Shave hours off your next deal­er­ship visit

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - AUTOMOTIVE - By Matt Jones

One of the most com­mon com­plaints of car buy­ers is the amount of time it takes to wrap up a ve­hi­cle pur­chase. De­pend­ing on whom you ask, the time spent com­plet­ing a deal at the aver­age deal­er­ship is be­tween 3.6 hours (J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Sales Sat­is­fac­tion In­dex) and an eter­nity (the aver­age shop­per).

Most of the time that a buyer spends at a deal­er­ship isn’t ded­i­cated to pick­ing out a ve­hi­cle or ne­go­ti­at­ing a price. The se­ri­ous time drain re­sults from the lags be­tween the buy­ing stages and in the com­ple­tion of the pa­per­work. The lat­ter can in­volve more than 40 doc­u­ments and will of­ten re­quire mul­ti­ple peo­ple to process.

But with a lit­tle prepa­ra­tion and a plan, you can shave at least two hours or more from your deal­er­ship visit.

MAKE A TEST-DRIVE AP­POINT­MENT

If you know the ex­act car you want to buy or test-drive, call and re­quest that the deal­er­ship have it ready for you when you ar­rive. Here’s why the ap­point­ment is a must: A deal­er­ship may not have space to house all of its new-car in­ven­tory on site. Ve­hi­cles are of­ten stored at an over­flow lot, which can be miles away and may take a deal­er­ship staff half an hour to re­trieve. Call ahead and spare your­self the wait.

HAVE THE RIGHT PA­PER­WORK

To com­plete a car deal, you’ll need your driver’s li­cense and a copy of your cur­rent auto in­sur­ance card. If you’re do­ing your fi­nanc­ing through the deal­er­ship, you may also need to show a cur­rent util­ity bill or re­cent pay stub. Don’t for­get to bring a check or credit card for your down pay­ment.

Also make sure you have any doc­u­ments you might need to con­firm your el­i­gi­bil­ity for avail­able in­cen­tives, such as a mil­i­tary or re­cent col­lege grad­u­ate dis­count. The re­quire­ments vary with the car­maker, but you can save time on the ground by call­ing in ad­vance of pur­chase to find out ex­actly what’s needed.

If you’ve got a trade-in, the deal­er­ship will want to see doc­u­ments such as the pink slip, reg­is­tra­tion or pay­ment state­ment.

Not hav­ing these doc­u­ments means you’ll have to try to get them by phone or even go back home in the mid­dle of the trans­ac­tion. That’s guar­an­teed to add time to the process. And if you need in­for­ma­tion or doc­u­ments from a tra­di­tional bank or in­sur­ance agency on a week­end, holiday or af­ter hours, ex­pect your deal to grind to a halt.

TRADE-IN AP­PRAISAL

A deal­er­ship needs to ap­praise the value of the car you’re trad­ing in. A sales man­ager or used­car man­ager will in­spect and eval­u­ate your car. That can eas­ily take 20 min­utes. Rather than wait around, ask the deal­er­ship to do the ap­praisal while you’re out on your test drive.

GET TO KNOW YOUR CAR BE­FORE YOU SIGN THE CON­TRACT

Once you and the sales­per­son have agreed on terms, the next step is to sign the pur­chase doc­u­ments. This process usu­ally hap­pens in the fi­nance and in­sur­ance of­fice and is a com­mon bot­tle­neck, par­tic­u­larly on the week­end. A deal­er­ship might have 30 sales­peo­ple but only four fi­nance man­agers.

In­stead of wait­ing around for your turn with the fi­nance man­ager, make the most of this slow­down by ask­ing your sales­per­son to teach you how to use the fea­tures of your new car. This phase, of­ten called the “de­liv­ery,” typ­i­cally hap­pens af­ter you’ve signed your pur­chase or lease agree­ment. Flip­ping the or­der won’t in­con­ve­nience the deal­er­ship, and it will make bet­ter use of your time.

SKIP THE DEAL­ER­SHIP AL­TO­GETHER

Here’s a se­cret for the shop­pers who know the ex­act ve­hi­cle they want to pur­chase and who have al­ready worked out the pric­ing de­tails: A deal­er­ship may be will­ing to de­liver the ve­hi­cle and the deal pa­per­work to you at your home or of­fice.

It isn’t a com­mon prac­tice, but a grow­ing num­ber of deal­er­ships are will­ing to of­fer this ser­vice in the hopes it will sway the buyer to close a deal — now. You’ll have to be flex­i­ble about the day and time of de­liv­ery. Week­ends are a non­starter, for ex­am­ple.

Know that some deal­er­ships just won’t de­liver cars to cus­tomers. But many will. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

ED­MUNDS SAYS >> It’s un­likely that buy­ing a car will ever be as quick as pick­ing up a few gro­ceries. But it doesn’t have to drag on all day ei­ther. It is pos­si­ble to dra­mat­i­cally cut your time at the deal­er­ship or even elim­i­nate it with sim­ple strate­gies.

This story was pro­vided to The As­so­ci­ated Press by the au­to­mo­tive web­site Ed­munds. Matt Jones is a se­nior con­sumer ad­vice ed­i­tor at Ed­munds. Twit­ter: @ su­per­mat­tjones

MATT JONES — ED­MUNDS VIA AP

This un­dated photo pro­vided by Ed­munds shows car buy­ers ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal at a Toy­ota deal­er­ship in Char­lotte, N.C. You can re­duce the time needed to buy your next ve­hi­cle by hav­ing your doc­u­ments in or­der, buy­ing on a week­day and hav­ing your trade-in ap­praised while you test-drive.

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