Research shows that women are the fastest growing segment of car buyers, accounting for more than 50 percent of new-car purchases and influencing 80 percent of them. But while the Internet has definitely helped women come into dealerships armed and ready with information, an ongoing study by Frost & Sullivan found that between 50 and 70 percent of women customers were dissatisfied with their cars, and three out of four women felt misunderstood by car companies.
"In many ways, it's an old game with a new face," says Jen Drexler, senior vice president at Insight Strategy Group , a research and strategy firm in New York City. "So while there is more technology at a woman's disposal, the dealer hasn't changed much in how they approach female customers."
When it comes to shopping for an automobile, buyers of both genders make mistakes that can cost them time and money (See "The 11 Biggest Mistakes Car Shoppers Make." ) But there are a few missteps that a woman is more likely to make, according to interviews with shopping experts and women who sell cars for a living. These mistakes can put a woman at a disadvantage during the buying process. Here are the eight biggest pitfalls women should avoid to ensure a deal that works best for them, according to our outside experts and the consumer-advice team at Edmunds.com.
Mistake No. 1: She thinks she needs a man to help her with the process.
Every woman has heard the warnings: Walk into a dealership alone and you're going to get taken for a ride (and we're not talking about the test-drive).
The solution: Self-confidence. Women are very able to shop without men at their sides. In fact, when it comes to researching and negotiating, women are often more prepared than their male counterparts.
"Women can definitely feel confident flying solo during the car buying process," says Drexler. "They have all the information they could need from sites like Edmunds — and women are actually excellent negotiators. We just need to have the confidence to believe we can do it alone."
If you're at all hesitant to visit a dealership solo, bring a " wingman " — and that person doesn't have to be male. If you have a friend or family member who is especially good at reviewing contracts, have her look over your paperwork before you close any deals.
Finally, dealership reviews can help shoppers weed out places that might not be female-friendly.
Mistake No. 2: She gets too attached to one salesperson.
"Women are more relationship-oriented; we're not just all about the deal," says Tammy Darvish, executive vice president of business development and government and community affairs for the Pentagon Federal Credit Union ( PenFed ). Until her move to PenFed, Darvish was vice president of her family's business, Darcars Automotive Group in Silver Spring, Maryland. "The end result is that we're sometimes willing to pay more to close a deal with someone who provided a more comfortable transaction."
The solution: First and foremost, this is a business transaction, so don't focus on the relationship at the expense of the deal. Most of us (male or female) would like to have a comfortable, stress-free car-buying experience. If the price of that is $100 more than you wanted to pay, no big deal. But you shouldn't hang onto a relationship with a salesperson if it's going to cost you thousands of dollars.
Shop around for the best deal. Comparing quotes from three dealerships' Internet departments will typically yield the best price and provide you with some back-up offers if you need them. You also can use Edmunds Price Promise SM to quickly get guaranteed, up-front prices on a specific car without any haggling.
Finally, a benefit of shopping via the Internet is that it's much easier to ask for a better price or reject an offer you don't like when you're not doing it face to face.
Mistake No. 3: She's often too forgiving when mistakes are made.
According to Darvish, women are more likely to let mistakes slide, even if they could potentially cost them money in the end. The errors that happen may be unintentional. But some dealerships or salespeople lowball shopper trade-ins, or fail to disclose all of a deal's fees . If there are last-minute changes in a lease agreement and the female shopper doesn't call them out because she doesn't want to seem pushy, it's money out of her wallet.
The solution: Ask for a breakdown of fees and the "out-the-door" price of the car and review that paperwork carefully before signing. If you catch any mistakes, request that they be fixed and then stick to your guns.
If the dealer refuses to correct mistakes, then you need to be prepared to walk away, even if that means starting the process all over again with someone new. Trust us: When dealerships catch mistakes that would cost them money, they ask customers to pay the revised amount — or they scotch the deal.
Mistake No. 4: She's less likely to walk away from a sale that's going south.
Car shopping can be a real pain, so it's enticing to want to try to get it done as quickly as possible, particularly if things are souring and the pressure is on. But that "let's get it over with" attitude will not serve a woman well at the dealership.
Salespeople may push hard on shoppers to buy that very day. If a certain color isn't available on the dealership's own lot, a salesperson eager for a right-now sale might not suggest a dealer trade . Some salespeople will say that the price is good only for today. That might be true, if there's an incentive that closes out at the end of the month and it's the last day of the month. But there's typically another deal come the first of the next month. A salesperson might say that someone else is interested in the car — and that might or might not be true. All of these approaches can be used to get a shopper to buy on the spot.
The solution : Give yourself enough time when car shopping. Doing it all in one day is rarely a good idea. If you refuse to sign on the dotted line that day, the salesperson might go out of his way to make you an even better deal the following day. (But in case it really was an expiring offer, it's good to have those other dealers' price quotes in hand.)
Edmunds consumer advice experts say it's best to do the initial comparison shopping (including test-drives) on one day. And then sleep on it. You'll make a better buying decision the next day.
Mistake No. 5: She doesn't conceptualize vehicle storage space and how much she actually needs.
This is especially true when it comes to trunk size, says Laura Madison , who sells cars at Toyota of Bozeman in Bozeman, Montana. While a man is more likely to come in with exact measurements and a tape measure, a woman will try to wing it.
"She'll look at the trunk and think, 'It looks big enough,' but she forgets about all of the items she really needs to cart around on any given day, such as kids' sports equipment, boxes of samples for work, a dog crate, etc."
The solution: Take a good look at what you'll be putting in the trunk before you start shopping. If possible, bring your most important items with you for the test-drive. That could be baby gear, such as car seats and strollers. If you're a real estate agent, bring the signs you use for open houses. If your kids play team sports and travel, make sure their equipment and bags will fit.
Mistake No. 6: She's talked out of a deal by family and friends.
It's a bit of a stereotype, but a man typically sees, wants and buys, and nothing can deter him from closing that deal. But even if a woman has done her research, negotiated the best price and really loves the car she's getting, a few negative whispers in her ear can be enough to cast doubt — especially if those whispers are uttered by a man in her life.
"Getting another person's opinion is important, but you want to make sure that person is educated about cars," says Madison. "If someone is advising a woman, it's almost always a man, but that doesn't mean he's an expert."
