Buying a new car, truck, or SUV can be tricky – even once you do some research, choose a manufacturer, and set your sights on a model or two, there’s still a lot to do. Finding and picking the right dealership means more than just typing “best Buick dealership near me” into your search engine of choice and hoping for the best. Sure, that’s a good place to start, but then what do you do with the seemingly infinite pages of results that you get from that search?
Here’s what you do: follow a few simple tips and apply a few bits of knowledge to eliminate some dealerships and find the perfect one for you. All of this stuff can be done when you’re looking at a dealer’s website – so you can save yourself the time and hassle of going to a dealership only to realize it’s all wrong. I can’t promise you the perfect car-buying experience, but these tips can help make things easier and let you focus on what really matters: finding the best vehicle for your needs.
Tip #1: Look at Phone Numbers and Hours
This may seem like an obvious thing or a strange place to start, but it’s about more than just finding out when you should go or how to call them. Consider this: a good car dealership should want your business and be proud of what they have on offer; this means they want you to contact them. If it’s hard to find anything more than an address, then that should be a red flag that makes you wonder why they’re not pushing themselves more.
While you might be able to go to a dealership once, get a vehicle, and then go on your way never to look back, it’s more likely that you’ll need to contact them again from time to time. You want to make sure you can find phone numbers for them and know when you’ll be able to reach someone if you have questions or issues after a purchase. You should be able to find not just a single phone number, but numbers and operating hours for each department of the dealership so you can easily reach the person you need.
Tip #2: Look at the Location
Again, this may seem obvious for getting there, but it’s about more than just how to physically go to the dealership. You might be tempted to pick an out-of-state dealership that can save you some money on your purchase. While saving money is good – consider any long-term inconveniences that are going so far for buying a vehicle might have.
For example, what if you choose a financing program that requires you make payments directly at that dealership – if you ever need to make a payment in person, that’s a long drive. You could also face a similar trek if you need any kind of maintenance or other work done on your vehicle at the dealership. Any money you save by going to a dealership in another state could be offset in the long run by the inconvenience and gas miles of having to go back there for future issues.
Tip #3: Consider Your Financing Options
Before anything else, you need to know how you are going to pay for your new vehicle. Whether you will need traditional financing through a bank or similar lender, or if you might need low-credit financing from a Buy Here/Pay Here dealership makes a big difference. As you look at dealership websites, you should be able to easily see what kind of financing they offer and who they are looking to work with.
You don’t want to take the time to look at online inventory, go to a dealership, look around the lot, pick a car you love, and only then discover you can’t work out financing with that dealer. Not only is this something to get at least partially figured out ahead of time, but the dealer’s website should make this pretty simple before you even go there. If the dealer website doesn’t have a financing section, then move on.
Tip #4: Check Out the Inventory
You can look at items, research, and pick out the model that is just right for you over the internet with everything else in your life, why not a new car? A good dealership will have information about the models they have in stock on their site – so you can peruse their inventory from the comfort of your home. Of course, inventory changes so be sure to call about anything you see online that you are interested in before you head there.
Consider both new and used vehicles as you look at a dealer’s inventory online. You might be set on a new car, but discover that some used models have everything you want and can save you some money. There’s no reason to limit your options – and you should be able to browse both used and new inventories online.
Tip #5: Look for Reviews
Just like anything when shopping online, look for reviews of any dealership you are interested in. You should be able to find reviews posted on the website of the dealership itself, as well as on third-party sites that provide information about car dealers. Look for both positive and negative reviews, but don’t be put off by the presence of a few negative reviews. Nothing is perfect in this world, but reviews can give you a sense of what other people have experienced when dealing with that business.
Tip #6: Look for a Business Philosophy
While not as important as details like contact information, financing options, and inventory, a good business philosophy should be posted on any dealership website. It might not be called a “philosophy” on the page, but you’ll usually find information about how the dealership is run somewhere on the site – usually on an “About Us” page. You want to find dealerships that place emphasis on not just customer service, but also general honesty, integrity, and forming good relationships with their customers. An emphasis on community relationships and development is also a good sign because it means the business sees itself as part of the community and connects with the people who live in the area.
Tip #7: Consider a Long-Term Relationship
In general, the moment you drive off a car lot with your new vehicle is not going to be the last time you interact with that dealership. You may need to work with them in the future while making payments, depending on your financing. Future maintenance can usually be performed at a dealership to make sure your car is kept in pristine working order and prevent serious mechanical issues that can arise.
In the future, you’ll probably need another vehicle, and going to the same dealership can often expedite the whole process. So as you are looking at a dealer’s website, consider the kind of long-term relationship you can develop with that dealership and the people who work there. That’s why things like a large inventory, helpful financing options and tools, and a business with an eye toward connecting with the community all make finding the right dealership easier, not just for right now, but also for years to come.