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Choose Your Dealership with Care
Shana Haines

For some, the New Year will include the purchase of a new vehicle for you or a loved one. Here are some tips about what to look for in a dealership and how to choose who is going to receive your hard-earned money and business.

Let’s face it, not all car dealers are created equal. Some choose to cater to your every need (purchase a $250,000 Rolls Royce and see what happens!); others choose to take your money and hope you never call again. Most of us, I believe, would prefer just to be treated fairly, honestly and in a timely manner. When you purchase a vehicle from a new or used car dealer, there are several factors to consider:

Reputation

All in all, I feel that this is one of the most important things to consider. A dealership that has the reputation of being shady probably is shady. A dealership that has the reputation of being reliable probably is reliable. Same thing can be said for honest, fair, accommodating, or any other adjective you can think of. Check with your local Better Business Bureau, and ask the opinion of friends and relatives who have had experience with the dealership. How the dealer solved a problem that your co-worker had will tell you a lot.

For example: Your co-worker Cindy recently bought a new car. Two hundred miles later, she runs over something while driving on the highway with her daughter-in-law (who is nine months pregnant) and one of her tires blows out. She pulls over to the side of the road and calls AAA. While waiting for a tow truck, her daughter-in-law starts to have pain. Cindy realizes that the dealership is only about 3 miles from where they are stuck and calls the service department. Ten minutes later, a car pulls up behind them and the salesperson that sold Cindy the car gets out. "Take this one and go, I will wait for AAA, call you when the tire has been replaced, and make arrangements for us to switch cars back. Get going before she has this baby on the side of the highway!" says the salesperson. WOW!! Would you get this service from any dealer? Probably not. Would this dealer offer this type of service to all of its customers? Probably.

Services Offered

While you may be a great negotiator, and be able to save a couple of hundred dollars by purchasing your car from the dealer 50 miles away from your home, this may not be the best deal. Be sure to find out if the dealership offers select services for customers such as:

  • Express check in/out when coming in for a service or maintenance appointments
  • shuttle service to home or work
  • loaner cars
  • discounted service rates
  • extended service department hours, etc.

Some dealers will go as far as offering free extended warranties to you when you purchase and service your vehicle from them.

Price

Most people believe that price means only the price you pay for the vehicle. You also need to know about what dealerships call "Add on’s". These can include accessories, CD changers, window tint, undercarriage coatings, paint protector products, and many others. These are things put on by the dealer not at your request but rather to force you into purchasing them. If these are things you wanted to purchase anyway, great! If not, you may be buying them anyway. Check to see if every car has add on’s or if some are available without them.

Other charges may include Dealer Handling, Dock Fees, or Prep Charges. Many dealers charge the customer to set up a new vehicle for sale, prepare documents relating to the sale of the car, or clean the car for you. These fees can usually be negotiated because they are unnecessary, and simply represent extra profit for the dealer. All of the above-mentioned fees should be considered part of the cost of doing business for the dealership, in my opinion.

The topics listed above are some of the issues to consider when choosing among car dealerships. Maybe I am assuming too much by not listing what I consider to be basic, expected services: treating the customer with respect, dignity and honesty, wanting to earn your business for the long term, and listening to your wants and needs. If a dealer is not willing or able to do any of these common-sense things, I would run out of there as fast as possible.

Hopefully this will give you some basic information to help choose a car dealership. I hope that whatever dealer you choose, they will stand behind the sale of the car with a top-notch service department and great follow-up.

Shana Haines can be reached by e-mail at shanahaines@schomp.com.

Shana Haines, Ralph Schomp Automotive