The solution: The majority of the time, a woman is better off trusting her own research (and instincts) on whether or not to sign on the dotted line.
Mistake No. 7: She compares apples to oranges.
While women are usually well-versed in different makes and models (thank you, World Wide Web), Madison finds that her female customers often come in expecting the same deal for two completely different vehicles.
For example, a shopper will come in interested in a Toyota Highlander and a Toyota Prius — and want to stay within the same budget and get the same amenities, even though they're two different types of cars: a full-size SUV and a hybrid hatchback. Plus there's roughly a $13,600 price difference between them for the top trim levels.
The solution: This is where doing research is vital. Edmunds offers users the option of comparing up to four cars at a time to figure out exactly what each vehicle offers in features, as well as its price ranges for various trim levels and option packages.
Mistake No. 8: She nitpicks over color.
According to Madison, women are pickier than men when it comes to the color of the car that they drive. And they're willing to hold off on a sale (even if it's a great price) until the hue they want comes in. "Men don't seem to care as much about the color of the car they drive," she says.
The solution: If the dealer is offering a sweet deal on a neon orange vehicle and that's not your color, then feel free to skip it. If your heart really is set on a color, you can custom order it and still negotiate the price. But if it's the difference between driving a silver car or a gray one, don't miss out on a good buy over a shade or two of difference.
If there's one thing that women and men can agree on, it's that shopping for a car isn't much fun. In fact, a recent Edmunds survey found that one in five people would willingly give up sex for a month rather than haggle for a new car. Yes, that's what they actually said.
That dread over car shopping might contribute to the mistakes that many people make during the process. But some blunders might be directly related to gender. While the majority of women's mistakes circle back to insecurity, men's blunders during the car-shopping process seem to be influenced by the male ego, the experts say.
"Male buyers are often more stubborn in the sales process than their female counterparts, and less likely to listen to a dealer's suggestion because hard-headed men know best," says Matt Jones , senior editor, retail experience, at Edmunds.com. Jones worked for 12 years as a car salesman, Internet sales manager and finance and insurance manager.
So where else do the guys falter when they're car shopping? Here are the seven most common mistakes male car buyers make, according to our outside experts and the consumer advice team at Edmunds.com.
Mistake No. 1: He doesn't like to shop, so he rushes through the process.
A recent survey from the United Kingdom found that when it comes to shopping, men get bored after a mere 26 minutes . In fact, research shows that women not only do more research than men before stepping into a car dealership, they're more likely to decide on a price before they go shopping for their next vehicle, which translates into more savings for them.
"Men typically don't spend a lot of time in the research process, figuring out what they want and how much to pay for it," says Rick Pennington, who has been in the car business for 25 years and now is a consultant at JD Power and Associates . "As a result, they're more spontaneous with their decisions when car buying. They want to fulfill that desire quickly , so they sometimes wind up with the car they want, not necessarily the one they need."
The solution: Break down the shopping process. If you're a guy who finds research less than fascinating, do it in stages. If you know you're going to be in the market for a new car in the next few months, map out your plan of attack. Use part of the time to look at different models online, both on sites such as Edmunds.com and on carmaker Web sites such as Honda , Ford or Mercedes-Benz and think about the car that would best fit your needs .
Once you're narrowed your choices, do some price comparisons. If you think the fun part of shopping is seeing, touching and driving the cars, you can have all that during test-drives . Just don't make the purchase that same day. Go home and sleep on it. That will temper any tendency to buy fast and regret slowly.
Mistake No. 2: He is too proud to ask for help, even though he really needs it.
Men know a lot about cars, right? That common belief, which is held by both genders, can make it difficult for a guy to admit that he needs some guidance before signing on the dotted line.
In fact, a recent Edmunds survey found that women are twice as likely as men to seek advice from a family member during the car buying process, which is an endeavor that not only requires a buyer to know a little something about cars, but also about financing, extended warranties and, usually, price negotiations. It's an overwhelming process for the majority of people.
"Some men just aren't negotiators and will simply accept whatever is presented to them, even if it costs them money," says Pennington. "But asking for help can seem like a blow to the ego for some men, so many are willing to go it alone when they shouldn't."
The solution: The wingman. Think of it this way: Even pilots and police officers work with a partner. Bringing a wingman is not a signal to the salesperson that you're clueless. In fact, it's a message that you're committed to getting the best deal possible. Just be sure you choose your wingman wisely , bringing along a friend or family member who has a certain skill you might lack, whether that's doing mental math or knowing the best trim level for the money. Sometimes it's just good to have an all-purpose sounding board. As Tom Cruise's Maverick said in Top Gun : "Talk to me, Goose."
Mistake No. 3: He relies too much on referrals from his pals.
On the other end of the go-it-alone spectrum, there's the guy who relies too much on his friends' opinions. This, despite the fact that the Edmunds survey also found that friends are consistently rated as the worst source for car-buying advice, and are twice as likely to be cited as a source of bad advice than a source of good advice.
"Many men will take the word of a friend who bought a car from a specific salesperson and not shop around as a result," says Oren Weintraub, president at Authority Auto , a concierge car-buying service.
Or the friend might actually work in the car industry and the shopper doesn't want to risk offending his buddy by looking at other deals.
The solution: Don't sacrifice the deal for the relationship. Weintraub says it's fine to mix business with pleasure, as long as you've still done your own research and can come to the table knowing exactly what you want and what you're willing to pay for it.
If your friend is the car seller, be honest in your discussions. Make it clear that you're walking away from a deal that doesn't work for you, not severing the friendship. If your friend really values you, he'll understand.
Mistake No. 4: He thinks he knows more than the dealer.
It can be hard for some men to admit that the salesperson might be able to provide valuable input about a car, especially when he's walking into the negotiation process seeing the dealer as "the enemy."
"Men believe they're supposed to know more, so they pretend that they do, even when they have lots of questions and need some guidance," says Pennington. "They turn into their own roadblock in getting a good deal."
The solution: Listen to honest advice . While a shopper definitely wants to do his due diligence with research, he also needs to remember that dealers are educated, not only about the cars they're selling, but about the buying process as a whole. That can make them good sources of information. You can also verify what they're telling you through online research or by shopping other dealerships.
