A senior getting the keys to a car.

10 Things to Consider When Buying A Car

Best Cars for Seniors

There was a time when not many things were more intimidating to me than walking into an automotive dealership to buy a car. Personally, I think buying a house is easier. I did not know what the best cars for seniors were. That was before I started handling the advertising for a car dealer. That in itself was equivalent to a college education in car buying.

Here’s some of what I learned

The Customer Has the Upper Hand

The salespeople and the dealer management are far more afraid of you than you are of them. The dealership has to make its monthly numbers, their allotment of cars, the models, how many of the most popular sellers they get from the manufacturer.

Salespeople have to make their monthly quota to make a decent income and and the customer can walk out at anytime. Once you realize this, you have the power.

When is the Best Time to Buy?

The absolute best days of the week to buy are Monday and Tuesday. That is when dealerships are virtually empty of customers and the best time to buy is late in the day. Think about it. If a salesperson has not made a sale that day, they are more likely to deal.

Shop at the end of the month or the end of the quarter. This is when the dealer is more anxious to make sure the dealership’s quota numbers are hit. Shop right after the new models have come out because dealers want to get rid of sitting inventory.

And the worst time to buy? Coming out of winter and into spring. Dealers know tax refund checks are making a hole in your pocket and even more important, they know that psychologically people want something new and fresh after the winter. All of that said, do not buy until you have done your research.

Decide if You Are Buying New or Used

The old saying about cars losing thousands of dollars the minute they drive off the lot is actually true. Once I learned that, I never bought a brand spanking new car again. I either buy a gently used one, maybe a year old or a dealer driven one I can get at a great price. One of the most important items to me regarding any car is the factory warranty. The last car I bought was a little over a year old, was priced just right, had 9,789m on it and a factory warranty that went for 10 years or 100,000m. It is still going strong at 130,000m and I hoping to hit 200,000m with it.

To ensure you know as much as you can when buying a used vehicle, get the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) number. Once you have it, go to a website like CarFax or Vin Check Pro, put in the VIN number and you will get the vehicle’s history, including whether it has been in an accident, is actually a salvageable or if it has been stolen.

Set a Budget

A good salesperson is needed. You would be amazed at the add-ons they can sell you before you even realize you have been sold. Do not ever answer the salesperson’s classic question: “How much do you want to spend monthly?” If he asks, just say you want to focus on the car.

Before you go car shopping, consider what you want. Do you want a sedan, coupe or van? Do you want a light or dark color? Do you want a V4, V6, V8? What do you want in a sound system? Is safety the most important thing to you? How about gas mileage? Whatever you decide, take a checklist with you of the things you want and stick to it. Only look at the makes and models that fit your criteria.

Shop Around

Do not make this big a decision on your first trip to the dealership. Do not buy into that. Take the price you get at that dealership to their competitor. Play them against each other to get the best deal.

Research is Easier Than Ever

There are plenty of websites that will give you independent, unbiased reviews and information on both new and used cars, websites such as Edmunds, True Car (where you can find what other people in your geographic area have paid), Kelley Blue Book and Car Gurus. When I am ready to shop for a car, I go online and decide what I want before I go out to shop and I have a reasonable idea of what I am going to pay.

Take at Least One Test Drive

Christina Selter, editor of women's automotive site HerHighway.com and a former auto dealer herself, suggests “taking the first test-drive by yourself, then bringing the whole family (and all their car seats) on a follow-up test drive. “This will give you an opportunity to make sure everything (and everyone) fits comfortably.”

Years ago, before I was armed with all of this knowledge, I had eyes only for a cute convertible, so I bought it. The only problem was that my golf clubs did not fit in the trunk, so if I wanted to play, I had to put them in the front passenger seat, ergo no passenger.

Get the Dealer’s Price

If you decide to buy a new car, you can find out almost down to the penny what the dealer’s price is. To find out, go to Consumer Reports, the site will tell you what the dealer paid including what is called “dealer holdbacks,” the cash the automotive manufacturers pay a dealer if they sell a certain number of cars. Most dealers will negotiate on dealer hold backs since they consider it part of their profit.

Remember though, with any business, a car dealer needs to make a fair profit in order to pay rent, keep on the lights and pay the staff. With this being said, armed with this knowledge, you can go to the dealer who has the car you want and ask if they will take 3% over invoice which should give you a good deal while allowing the dealer a slight profit.

Have a Good Idea About What Your Trade is Worth

You may be able to get a rough idea of what you can expect to get in a trade for your car by using websites like Kelley Blue Book, but the only real way you will know is to take it to three or four dealers. Do not tell them you are in the market for a car, just say you are selling yours and see what they offer. Add the figures together, average the number and you will truly have a good idea of what you woll be offered.

Then, when you are ready to buy and the salesperson asks if you are trading your vehicle, say no until you have negotiated the final price, then tell the person you changed your mind and ask what he would give you for your trade-in. You already have the right number in your head and if the dealer does not meet it, you can take it to where you got the best price and sell it there.

Not Everything in Life Is Negotiable

The marketing fee is what the dealer imposes on each vehicle to help lower advertising costs. Most dealers will not waive the doc fees because a portion of it goes to the state, however, it is a good idea to ask the dealer upfront what their doc fees are so you’re not surprised.

The Best Cars for Seniors to Buy

Now that you properly know how to go about buying a car, here are some vehicles that are great for seniors:

  • Kia Forte
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Honda Insight
  • Toyota Camry

Now that you are armed with this knowledge, you are ready to go out and truly have fun buying your next vehicle!