make that plunge, because remember: this is not just a one-time purchase and goodbye… you’re starting an ongoing relationship.
Which boxes do you really need ticked?
There might be some very personal things that matter to you – proximity to your workplace for warranty/servicing rather than home. Or the facilities offered by a particular dealership like loan cars, ease of parking at the service department, a lounge or café for jobs done while waiting, copies of the NZ Herald (and DRIVEN, of course) – even translation services available from staff if English is not your first language.
Also look in media like DRIVEN or the NZ Herald or online, and see if the dealer is marketing itself: what deals it’s offering at the time, such as low interest rates, servicing or monthly specials like value-added accessories. This can provide insight into the proactivity and initiative of the dealer to provide a superior experience, from buying to owning and possibly even trading in.
The list is as long and specific as you want it to be, but why not take moment to think about what really matters to you and make a note? There might be nothing… but there might be some deal breakers.
It’s all about the vibe
Consumer research and even purchasing is moving more and more towards online and that’s great. Let you fingers do the walkin… er, clicking. We’ve covered that in detail already.
But when it comes down to it, bricks and mortar are still very important to every new-vehicle brand – even the ones that are pushing online shopping the most.
So pay a visit to the potential dealerships. After all, car brands go to huge effort to create consistent corporate physical environments, but some definitely do it better than others; from infrastructure and layout, to the atmosphere and dynamic of the staff, the only way you find out how well it’s been executed and get the “vibe” from the staff is to actually go there and talk to people.
Be honest about what you’re doing and why you’re there – after all, you are the (potential) customer, so give the dealerships a fair chance to put their best feet forward. Or, if you prefer the secret shopper way, that’s fine, too – just be prepared to answer if someone asks.
It’s arguably even more important to go beyond the showroom and check out the service department, because that’s the real relationship will be after you buy the vehicle. Talk to the service manager/people, ask what handover processes the department offers. If the service reception is as slick and well-organised as the showroom, that’s a good sign. Some even provide viewing areas where you can see your car being worked on, which might indicate a real level of pride in a company’s workshop and work practices.
A Warrant of Fitness with your current car could also be a way of "testing" the dealer in a practical way.
It might just be dollars and good sense
At the end of the day, a better deal might be the defining factor, but unless you’re dealing with a brand that runs an “agency” model (like Toyota, Honda or soon-to-be Mercedes-Benz), each dealership will have its own stock and potentially be able to make its own offers.
So you might be able to get the particular colour or specification straight away if it’s sitting on a particular dealer’s yard. Or if a particular dealership doesn’t have exactly what you want on hand, you might get a sweeter deal by either choosing a slightly different spec that is on lot, or get exactly what you want simply by waiting a few weeks.
See all Car Choices previous parts here.