Mistake No. 5: He sees the car as a status symbol.
Who doesn't want to drive a nice car? But while women often focus on safety features, gas mileage and price, men are often more concerned with how a particular car's size, styling and power make them feel, as well as the image that the car projects to the world. That could be one reason why more than 90 percent of Lamborghini owners are men.
"Whatever a man's motivation — he wants luxury, a sports car, something that is eco-friendly — he wants it to the extreme," says Pennington.
But the car you want and fantasize about is not necessarily the car you actually need. The motivation to impress others or live out a teenage fantasy is not a good enough reason to get a vehicle, especially if you're going to regret it later on (like when you bring it home to your spouse).
The solution: While you don't want to shop with Debbie Downer , you do need a reality check from a trusted friend or your significant other. This person can ask you the tough questions, like "Can you really afford this car?" or "Should you really buy a two-seat convertible when you have three kids under the age of 5 at home?"
Mistake No. 6: He sees the negotiation as a test of his manhood and won't take a good deal because it doesn't fit into his preconceived and unrealistic expectations.
Here's a typical scenario: A salesman and buyer are negotiating a price on a car. After some to and fro, the salesman is willing to seal the deal at $500 over the invoice price . And for that car, it is objectively a good deal. But the buyer has read somewhere that a good deal is never more than the invoice price. It's not unusual for a man to walk away from such a deal because it doesn't fit into his notion of how it was supposed to conclude.
"Men are also more likely to view a car sale as a competition: me vs. the dealer instead of me and the dealer," says Jones. "That type of reasoning means somebody has to win, and for that to happen, somebody has to lose. This line of thinking can eliminate the opportunity for a win-win situation."
The solution: Ask any married couple: Compromise isn't always easy. But do you want to start over again at another dealership over $25 per month (that's about $1,500 over the span of a six -year car loan)? If the deal is nearly done and you really love the car, that doesn't really make sense.
Instead of saying no right away, you can sometimes take a day to think about the deal and figure out if it is truly the best one for you. You could even use that time (but no more than a day) to invite other dealers to beat the price. Either way, you get the car you want and save yourself a whole lot of time.
Mistake No. 7: He overanalyzes every aspect of the deal because he doesn't want to make the wrong decision, and so he winds up not making a decision at all.
While some men hate digging into the details of research, others are just the opposite.
Some male car shoppers tie themselves into knots so completely, comparing so many different models, features and prices that they're incapable of pulling the trigger on a deal. They're paralyzed at the thought of making the wrong choice.
"Men think, 'I'm going to devise this system — whether it's making spreadsheets or reading every piece of information available on a car — and use it to arrive at the perfect decision ,'" says Philip Reed , senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.
"The fear is that you'll make the wrong choice or, even worse, find out later that someone you know got the same car for a better price."
The solution: It helps to keep in mind that in today's automotive market, there are no really bad choices, Reed says. That's partly because cars are so dependable today. "There's not that same concern about buying a lemon anymore," he says. "The chances of that happening are few and far between."
When all is said and done, spreadsheet guys should keep in mind that this is, after all, just buying a car. It's not a life-changing decision like getting married or even buying a house. And even if you love the car, you probably won't be driving it for the rest of your life. The average, actually, is about six years .
What Is a VIN? The vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique combination of 17 letters and numbers that is assigned to a vehicle when it is built and stays with it throughout its life. You can do a VIN check on every car or truck produced since the 1981 model year. You can determine the year, make and model by deciphering the placement of the letters and numbers in the VIN. You also can do a VIN check to find out about recalls: Just enter the VIN in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Safety Issues and Recalls page. A VIN check also can track the vehicle as it changes hands and as it is repaired and serviced. If the vehicle is severely damaged and receives a salvage title , this information should appear when the VIN is used to generate a vehicle history report , such as those offered by AutoCheck, Carfax and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. You'll find the VIN in multiple places throughout the vehicle. The primary location is a plaque on the driver-side dashboard. Depending on the exact vehicle, a VIN sticker may also be on the trunklid, on the fenders, in the door jamb of the driver door and, in some cases, affixed to each door.
How Do You Decipher a VIN? VIN information is organized in groups. The first group, made up of three digits, is what's called the world manufacturer identifier (WMI). In this group, the first digit or letter identifies the country of origin. For example, cars made in the U.S. start with 1, 4 or 5. Canada is 2, and Mexico is 3. Japan is J, South Korea is K, England is S, Germany is W, and Sweden or Finland is Y. The second digit in this group tells you about the manufacturer. In some cases, it's the letter that begins the manufacturer's name. For example, A is for Audi, B is for BMW, G is for General Motors, L is for Lincoln and N is for Nissan. But that "A" can also stand for Jaguar or Mitsubishi, and an "R" can also mean Audi. It may sound confusing, but the next digit ties it all together. The third digit, when combined with the first two digits, indicates the vehicle's type or manufacturing division. This Wikipedia page has a list of WMI codes. The next six digits (positions 4-9) make up the vehicle descriptor section. Digits 4 through 8 describe the car with such information as the model, body type, restraint system, transmission type and engine code. Digit 9, the "check" digit, is used to detect invalid VINs, based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation. The following group of eight digits (10-17) is the vehicle identifier section. In the 10th position, you won't find a number. Instead, you'll see a letter, indicating the model year. The letters from B to Y correspond to the model years 1981 to 2000. There is no I, O, Q, U or Z. From 2001 to 2009, the numbers 1 through 9 were used in place of letters. The alphabet started over from A in 2010 and will continue until 2030. Is it confusing? Yes. Here's a list of the model years since 2000: Y=2000, 1='01, 2='02, 3='03, 4='04, 5='05, 6='06, 7='07, 8='08, 9='09, A='10, B='11, C='12, D='13, E='14, F='15, G='16, H='17, J='18, K='19, L='20. The letter or number in position 11 indicates the manufacturing plant where the vehicle was assembled. Each automaker has its own set of plant codes. The last six digits (positions 12 through 17) are the production sequence numbers. This is the number each car receives on the assembly line.
