If you have read my earlier columns you know how important it is to get several competitive prices from different car dealers on the car you are buying. Equally important is to get at least 3 prices/bids on your financing and the true value of your trade-in.
The absolute worst thing you can do is to tell the dealer “all I care about is keeping my payments under “$X per month” and not know what the interest rate, terms, or products are included in the payments. Part of the profit a dealer makes on his cars is called “F&I income” and averages from $500 to as much as $2,000 per car sold. You can do your homework and buy your car at a very good price, but by not shopping your financing you can pay the dealer thousands of dollars in finance profits.
Credit unions are often the best source of funds for buying a car. Because they get special tax breaks from the government not available to banks, they usually have the lowest finance rates. Even if you don’t belong to a credit union, there are several you can join for a nominal fee. You should also get a financing quote from the bank you do business with. Also, give the dealer that you are buying from an opportunity to beat the rates you were quoted. Sometimes he can.
When you are taking delivery of your car, you will be asked to consider buying products like extended warranties, maintenance plans, road hazard insurance, GAP insurance, roadside assistance, credit life insurance, etc. My suggestion is that you do not make a snap decision on these products at the last minute. You should get complete information on each product and determine if it has value for you. You may already have coverage for some insurance products in policies you already own. With extended warranties and maintenance be sure you understand what is covered and what is not covered and what the deductibles are.
You should get at least 3 bids on the value of your trade-in. You can get some pretty good guidance from Kelly Bluebook, www.kbb.com and www.edmunds.com. Make an appointment to drive your trade-in to show the used car manager at a dealer who is franchised to sell the make you own. A Chevrolet dealer will likely pay you more for a Chevrolet trade-in than a Ford dealer would. That’s because people generally will shop for a used Chevy from a Chevrolet dealer. Get one or two more bids from other dealers in the same make. If you are near a CarMax store, you should take your car there too. They regularly buy cars like this for their inventory. The price you will be quoted is referred to as the ACV which stands for “actual cash value”. This is the wholesale value of your trade in.
Don’t confuse the ACV with the trade-in allowance that the dealer you are buying from gives you. The trade-in allowance includes part of the markup on the vehicle you are purchasing. You have probably read ads saying “MIMIMUM $4,000 ALLOWANCE ON ALL TRADES”. It’s not hard to offer thousands more on a trade-in than its ACV (true wholesale value) when you mark up the new car several thousand dollars more. Be sure that you explain that want to compare the ACV of your trade-in. Tell them you want the markup on the price of the car you are buying discounted, not added on to the ACV of your trade. Remember, however, that if you sell your trade-in to another party, you lose the advantage of deducing the trade-in from the price your sales tax in calculated on. At 6%, you would pay an extra $600 in sales tax for a trade-in with a $10,000 ACV.
With competitive bids on the car you are buying, the interest rate on your financing, and your trade-in ACV you are sure to minimize the total cost of that new or used car.