A new-to-you car is a big investment. Whether you’re buying a brand-new vehicle or opting for a used model, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good deal for your money. Choosing a trustworthy car dealer is a critical step in making sure that you’re spending your money well. By purchasing your vehicle from a reputable dealer, you’re more likely to end up with a car that you’ll be able to count on for one drive after another.
Look at Their History
These days, it seems that almost nothing goes unrecorded. If there’s information out there, you’ll probably be able to find it. In other words, if a car dealership has been around a while, you should be able to talk to someone who’s shopped there before. On the other hand, if there’s no history to be found, you might be dealing with a fly-by-night operation that could close its doors just as quickly as it appeared on the scene. To learn more about the history of a car dealership, ask friends, family and coworkers whether they’ve bought a car there before. Even if they haven’t personally done so, they might be able to put you in touch with someone who has. Ask what the experience was like and whether they’d go there again.
Take a Look Around
Once you’ve done some asking around, you may want to pay a visit to the dealership yourself. At this point, you shouldn’t be checking out car models. You just want to get a feel for what the place is like. Is it neat and clean? Are the structure and the grounds in good repair? A property that’s dirty or run-down may be a sign that quality isn’t a top priority to the owner. What are the cars like? If most look old, worn-out or dated, that can be an indication that this dealer focuses on cheap vehicles that are nearing the end of their lives rather than quality models that have plenty of miles left in them. Obviously you want a car that’s in top condition.
On-site Certified Mechanics
Dealerships that run their own auto shops are less likely to be pop-up establishments that don’t stick around over the long-term. The shop serves as a sign that the dealership is a stable business. It also indicates that the dealership gives cars a thorough look before listing them for sale. Of course, you don’t want just any mechanic working on your car. The best dealerships hire mechanics with Automatic Service Excellence (ASE) certification. To earn this certification, mechanics must be experienced, and they must pass an automotive exam.
Consider Certified Pre-owned Programs
Some branded dealerships specialize in certified pre-owned (CPO) cars. Vehicles with this label have gone through a thorough inspection process and must meet certain standards before they can be sold. They may come with good warranties. To be able to offer CPO cars, a dealership has to have a good reputation with their brand. Whether you purchase a CPO or non-CPO vehicle from their lot, this can be a sign that they conduct business in a trustworthy manner.
An Online Search
Even if a car dealership seems good at first, an online search may reveal trouble. One sign of an untrustworthy dealer that you could come across is negative reviews from past customers. Check review sites and consider the dealer’s rating with the Better Business Bureau. You should also navigate to the dealer’s website. A reputable dealership should have an easy-to-navigate site with plenty of information. Modern website design indicates that the dealership is committed to quality and is financially stable enough to hire a professional team. On the other hand, dealerships to avoid may provide only surface-level information about their business. They may not include thorough contact information, links to reviews from real customers or high-resolution photos of their inventory. There’s a reason modern dealerships need Carfax, so if they don’t have it on their site it’s a major red flag.
Willingness to Work With Others
A car dealership may not be a one-stop shop. A reputable dealer understands that and is willing to let you turn to outside help. For example, you should have the right to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic. If the dealer resists, take your business elsewhere.
The same goes for financing. While the dealer may be able to offer you a good deal, you should never be locked into using their financing options. In many cases, outside financing can offer you a lower interest rate, and a trustworthy dealership will accept that decision.
Doing your homework before buying a car can help you steer clear of troublesome car dealers and instead choose one that’s honest. The transaction will go smoothly, and you’ll drive a reliable vehicle off the lot.
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