Does a VIN Include All Car Info? A VIN check tells a lot, but not all, unfortunately. Some vehicle attributes, such as color, standard features or options (and in many cases even the style or trim of the vehicle), cannot be decoded from the VIN alone. Obtaining that level of detail requires access to the vehicle's "build record," and build records are generally available only to the vehicle's manufacturer and its dealers. If you need such details from a VIN, try contacting the manufacturer or dealer directly to see if it will provide them.
People usually plan vacations months in advance, but often make their car purchases within a couple of weeks at most. European delivery is a service that can combine these two concepts in a way that can turn the car buying process into a unique vacation while saving you thousands of dollars.
If your next vehicle will be a European luxury car and you don't need it anytime soon, you can arrange to pick it up from the factory and make a nice vacation out of it.
What Is European Car Delivery?
European vehicle delivery programs offered by Audi , BMW , Mercedes-Benz and Volvo offer a discounted price on a vehicle, combined with free or discounted travel fares. You can take European delivery from Porsche , too, but there are no discounts.
In a typical program, you fly to Europe, where the automaker arranges a ride from the airport and puts you up in a premium hotel for a night. You'll take delivery of your car the following day and take a tour of the factory where it was built. Part of the tour includes specially prepared meals. Once the car is officially yours, you're free to take it for a drive through Europe (two weeks of insurance is included). Then you drop off the vehicle at the factory or at a designated drop-off location. From there, the carmaker ships the vehicle to the U.S. (this is called "redelivery"). It will arrive several weeks later, and you'll pick up your car at a U.S. dealership.
Sounds great, right? Before you rush off to the nearest dealer, here is a brief overview of the process and a few tips to keep in mind.
Step 1: Be Aware of the Time Frame
You'll want to start the ordering process at least three months before your anticipated travel date. When you finally drop off the car, it will take roughly six to eight weeks to arrive at an East Coast port, and about eight to 10 weeks for the West Coast. In total, it could be about six months from when you place the order on the car to when you park it in your garage. If you need the car sooner, European delivery might not be the best option.
This is also the point at which you'll want to decide which car you want and which automaker's program most appeals to you. This Frequent Business Traveler's chart is a great way to compare the different programs without having to go to various carmaker sites.
Step 2: Find a Good Dealer
Find a dealership you feel comfortable with. There should be at least one person specially trained to handle the European delivery orders. Find that person and ask them any questions you might have. Online forums are good resources for dealer recommendations. The Bimmerfest forums, for example, created an excellent wiki on European delivery for BMW vehicles that includes dealer recommendations. Here's the discussion on the Audiworld forum.
One of the big questions to ask is where the car brand stands on pricing. Every automaker, except Porsche , offers a discount ranging from about 5-7 percent on the vehicle purchase. Volvo 's discounts vary by model, rather than being a fixed percentage. Note that this discount is off the base MSRP of the car, meaning that the carmaker charges full retail price for options on the car. Some dealers won't budge from the standard discount, but there are a number of dealers that will be more open to negotiation. Keep in mind that the European delivery invoice price is different from the U.S. invoice price. You may not be able to buy the vehicle at the European invoice price, but it doesn't hurt to ask what it is and use that figure as a reference point in the negotiation.
Shoppers looking to lease will have to stick with Audi , BMW or Mercedes . Porsche and Volvo do not offer European delivery with a lease.
Step 3: Place the Order
This is where the fun begins. You can order the car exactly how you want it and not worry about whether you've chosen a hard-to-find color or option. Play around with the configuration tools on the automakers' Web sites to see the different colors and packages.
Volvo offers a unique perk: It lets the customer order Europe-exclusive colors, wheels and interiors. Customers can also choose options for the vehicle à la carte (blind-spot monitoring, for example) rather than having to order an expensive tech package with other options you may not really want.
It is important to note that as cars become more global, they may not always be made in the automaker's home country. For example, the BMW X3, X4, X5 and X6 are not eligible for European delivery. That's because BMW builds them in Spartanburg , South Carolina, rather than Germany.
After choosing the vehicle and its options, you'll essentially be paying for the car as if it were on the dealership lot. This means you'll arrange financing, make the down payment and handle the trade-in with the dealership. In fact, you might make the first couple payments without seeing the car. Some dealers will collect the German value-added tax up front. The dealership usually refunds this tax after the vehicle arrives in the states.
After placing the order, you should receive a formal delivery date in a week or two. It is now safe to buy the plane tickets and plan out the rest of your trip.
Step 4: Pick Up the Car
You'll need to fly into the city where the factory is located. Audi gives you the choice of touring its museum in Ingolstadt or visiting the factory in Neckarsulm . Porsche gives you a choice between two factories: Stuttgart (for the Boxster, Cayman and 911) or Leipzig (for Cayenne, Macan and Panamera). Porsche also has a museum in Stuttgart.
Volvo is the only automaker that will fly you and a guest on its dime. All the other manufacturers offer a 15 percent discount on Lufthansa . Most automakers will also offer travel assistance to help you plan your itinerary and make hotel reservations.
After touring the factory or museum , you'll take delivery of the car and receive a thorough walkthrough of its features. The automakers say that the presentations are top-notch and will make you feel like a VIP client.
Step 5: Road Trip!
Many automakers have planned itineraries that will show you the best routes and help you hit many landmarks. Or you can stray from the beaten path and explore the countryside if you prefer.
If you plan on visiting during the winter months, you may need to rent winter tires. Porsche will loan you a set, while BMW and Volvo can set you up with a rental set of tires. Audi avoids this by not offering European deliveries in the winter.
Step 6: Drop It Off
There's a reason why people read abridged books — sometimes all you want are the important details in a quick and easy way. We've taken a similar route and condensed our eight steps to buying a new car into five essentials that offer a faster alternative for people on the go. This quick guide tackles the buying process specifically and begins with a rolling start. By now you should have already read Edmunds reviews and found the car you want. And because an online purchase is the fastest way to get a great deal, these steps assume that as part of the process. And if you want a hand, you can be paired with an Edmunds car-buying expert to assist you wherever you are in the car-buying process. The service is free. Arrange Financing Run your credit report and understand what the score means. The score tells you your credit tier, which will affect your annual percentage rate. Next, get preapproved for a loan at your local bank, credit union or online lender. By going in with financing already arranged, you can determine if the dealer can beat the interest rate you've already got. This also keeps the negotiations more focused, since you will only be looking at the total price of the vehicle (also called the "out the door" price), not a monthly payment.
