As millennials shop for wheels — some for the first time — they’re finding it’s not as easy as swiping right on their smartphone. Some dealers might assume millennials don’t have enough money and show them little respect. Worse, some younger car buyers might be pressured to overpay, make poor financing decisions or spring for extras they don’t need.
For some time, it appeared millennials didn’t even want cars, but recent trends show otherwise. A study by Jumpstart Automotive Media found millennials are not just surpassing baby boomers as the largest U.S. generation; they’re also buying more cars more frequently than members of other age groups. They’ll likely wield increasing purchasing clout despite little car-buying experience.
Oren Weintraub, a car-buying concierge and president of Authority Auto, in Tarzana, California, says that millennials who hire him say they’re afraid of overpaying and feel at a disadvantage when negotiating. Friends sometimes ask Jaclyn Trop, an automotive expert and herself a millennial, to help with car buying, citing sales associates who are ill-informed about vehicles and unable, for example, to explain the difference between a hybrid and an all-electric car. Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, says millennials have little patience for the car-buying process and expect products — and their prices — to be readily accessible.
To help millennials avoid common car-buying headaches, experts offered these five tips.
1. Use technology
Millennials, stereotyped as always being on their smartphones, can use those devices to contact a dealership without physically going to one, Edmunds’ Montoya says. Emailing the internet department — which operates separately from the traditional showroom sales force — can quickly get you a firm price quote and a less confrontational buying experience. Or try texting, he says. Many dealerships have created text and live chat lines for answering questions about inventory and, sometimes, negotiating.
But even before communicating with the dealership, visit automotive websites, which can tell you roughly what you should pay for a car, the bedrock of negotiations, Trop says. Start with comparative research to choose the right car and check pricing guides, such as Kelley Blue Book, for the current market price paid by other buyers.
2. Get preapproved for a car loan
While dealerships typically have access to the lowest interest rates, it’s still essential, particularly for millennials, to shop for a car loan before going to the lot. Getting preapproval “sets a baseline, so that you know what interest rate you deserve” when you’re at the dealership, Montoya says. A preapproval also deflects the salesperson’s favorite negotiation gambit, Weintraub says, “which is trying to turn you into a monthly payment buyer” so he or she can hide the true cost of the car.
The preapproval process is also a good time to check your budget. Estimate car payments that match your income level with an auto loan calculator. Montoya warns buyers not to be tempted by long loan terms, up to 84 months. “If that’s what it takes to buy a car, take a look at leasing instead,” he recommends.
3. Drive multiple cars
According to Montoya, millennials tend to skip the test drive, turned off by visiting a dealership and interacting with pushy salespeople. But he says it’s important to drive multiple cars to compare features and make the best choice.
Set up back-to-back test-drive appointments for your top picks through the internet department, preferably during the slower weekdays, Montoya recommends. The differences between competing models will quickly become apparent.
4. Avoid test-drive hassles
Weintraub, a former dealer, says some salespeople might refuse to let millennials test-drive a car, or first demand a credit check to make sure they have enough money. With a preapproved loan, the shopper can simply say he or she is a “cash buyer.” Asking to see a shopper’s driver’s license is legitimate, he adds, “but make sure you get it back right away so they can’t hold you hostage.”
Young-looking or casually dressed car buyers might be ignored by salespeople who superficially evaluate customers. To avoid this, Trop recommends dressing as if you’re going to work or a business meeting.
5. Keep the deal clean
To sign the sales contract, a customer is escorted into a dealership’s finance and insurance office. There, Weintraub says, the finance manager tries to build more profit in the deal by selling extended warranties, alarms and other extras. Salespeople are trained to overcome resistance by isolating objections and using tactics he describes as “psychological warfare.”
Decide ahead of time what you want and what you’re willing to pay for it. If all else fails, Trop advises using the time-tested negotiation strategy of letting your feet speak for you: “Be prepared to walk away if you have to.”
Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.