It’s a belief as old as the hills: car salesmen are out to take you for a ride, and we don’t mean a test drive, either. And sometimes, it’s true. For example, the Center for Public Integrity conducted a study and discovered some car dealers are every bit as unethical as the movies would have you believe.
So, how do you protect yourself? The best way is to be informed as to how the salesman, and the dealership, make money; the process they use to sell you cars; and what to look out for. Here are four sites that let you figure out just that…and who might not be on the up and up.
#1) Real Car Tips
This site is possibly the best, and certainly the most detailed, breakdown of everything from how dealers get cars on the lot to ways you can purchase a car to sales techniques, both ethical and unethical. What we like most about it is that the author, Gregg Fidan, breaks everything down to its most basic parts. Want to know how a trade-in deal is calculated? It’s right there. Want to know how to do the math for your auto insurance? He’ll tell you how it’s done. It’s very easy to take your information and figure out how to get on a fair footing with the dealer.
Edmunds started by publishing pamphlets containing car specifications to allow car shoppers to find what they wanted more easily. Since then, it’s grown a little, to be one of the most comprehensive car databases, and finders of cars for sale, on the Internet. While you should always check the dealership for the cars you want, and there may be surprises waiting, Edmunds offers both the most technical details and some of the strongest reviews of cars on the road.
If you like your car advice tempered with the occasional one-liner, video of terrible driving habits, or just balanced by the voices of readers, Jalopnik is the blog for you. They regularly get answers to car buying myths, tracking down which cars are the worst for a new driver, or talking to car salesmen to find out what drives them crazy about crappy customers, and not a week goes by without a new nugget of discussion. They also link out to other sites, like Lifehacker, whenever they offer useful tidbits.
#4) Yelp and other consumer sites
Finally, there’s these. It’s pretty simple: if a car dealership has scammed somebody, and they find out about it, they take to the Internet to vent and get some justice. They may not necessarily get that justice, but what you get is a sometimes very detailed look at the way the dealership works…not to mention which dealerships to avoid.
Just Google the name of your dealership, and toss in the word "scam" or "problem." You will, however, have to apply some skepticism to what you read: the customer isn’t always right. We’ve found the best reviews, positive or negative, are:
- Written intelligibly
- Written politely
- Offer details: names, dates, times, model of car, specific problems, and so on
- Have no profanity and aren’t written entirely in capital letters
Use all of these sources and you’ll be making a car deal you can live with in no time.