Look Up TMV Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) can help you determine a fair price. TMV can be used not only for the new car you want to buy, but also for a car you might trade in or sell on your own. TMV will give you an idea of what people are paying for vehicles that are similarly equipped to the one you're considering, and it's a good reference point for negotiations. Take a look at this article on TMV for more information. Gather Dealer Quotes You can use the Edmunds New Car Inventory tool to get price quotes from dealers. You also can email or call them for a price. You should easily be able to get four to six quotes in an hour. Call the internet manager to verify the car has the options you want, and to check if it has any other dealer add-ons . Not every car you find will match your ideal configuration, so you may have to be flexible on options and color in order to get the best deal.
When you've found the car you want, take the lowest price quote and compare it to TMV. Call or email the Internet manager and make an offer. Even if you received a reasonable price right off the bat, don't be afraid to make a counteroffer for less. The salesperson knows it's part of the business, but make sure you stay in the ballpark. Let the internet manager know you've received offers from other dealers and if needed, refer to a specific quote in case he's hesitant to come down in price. Check the Contract & Close the Deal Arrange to have the vehicle delivered to your home or workplace, whichever is more convenient. This will allow you to sign the paperwork in a relaxed environment, skip the trip to the finance and insurance office and avoid a number of financing pitfalls. In the meantime, call your insurance company and let your agent or customer-service representative know that you'll need coverage for your new car.
Once the Internet manager or salesperson arrives, take a moment to review the contract . You don't have to read the whole thing, but do pay attention to such important details as the APR, total sale price, length of contract, down payment, documentation fee and registration fees. Make sure that everything is spelled correctly and that your personal information is correct. Take Delivery After the paperwork has been signed, have the salesperson walk around the vehicle with you. Make sure there are no scratches, dents or dings. Make sure you've been given an owner's manual, a spare key and the car's original window sticker. The window sticker is important to have because it shows you the price and the list of your vehicle's features, which is useful if you sell the car later. Most dealers throw in a full tank of gas and a wax detail, so ensure your dealer has taken care of that. Now is also the time to ask any last-minute questions you may have about the vehicle. Ask the salesperson anything you want to know, from how to set up your Bluetooth connection to how to operate the cruise control.
Edmunds today announced a new Amazon Alexa Skill for voice-activated access to Edmunds' expert automotive content. The new skill gives shoppers access to Edmunds comprehensive automotive information using only their voices. The new skill makes it easier and more intuitive than ever to research and shop for the perfect car. Owners also can use the skill to keep tabs on a current vehicle.
"The freedom to simply ask questions to find relevant information about a vehicle is an invaluable asset, both in the short term when shopping for cars and on an ongoing basis once purchased," said Phil Potloff, Edmunds chief digital officer. "We love how tapping into the power and convenience of natural language with Alexa brings Edmunds content to life for our users and underscores our commitment to innovation that brings increased value for shoppers and owners."
The Edmunds skill for Amazon Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based voice service, provides both high-level overviews and in-depth reviews of specific vehicles, including safety, driving and powertrain information. With the skill, Alexa also answers questions about a wide variety of vehicle specifications, including miles per gallon, cargo space, horsepower and basic warranty information. Curious if a new SUV will fit in the garage or have enough room for the whole family? Just ask Alexa for the exact dimensions or seating capacity.
Going beyond the research phase, the Edmunds skill for Amazon Alexa provides the manufacturer's suggested retail price for any vehicle. It also gives information on local inventory and current lease deals for shoppers who are ready to buy. The Edmunds skill also makes it easy for car owners to keep track of their current vehicle, including recall information and maintenance schedules. Car owners can ask Alexa what their car is worth and immediately learn the real-time Edmunds True Market Value for their car, or when their next oil change is due.
Edmunds' Alexa Skill will work with any device with Amazon Alexa, including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets for multiple touchpoints throughout the home. The English-only skill is free and available now. To enable, go to the "Skills" section of the Alexa app, search for Edmunds and click "Enable," or simply ask, "Alexa, enable Edmunds."
For more information regarding the Edmunds skill for Amazon Alexa, including a full list of supported requests and intents, please visit http://www.edmunds.com/alexa .
If you are a first-time car buyer or someone who hasn't set foot in a showroom in years, going to a dealership can be a bit intimidating. To help you get acquainted with the dealership sales staff, we've broken down who does what, more or less in the order of their appearance. The Receptionist If you walk into a dealership showroom, the receptionist will often be your first point of contact. The receptionist answers the phone and can connect you to a salesperson or the internet manager. If you're only at the dealership to look around, the receptionist can give you vehicle brochures without involving a salesperson. The Business Development Center Rep Business Development Centers — BDCs for short — are becoming more common in bigger car dealerships. The BDC representative might be your first contact at the dealership and the person you hear from most often. If you email or call a dealership looking for the sales department, the BDC rep may be the person who fields your request and answers basic questions. The rep sets you up with the salesperson who will ultimately show you a car. The rep will likely follow up with you by phone or email after a visit if you don't buy a car. BDC reps don't actually sell cars, so they won't be out on the lot demonstrating features or test-driving with customers. That means they are almost always available to answer your inquiries, making it less likely that your question will fall through the cracks because all the salespeople are busy. The BDC rep's job is to get you all the information you need so you'll eventually come visit the store.
