How To Be A Smart Car Buyer

Krado Low
22 Mar 2019

How To Be A Smart Car Buyer

It’s always a fun time to go car shopping, be it for a new or used car.

Knowing how to approach a car dealer and negotiate a price can really reduce the anxiety around buying a car — and help you feel confident you are getting a good deal. After years of buying (and selling) cars, here are six ways to become a savvy car buyer.

Before you hit the digital highway, be sure to read our guides to get you up to speed!

Make firm choices

Set a budget and start scrolling through the many cars on sale now. Do research on the cars that have caught your eye to see if they fit your criteria. Don’t be easily swayed by recommendations for upgrades or consider another car that “costs a little bit more”, because it’s likely to mess up your well-planned finances in the longer run.

Be neutral

Don’t reveal too much about what you do, but don’t boast about your car history as well. The best salespeople are not business degree holders for no reason - they do pay attention to how you carry yourself.

No matter how you might feel or heard about car salespeople or dealerships, keep those thoughts to yourself. Most car dealers and salespeople are making a honest living, and no one likes to be treated like a criminal.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

If you’re excited that the car you’re viewing has met all your expectations - don’t show it. Portraying yourself as an indecisive buyer will likely spur the dealer to offer a better price.

Salespeople will always put a little pressure on you, watch out for these common phrases:

"There are many people interested in this car!"

"COE is at such a low level now, it may rise next month."

“There was one person who viewed this car yesterday, and will be coming back today to finalise the purchase”

“I’m running low on stock for the colour you want, but I can reserve a unit if you are able to commit by today.”

Of course, you can pressure them back with a final price offer, but don’t forget to….

Manage expectations.

It’s always a fun time to go car shopping, be it for a new or used car. Whether be it from a swanky showroom or the parking lot, every trip will have its fair share of ups and downs - from free coffee, to a free cold stare.

Very often, people have unrealistic expectations for cars in Singapore. Short of expecting them to fly, they want the highest trade in value for their car and the lowest price for the new car - and they are so easily swayed by the fact that a dealer will buy their old car for higher value than what it is actually worth.  

Used car buyers often forget that they are buying used cars, often expecting used cars to be in tip top condition, mechanically and visually. What is the worst thing you expect a used car dealer to do? Repair a car to be put on sale - use the car’s defects to your bargaining advantage for a sweeter deal.

Alternatively, do consider certified pre-owned cars. They may cost more than regular used cars, but in the long run may offer pretty substantial savings from avoiding unforeseen repairs!

Study hard.

The more you rush the buying the process, the more mistakes you will eventually make. Why is that? For example, the fall in COE prices has people flocking to the showrooms, eager to buy a car at the lowest COE possible.

The same can be said for people who rushed to buy a used car in early 2018, fueled by the hype of unhired cars going on sale - $78k for a used Mazda 3 sitting around for 6 months. 7 months later, the very same car was on sale at $75.8k, brand new. Buurrnn.

Psst, if you’ve managed to read this far, our COE crystal ball suggests that the next dip will occur towards the end of 2021 till 2023. It pays to read about the vast amount of information publicly available the LTA website.

Transfer money safely

As opposed to using cold hard cash, cheques are verifiable and traceable. However, cheques are not widely accepted at dealers ever since the famous criminal case in which a man tried to buy a Lamborghini with a cheque.

Cheques require processing time as well, so dealers will only honour a deal from the moment that a cheque clears. Avoid the use of cheques and opt for more secure payment options, such as banker's cheques or cashier's orders, as they are assurance that payment will be honoured. Also, never deposit money into a personal bank account if you’re dealing with a company!

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