Seven secrets of car showrooms as revealed by an insider - the facts before buying

It is fair to say car sales representatives have a bit of a reputation. From Arthur Daley to Matilda's dad Harry Wormwood, they are often depicted as other than entirely honest.

But, what if you could use their experience to benefit you, rather than them?

Well, to help you do exactly that, Admiral Car Finance found four highly experienced car salespeople from across the country and got them to reveal exactly what you need to know to walk away with the best deal possible.

SEE ALSO :Police force acquires Sh10.4 million car

Admiral Car Finance chief executive Scott Cargill said: “Buying a car is an exciting but often expensive process and while we all want the best deal actually getting it can be a daunting process. 

“Using the advice from the expert panel should go some way to helping consumers understand the secrets of the showroom and what they can do before, during and after the purchase process to put them in the best position to strike a good deal."

The insiders

Between them this panel has 65 years' experience selling cars to the public - from independent dealers to working in showrooms from brands including Porsche and Aston-Martin as well as services firms.

They agreed to share their trade secrets anonymously, but let us tell you this much about them.

This is who they are:

  • Sales Director Cambridge - more than 15 years’ experience with main and independent dealers including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Aston-Martin, Porsche
  • Sales Manager Swindon – more than 22 years' industry experience including management of main dealerships and working for independent garages across cars and vans
  • Ex car salesman from South Wales - 23 years' industry experience
  • Sales Director, Edinburgh - 6 years' motor industry experience specialising in dealing with professional services firms
1. Arm yourself with research to get the best deal

“Do your research before you visit a dealer” said the car sales director from Cambridge. “Look at the manufacturer’s website and the dealer’s website to see if there are any special offers or set schemes on the vehicle you want.”

“Look at reviews, videos, magazine and web articles so you are informed before you head to the showroom. Look at what owners have to say about the cars to get an unbiased opinion”

The ex-car salesman from South Wales added: “If you’re going to be part-exchanging you should check the value of your vehicle yourself before you go to the garage.”

“It’s worth checking you can afford the car insurance on your ideal vehicle before you start the buying process, otherwise it can be a potential last-minute block to buying if you can’t.”

2 Always check out competitor deals online first

The sales manager in Swindon advised: “If you are buying a used car check prices with the dealer’s competitors before you go in.”

Hot tip: “Quoting deals you say you have seen or been offered at other dealerships to get a discount is a big mistake in the negotiating process, as salespeople will know exactly what can and can’t be offered because all dealerships have the same pricing guides and books to work from in terms of valuations both for purchasing and part-exchanges.”

3. Shop around for finance before you visit the dealer

The car sales director from Cambridge said: “For brand new car purchases, finance APR is often fixed as part of a deal from the manufacturer leaving dealership salespeople little room for movement, whilst on used cars the dealer will have a small amount of influence over the APR.

“Providing customer finance usually means a commission for the salesperson so bear this in mind. Do your research first and find out what rates you can get elsewhere before you go to the garage.”

The car sales manager from Swindon added: “Finance and the different options available are one of the areas of car purchase customers understand the least.”

In addition, the sales director from Edinburgh suggests buyers should “not focus solely on the monthly payment but focus on the APR and the total amount payable as this is the true cost of the car deal".

4. Timing is crucial – check your calendar before you buy

Timing was a hot topic for the expert panel, who had several tips on the best time to buy a car:

a) The last 2 weeks of a quarter

“Manufacturers work on quarter year targets and in the last couple of weeks of a quarter a dealer will be keener to offer a better deal as an extra few sales may help them achieve a target that unlocks bonus incentive payments” said the Cambridge car sales director.

Hot tip: The Edinburgh sales director added: “Be willing to take what is on offer, you may need to not be choosy about colour and brand of car to get the best end of quarter deal.”

b) Quieter periods

“Dealers still need to sell cars, even in quiet months like December,” said the ex car salesman from South Wales.

“Months where registrations will be low are a good time to negotiate a better deal. Dealerships will often have special offers and deals to attract customers as some sales are better than none, so it could work in your favour.”

c) When a model is superseded by a newer model

The ex car salesman from South Wales said: “The launch of a new model is a good time to buy if you don’t mind the older style.

“There might not be a huge difference between a new model and an older version, but dealerships will be incentivised to sell the old model and may be able to offer bigger discounts to help them sell the run out model and clear their supply.

"If there’s a particular make/model you want to buy check online and find out if a new version has recently been launched or is due to be very soon.”

d) The end of the month

“If none of the above suit your car purchasing needs then always aim for the end of the month. Salespeople are all given monthly targets to hit and one extra sale could impact how much they get paid, so it’s a good time to push for a deal” concluded the ex car salesman.

Hot tip: The sales director from Edinburgh added: “Never buy on your first visit to a dealership. Dealers know they need to close customers on a first visit, as the percentages that buy after they have left site drops massively.

"Taking time on your decision will help you negotiate.”

5. Make the salesperson your friend

“Always negotiate the discount on the car first” said the ex car salesman from South Wales. “Nothing is ever for free and there is always a cost to the salesman - so if you’ve had other things thrown in for free you’ll get less of a discount off the car itself.”

The car sales director from Cambridge added: “Work with the salesperson to get the best deal.”

“Often the dealership manager will have the final say on the process so make the salesperson your friend, as they will negotiate with the manager on your behalf, and its human nature that they’ll want to help you get the right deal if you work together.”

Hot tip: “Saying you love a car after a test drive can weaken your negotiating power," advised the car sales manager from Swindon.

"Try and keep your cards closer to your chest and if you haven’t researched other dealerships before your test drive don’t buy it straight away.”

6. be aware for any insurance add-ons

“Dealerships will offer a long list of extras like GAP insurance, tyre insurance, extended warranty, alloy wheel protection, service plans and more," said the Swindon car sales manager.

"Always check prices for these online before you commit to what the garage is offering so you can ensure you’re getting the very best deal. You don’t have to accept what the dealership is offering.”

7. Don’t forget to check the extras

“If you’ve paid for extras on your car such as paint protection and interior fabric protection to be applied to your car, test they’ve actually been put on.

"It can be the case that these have been paid for but easily overlooked in terms of application by a busy dealership and service centre, and it could be many months before the benefits are tested out for real” said the Swindon car sales manager.

“A good check for interior protection is to test some fabric with water – if the protection has been applied it should just roll off.”

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