The Salesperson If you walk onto a dealership lot, your first point of contact, even before the receptionist, may be a salesperson. There are plenty of capable and ethical car salespeople, but the profession continues to struggle with a stereotype that is, unfortunately, sometimes true. Shoppers often see themselves as being at odds with car salespeople: You want the lowest price possible; they want to make the most money on the car. Ultimately, though, both of you want you to leave the lot with the car that's right for you. It's good to keep that in mind. The salesperson will show you the vehicle, arrange and usually go along on a test drive, and start the negotiation for purchase. In many cases, salespeople will also begin the financing process by taking information for a credit application. Knowledgeable salespeople are helpful in pointing out certain features on the car, but they shouldn't be your only source of information. Take full advantage of Edmunds model reviews and road tests so you have plenty of information before you arrive at the dealership. The Internet Sales Manager Let's say you're car shopping via your smartphone or computer. In that case, your first point of contact may be the dealership's internet sales manager. (It might also be the BCD rep, as noted earlier.) If you want to keep your shopping as simple as possible, we suggest you work with the internet sales manager. As the name implies, these are the people who are in charge of selling cars via the internet. They communicate with customers through phone calls, texts and email, but they also meet face to face with shoppers to arrange test drives and car delivery . In our experience, working with the internet manager is key to getting the best deal with the least hassle. When you purchase a vehicle from a dealership this way, you can usually arrange to have it delivered to your home. This is more convenient and helps you skip a visit to the finance and insurance office, where the finance and insurance staff sells additional products in what can sometimes be a high-pressure environment. The Assistant Sales Manager (The Closer) A step above the salesperson on the management ladder is the assistant sales manager. He (and most assistant sales managers continue to be men) usually steps in when it is time to talk numbers. It's his job to close the deal, hence the nickname. He's there to gain a firm purchase commitment from you and to ensure the dealership is getting the deal it wants. Although these folks have the term "manager" in their titles, they don't have ultimate power to decide the price. When you make an offer on a car, the assistant sales manager usually takes it back to the sales manager in the "tower." That's the name for the sales manager's office, which looks out over the showroom floor. The assistant sales manager is a mediator, shuttling between the sales manager and the consumer. He tries to avoid looking like the "bad guy" since he's just relaying the message from the sales manager, a person you'll seldom see. The Sales Manager The sales manager is the person behind the curtain. When it comes to deciding how much a dealership wants to get for a car, most of the power rests with the sales manager. For many buyers, it can be frustrating not to deal with this person face to face. The only way to influence the sales manager is to remain firm in your negotiations with the salesperson and closer and not be afraid to walk away from a deal that is going in circles or taking way too long to conclude.
The Finance and Insurance Manager It's the task of the finance and insurance manager (or F&I manager) to print out the sales or lease contract and make sure that the buyer's financing is in order. The F&I manager also presents and arranges dealership financing. Often, the interest rates offered by the automakers are the lowest available, so this can be a valuable step in the process. The F&I manager also typically will offer you a number of products and services for purchase such as extended warranties, paint protection or a car alarm system. These items can be very profitable for the dealer. If you get drawn into buying products you don't really want, or don't negotiate their prices, you can end up spending more than you had planned for your vehicle purchase. The General Manager The dealership's general manager is the highest authority at the business. He or she presides over both the sales and service departments. If you have a problem with your vehicle that hasn't been resolved by anyone in the normal chain of command, the general manager is your next step. The Porter Porters handle the cleaning, moving and delivery of vehicles at the dealership, so you might not ever have occasion to meet them. If you've purchased a vehicle online and arranged to have it delivered to your home or office, however, a porter will usually accompany the internet sales manager and provide a ride back to the dealership. The Vehicle Delivery Specialist You won't find vehicle delivery specialists at every dealership, but some of the bigger stores have them. This isn't someone who literally delivers the car to you. This is a tech expert whose job is to make sure you understand all the important features in your new car. After your sale is complete, the vehicle delivery specialist will go over the car with you, looking for any dents, dings or scratches. The specialist will review the owner's and service manuals with you, too. Then comes the main event: a vehicle tutorial, which can last from 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, the delivery specialist will walk you through all basics: how to adjust the seats, operate the power windows, and move and store the rear seats in an SUV. He or she will typically pair your phone, explain steering-wheel controls and go over other safety or convenience features. Before You Go Shopping Now that you know who's who at the dealership, we suggest reading two helpful articles to understand how to work with them: 8 Steps to Buying a New Car and How to Lease a Car . They'll make the car-shopping experience easy, and maybe even fun.
A Maryland couple arrived at their local Subaru dealership with their own financing, only to be told that they still needed to fill out a form required by the government because of the Patriot Act . When they hesitated, the salesman said regulations meant to identify money laundering by possible terrorists required that all customers fill out the form. However, the couple later learned that the finance manager used the information to run their credit report without their permission. That check could have lowered their credit score. There are times when a car dealer has good reason to pull your credit report, such as when you're seeking to finance through the dealership. As the dealership reviews your report, it will also be looking for any signs of identity theft or fraud, in compliance with what federal consumer-protection agencies call the "Red Flag Rules." But industry experts, including attorneys from both the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) , say that the Patriot Act does not require dealers to run a credit report on customers who pay cash. However, laws designed to combat money laundering by terrorist organizations do require dealers to check the identification of customers paying more than $10,000 in cash and to report those transactions to the Internal Revenue Service on Form 8300 . Paying with a cashier's check, money order or traveler's check also qualifies as a cash transaction, according to the IRS. (Oddly, a personal check does not qualify as cash, according to the IRS form's instructions. But it's the rare car dealer who would accept a personal check for a vehicle purchase.)
The Trouble With Running Credit Reports Consumers should avoid having businesses run their credit reports unnecessarily because it will lower their credit rating slightly, consumer advice experts say. According to the Experian Web site: "10% of your credit score is based on inquiries or 'credit checks.' Every time you apply for credit, a 'hard inquiry' is placed on your credit report. Having too many hard inquiries could indicate to lenders that you're trying to overspend." Car salesmen are eager to run a customer's credit report and often say it is for the buyer's convenience, and will speed up the car-buying process, says Chris Kukla, senior vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending. "But they really want to know if they can easily finance you," he says. "The result of the credit report has an impact on what the buyer pays for the car, and whether they get a hard sell for additional products in the finance and insurance office." Marv Eleazer, finance director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Georgia, agrees. "This is a ruse and designed to get access to the customer's credit report in order to qualify a customer to various finance sources the dealer uses," he says. Buy here, pay here car dealers often demand a credit report early in the car-buying process, Kukla says. Often, the car's price isn't even posted on the windshield. After seeing the result of the credit report, the dealer can adjust the price to maximize his profit, Kukla says. Kukla says many car buyers with mid-tier credit assume they can only get financed at the dealership, and as a consequence, they arrive on the car lot with no idea of their credit worthiness. Instead, he tells car shoppers to look for a loan from a bank, credit union or other outside lender first. With pre-approved financing in hand, they are in a stronger position to negotiate at the dealership.
