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For most of us, buying a car is one of life’s biggest expenses, second only to purchasing a house. Add in all the choices you must make – brand, model, color, style, options, financing – is it any wonder that shopping for a vehicle, while exciting, can be a nerve-wracking experience? To find out a few ways to calm those nerves, we spoke with Karen Lombardo, General Manager of Roadshow BMW/MINI, to find out what women need to know when buying their cars.

Karen at the BMW dealership

Karen Lombardo is the General Manager of Roadshow BMW/MINI. Here she shares her top car-buying tips for women. Image: Abbey Bratcher

5 Things Every Woman Needs to Know When Buying a Car

It is the dealership’s job to make you happy, not the other way around.

There are plenty of dealerships out there to choose from — in 2018, there were 16,753 franchised new-car dealers in the United States, with 333 in Tennessee alone*. “To find one you can trust, research your dealerships just as much as you research makes and models of cars,” says Karen. “Every dealership is a business, and businesses have to earn a profit – but they should do it fairly and transparently. And if a dealership is not fighting for your business, remember there are other options for you.”

Once you do choose a dealership, it is their job to accommodate you. If you feel uncomfortable with any part of the process, speak up. Ask for what you need, from extra time to make a decision to the color of the car. Most importantly, if you want a different salesperson, it is 100% okay to say so. “Don’t hesitate,” says Karen. “Talk to the manager. If you are not comfortable, we want to know so we can make it right.”

The relationship with your dealer doesn’t stop when you drive the car off the lot. You should feel happy about your service experiences, and feel welcome and valued every time you do something as simple as get your oil changed. Image: Erin Mosher Studios

Consider using a dealership’s lenders for financing.

Your bank or credit union’s lending rate may seem better at first glance, but you may be able to get a better overall financing package from one of a dealership’s preferred lenders. Karen gives us three reasons why:

  • A preferred lender can handle the entire financing process from beginning to end, making it easier and more convenient for you.
  • Dealers build a relationship with their lenders, so dealers are able to advocate for their customers to get them what they need.
  • Preferred lenders understand the automotive industry better. Since the automotive industry is not as heavily regulated as the housing market, for example, a lender has the option of flexibility. “This is where the relationship between dealer and lender again comes into play,” Karen explains.

Do not use a monthly payment as a starting place for negotiations.

Purchasing a car based on what you are willing to pay per month is not a good idea. In the simplest terms, a monthly payment is the amount of your loan plus interest, divided over the number of months until the loan is paid off. A less-than-fair method some salespeople might use is setting loan terms to your desired monthly payment, regardless of the whole cost of the car. The longer the loan, the smaller the monthly payment – but the more the interest, and a higher price in the long run.

Look at the deal holistically, says Karen. Consider the actual price of the car, and take into account the total cost of ownership, warranties, service and upkeep included. Then work with your dealer to find the right car for the right total price.

SB TIP: When researching cars, look for video posts from real customers. “YouTube is a fantastic source of information,” Karen says. Image: Erin Mosher Studios

If you are looking for a good deal, ask about “aged inventory.”

Some online research indicates waiting until the end of the month for a sale may be beneficial, but that’s not necessarily a good plan, Karen advises. All dealerships have cars that have been on the lot for a few weeks or longer – and those cars will have the biggest discounts regardless of the day of the month.

Purchasing an older model car may also be a great option if you are trading in a car. “Not every transaction requires a down payment,” Karen says. “A trade-in may bring the cost of a car into your price range.”

SB TIP: The price you will get on a trade-in will depend on the dealer’s inventory. “You may be able to get a better price elsewhere,” says Karen. “The price difference is not the dealer being dishonest; it just means we have your trade-in in stock. Take the higher price, then use it to buy the car you really want from a reputable dealership.” Image: Erin Mosher Studios

Know your credit score – but don’t let it scare you.

Most of us will need a loan to purchase a car – and the rate we get will depend on our credit history and score. Knowing your score will give you a good idea of what you can expect from lenders. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit score once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

If your score is a little lower than you would like, don’t let it scare you from making a purchase. “A good dealership can help you work with lenders to get an approval for a loan,” says Karen.

Tip to avoid “hidden costs”: There should be none! Nothing is charged to you that is not disclosed on the bill of sale. Go over each line item; if there is something you don’t understand, ASK. An answer is required to be given to you. Image: Erin Mosher Studios

Karen’s concluding advice? “The experience should be fun! A car is where you will spend the most amount of your time, outside of your home. You should enjoy being in it, so have some fun figuring out the options you need and the color you want. Don’t force yourself to purchase a car you don’t like.”

Roadshow BMW is located at 405 N Germantown Pkwy, Memphis, TN 38018. Learn more at roadshowbmw.com or (877) 835-7811.

This article is sponsored by Roadshow BMW.

Source: National Automobile Dealers Association