Critically Thinking About Buying Cars

Good Prices Come With Good Timing

If you are prepared to wait for your new car, you can get a better deal. At certain times of the year ex-company cars flood onto showroom forecourts and this is directly as a result of the Halo and Devil Effects. A new car being driven by a company representative is an attempt to exploit a customers' vulnerability to those effects. The customers' perception of the representative, and through them the company, can be positively shaped by the newness of the car they drive. Fleet managers wish to maximise the duration of these effects and so tend to trade old cars in as soon as new models or registrations are available.

This puts you in a stronger position to negotiate harder in the weeks before new registration plates are issued (September and March) or when new models have been announced. Similarly, if you time your purchase for the end of the quarter (i.e. March, June, September and December), the sales team will be trying to meet their targets and, possibly, to keep their jobs. Remember, if you buy a car in these time windows, you are actually doing the showroom a favour, and you should tell them as much in your negotiating.

Thereís a lot going on when you purchase a second-hand car. Car dealersí initial prices are all inflated. So, the 10% discount youíve just negotiated might not be such a deal. Donít let the screen price be the anchor. The only way to know whether youíre getting a deal is to use industry-standard guides like Glassís Guide or CAP. The price these guides set is a much better anchor that you should use, not some arbitrary value assigned by a dealer. Expect the dealer to come up with some nonsense about how Glassís is no longer used, why this particular model is rare, how itís in better condition than the guide caters for or why the first full moon makes cars more expensive. Heíll be talking rubbish.

The trick is to override his anchor using logical reasons for the figure (mileage, condition, CAP value) and then shut up. If there is a pregnant pause, savour the silence. On no account be the first to speak Ė even if it seems rude. Thereís an old negotiating phrase: "Whoever speaks first, comes second." Itís now his job to attack your anchor. Do not accept the first counter offer but show your mettle by raising your offer by less than he dropped his, e.g. if he drops by £500, go up by £250. Ultimately, if he says no, walk away. There are other cars out there.

One last point on buying new cars. Alloy wheels, that new car smell and spotless carpets are a distraction, with either minimal or short lived benefits. Why would you pay £1000s for them? If and when a salesperson tosses that ball at you, don't let your Distinction Bias make you catch it.

Now you should consider having a look at critically thinking about being told what to buy.