The Patriot Act Angle How did the Patriot Act get entangled in all this? Lawmakers created the act, in part, to curtail money laundering by terrorists, says Shawn Petersen, regulatory legislative and compliance counsel for NIADA. To enforce that provision, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) requires dealers to screen cash buyers to make sure they are not on a government terrorism watch list. But dealers don't need to run a credit report to satisfy that requirement. In the case of the Maryland car buyers, the dealer said that its form for cash-transaction reporting and the one for running a credit report are similar. "There may have been some miscommunication between the sales rep, the sales manager and the finance manager," a dealership spokesperson explained. So what information must dealers require from someone who is buying a car for cash in an amount over $10,000? Dealers must get the customer's name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and occupation, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse , a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising consumers' awareness about personal privacy issues. The IRS form also requires the dealer to see a personal identification, such as a driver license, and to record that ID number. While consumers must provide identifying information to buy a car for more than $10,000 in cash, they should not allow the dealer to run a credit report if they are not using dealership financing. The dealer must get a consumer's permission to run his or her credit report.
Credit-Protection Checklist Here are a few tips from the experts to help car shoppers protect their credit history: Beware of early requests from the salesperson to run a credit report. This is a red flag that other sales practices may not be ethical. If you are using outside financing from your bank or credit union, the dealer is not required to run your credit report. But keep in mind that the dealership usually offers access to the best finance rates for qualified buyers. To get those rates, a credit report is required. Dealers are required to ask for identification, such as a driver license, from buyers who are purchasing a car for more than $10,000 in cash. They also must get a Social Security number or Tax ID Number . Shop around for a loan from an independent source such as a bank, credit union or online lender before going to the dealership. Only give the car salesperson permission to run your credit if you decide to finance at that dealership. At the car dealership, tell the salesperson you are a "cash buyer" (because you have pre-approved financing). But in the finance and insurance office, consider letting the dealer try to beat the interest rate on the loan you already have.
If you dream of surprising a loved one with a car, there are a few things you need to do a little differently. That's because giving a car as a surprise isn't as easy as delighting your beloved with a ring or a set of golf clubs. Here is a quick list of do's and don'ts.
Do make sure you choose the right car. It may sound obvious, but this is the most important step. There is no room for error. If the person receiving the gift doesn't like the car, you won't be able to return it. In most cases, you cannot "unwind" a new car purchase . So remember to carefully research the vehicle your beloved wants.
Ask about the type of features your loved one would want in a new car. If you see a commercial for a car you think the person might like, ask for his or her opinion about it. A test drive would be ideal, but it can be hard to pull off. You can try, though, positioning it as a day to try out what a new car feels like. Do these things well in advance of the special day so that the timing doesn't tip the recipient off.
Do have a titling and finance strategy. Your first instinct might be to have the vehicle put in your loved one's name. In some states, this may not be legally possible. Depending on where you live, you cannot buy a car in someone else's name, or if you want a shared title, the other person must be there to sign the paperwork. That would obviously ruin the surprise.
It is a similar situation when it comes to paying for the car. You must be prepared to buy the car yourself, or at least have the credit standing to be able to do so.
Here's what we mean: Let's say your gift is actually the down payment, and the recipient is going to take over the payments. The dealer would need to run the credit of the person who will make the payments. However, you cannot give the dealership the credit information of someone who isn't present at the time of buying. One option might be to finance the car in your name and then return with the person who will co-sign — assuming the person is on board with that — to set up new finance terms.
In both situations, it is important to check with the dealership or your local DMV to learn your state's laws regarding finance and vehicle titles.
Do tell the dealership to keep your plans a secret. Tell your salesperson what you're doing and that you want this car to be a surprise. That can help you navigate around any titling and financing issues without spoiling the secret. If possible, try to keep the circle of people working on your deal relatively small. The more people you involve, the harder it is to keep everyone on the same page.
Don't expect a dealership to throw in a free gift bow. It isn't because those giant gift wraps are overly expensive: They can range from about $30 to $60 each, depending on size and quality. But chances are the dealership will have bows in stock only during certain times of the year (December, notably) and then only to cover the cars displayed in the showroom.
There are companies that sell oversized car bows, which attach to a car with either magnets or suction cups. Make sure you order yours in time for the surprise.
Don't give the dealership your home phone number. The same might go for your mobile number if your text messages are shared between devices. Here's an example of why, from Matt's years selling cars:
A customer was going to surprise his wife with a new, top-of-the-line Honda Accord and planned to have it delivered to their house during a holiday dinner. The husband had even sprung for a big red bow.
When his salesperson called to confirm the delivery time, he made the mistake of calling the home phone number. And then he left a message. The wife heard it, ruining a surprise that was months in the making.
Our advice? Get a temporary Google Voice phone number for your car-buying calls. You can also just have your calls forwarded to it from your usual phone until the deal is complete.
Don't wait until the last minute to start shopping. This is especially true if you're looking for a particular trim level, package or color combination. And because you're buying this vehicle as a gift, shouldn't you get the exact options your recipient wants? If you're shopping for the car as a holiday gift, it's even more crucial: December is one of the busiest times of the year to buy a car, and since it coincides with the end of the model year, you might not have a varied selection. This is why it is important to start the process as early as possible. You don't want to have to buy a less optioned vehicle or, worse, spend more on a higher trim if that's all that remains on the dealer lot.
Edmunds Is Here to Help
If you need any help at all as you find your perfect gift car, reach out to our shopping experts for free assistance. And don't forget the bow.
The end of the calendar year has long been considered one of the best times to buy or lease a new car. As the new model year vehicles roll in, dealerships are motivated to sell the outgoing models and make sure they hit their year-end sales goals. These factors can add up to some of the best savings of the year. In fact, Edmunds data shows that December tends to have the largest discount from MSRP of any month. November comes close, but December slightly edges past it.
But what good is a deal if you can't find it? Who hasn't been swept up in the enthusiasm of a great sale, only to realize that the item is sold out?
With that in mind, we've looked at the remaining inventory of 2016 models and have compiled a list of recommended vehicles for new car shopping deals. These are solid picks that you're likely to find still on hand at the dealer, and get an even greater deal before the year ends. Click on each model to see the best deals in your area.
2016 Ford Focus
Edmunds says: You'll find the Focus to be one of the more engaging cars in the compact car class, with nimble handling that doesn't come at the expense of ride comfort. The Focus additionally boasts a sharp-looking interior that can be loaded up with the latest technology. This is especially true for 2016, as Ford has fitted the Focus with its all-new Sync 3 touchscreen interface , which promises quicker responses and easier operation than the discontinued MyFord Touch system. Starting MSRP: $18,100.
2016 Nissan Altima
Edmunds says: Nissan has done well historically with continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and the 2016 Altima continues that tradition. Nissan's CVT is more responsive when you press on the gas pedal compared to its competitors, and the simulated stepped gears reduce some of the engine drone that others suffer from. Sporty handling isn't a priority for most family sedan buyers, obviously, so for the majority of drivers the Altima will be adequate, though not impressive. Starting MSRP: $23,335.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu
Edmunds says: Seat comfort is a strong point in the 2016 Malibu. The power driver seat (we haven't tested the manual version) slides back farther than the Honda Accord's, making this Chevy a strong pick for long-legged shoppers, and all front-row riders will likely find support and cushioning to be satisfactory. In back, the Malibu's newly elongated wheelbase opens up enough legroom to challenge rivals including the Ford Fusion, though in our experience, the Accord and Hyundai Sonata offer even more. Still, the Malibu is now competitive in terms of backseat space, and that addresses a major complaint about the previous-generation car. Starting MSRP: $22,500.
2016 Toyota Highlander
Edmunds says: The Highlander stands out by virtue of its spacious and comfortable cabin. Second-row seating is a choice of three-across bench seating or two captain's chairs with a side table. The refined V6 and smooth six-speed automatic transmission deliver effortless acceleration making the Highlander one of the quickest big crossovers around. There are also plenty of contemporary tech tools and smartphone-integrated services, anchored by an 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen display in the higher trim levels. Starting MSRP: $30,490.
2016 Ford Edge
Edmunds says: Despite its midsize footprint and generous passenger and cargo room, the Edge feels tidy and maneuverable on the road. That's due in no small part to the improvements Ford made to the body structure and suspension when it fully redesigned the Edge in 2015. The result is a crossover that exceeds two tons but manages to drive more like a tall sedan. Throw in the all-wheel-drive Edge Sport's turbocharged V6 and you've got a seriously speedy crossover that can challenge some luxury brand models. Starting MSRP: $29,595.
2016 Honda CR-V
Edmunds says: Everyday usability is the driving force behind the CR-V's interior design. The wide doors allow for easy ingress and egress, and head- and legroom are ample for front and outboard rear passengers. A passenger sitting in the rear middle seat will also appreciate the lack of a protruding transmission tunnel that would otherwise necessitate an uncomfortable seating position. Farther back, the CR-V's cargo area is vast, with 37.2 cubic feet of space ready to swallow just about anything you want to throw back there. Pull the trunk-mounted levers and the spring-loaded rear seats fold down immediately, nearly doubling the CR-V's cargo capacity. Starting MSRP: $24,645.
2016 BMW 5 Series
Edmunds says: The current-generation 5 Series is a little different from those hallowed models that came before it. It's a big, comfy and impeccably refined midsize sedan with an emphasis on luxury rather than sport. It doesn't provide the expected degree of handling precision and engagement that driving enthusiasts might want, but it does have a spacious cabin fitted with top-notch materials and a huge number of available comfort, convenience and high-tech features. Starting MSRP: $51,195.
2016 Mercedes C-Class
Edmunds says: The updated 2016 C-Class carries over all of the strengths of the redesigned 2015 model, including added rear legroom and eye-catching styling inside and out, as well as an optional air suspension that's unique in the compact luxury car segment. Furthermore, the advanced safety technology that has become a modern Mercedes hallmark is fully present here, such as standard automatic emergency braking, a rare inclusion in this price range. With its luxurious interior, advanced powertrains and high-tech safety and driver assistance features, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the best small luxury sedans you can buy. Starting MSRP: $38,950.
2016 Buick Verano
Edmunds says: The 2016 Buick Verano presents an upscale yet reserved exterior, a well-crafted interior and a substantial list of standard and optional luxury and high-tech features. With the Buick Verano, GM has done a nice job of providing an entry-level luxury compact sedan that won't get you laughed out of the executive lunchroom or relegated to the back rows of the country club parking lot. Starting MSRP: $21,990.
2016 Dodge Challenger
Edmunds says: While the muscle car styling and menu of powerful engines are of obvious appeal, you might not realize how practical the Challenger can be. Adults can fit in the backseat. It has a trunk equivalent to that of a full-size sedan. The ride quality is comfortable. The features list is packed full of comfort, convenience, entertainment and high-tech safety items. Even the V6 gets decent fuel economy. The Challenger is a car that will please whether you're taking the kids to school, driving across the country, or participating in a burnout contest. Starting MSRP: $27,990.
2016 Chevrolet Colorado
Edmunds says: With its refined demeanor and feature-laden interior, the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado is a very appealing option for a midsize pickup or an alternative to a full-size truck. Midsize rivals surpass it off-road, but the Colorado's new diesel engine is a game-changer. The other notable update to the 2016 Colorado is the arrival of Apple CarPlay smartphone integration in trucks equipped with the available 8-inch MyLink touchscreen interface. This should make the Colorado that much more appealing for buyers who crave uninterrupted connectivity. Starting MSRP: $20,995.
2016 Acura TLX
Edmunds says: The TLX is a well-rounded, nicely furnished sedan for the money, and unlikely to let you down over the long haul. Comparably equipped European rivals carry significantly higher price tags, and they also tend to depreciate more quickly and cost more to repair when the warranty expires. In other words, the TLX is arguably a smart choice, and being smart in the midsize luxury sedan segment can save you a lot of money, both now and in the future. Plus, it has one of the best-sounding stereos around. If that's your kind of luxury sedan, the 2016 Acura TLX could be your next car. Starting MSRP: $32,635.
Not a fan of our picks, but still want a great deal? Here's a list of automakers with the most and fewest available 2016 models. This should help you plan out what dealerships to visit over the holidays.
Most Available 2016 Models
Fewest Available 2016 Models