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									Firstly thank you for subscribing to – you‟re friend in the trade. As promised
here is your “print out and keep” Car Buying Crib Sheet written for you by professional, highly
experienced motor traders and with the aim of being a useful reference point to keep with you during the
car buying process.

When we think about buying anything these days more and more of us are checking it out on the web
first. Researching online has saved buyers thousands, just by doing a bit of comparison and whether it is
goods or services, insurance or cars it is a great way of ensuring we ultimately get the right product at the
right price.

The difference with cars of course is that we (more often than not) don‟t actually complete the purchase
online. We can compare makes, models and prices but there is no substitute for actually trying before
buying. With the large sums of money involved in buying a car and the fact that with a used car each and
every one is unique, researching is important but isn‟t everything.

We hope to assist in the car buying process by producing The “Car Buying Crib Sheet” which is
downloadable and simple to use and which we hope will be a useful tool in ensuring that the
correct decision is made when buying your next car.

As we have reported many times, every single week up and down the country buyers have purchased
cars for a lot of money only to find, for a variety of reasons, that they have chosen the wrong car, which in
turn has caused not only inconvenience and loss of time but, most importantly, often thousands of

Pit falls

By highlighting some of the potential pit falls and by helping the reader to understand the mentality of the
car salesperson buyers can hopefully gain an insight into the car purchasing process.


We all too often allow ourselves to get caught up in the excitement of buying a new car and become laser
focused on getting the best deal rather than first ensuring that we get the best car!

The right decision

By following these easy steps, and by not becoming too emotional about the process of buying a car, it
will hopefully aid the buyer in making the right decision first time and, just as importantly, achieving a
good all round deal.
What type of car do you need?

The first thing to remember is, having decided that you need to change your current car or buy a new or
used car, exactly what the car is to be used for, what kind of driving conditions it will be used in and
equally as important, what sort of car appeals? For example it is not enough to like the look or price of a
car alone. It may be the cheapest or nicest looking but if it is hopelessly inadequate for your all round
daily needs then it is not such a good buy.

You need to consider these factors:

How and who will use it, school run, commuting, carrying loads, towing a caravan/trailer?

How many passengers are you likely to carry on a regular basis?

What will the car carry on a regular basis, pushchair or pram, wheelchair, a dog, golf bag?

Does the car need child seat anchor points and if so, how many?

How many miles a year are you likely to cover?

What roads is the car most likely to be used on, City roads, Motorways, A roads, B roads, off road

What are the “must haves”?

If fuel consumption figures are important then will buying a diesel end up being cost effective?

What will be the maintenance and other running costs?

How good is the warranty being offered and how reliable is the car likely to be?

How long will you keep the car?

It will certainly pay to go into as much detail as possible before deciding which makes and models fall into
your buying criteria.
What is your budget?

You then need to think about a budget. “How much do I want to spend” and “how much can I afford” are
more often than not quite some distance apart but the importance of setting an affordable budget and
sticking to it should not be underestimated. Understanding your budget is as important as getting the best
price from the dealer.

Don‟t be tempted to overextend yourself when caught up in the heat of the moment down at the
showroom. You‟ll need to figure out how much cash you realistically have to spend each month after all
your outgoings have been taken into account. Never lose sight of the amount you consider will be enough
to purchase the car you are after. Also keep in mind a figure that you will not go past, no matter what.
This, along with being sensible, should give you enough flexibility.

If you‟re taking out finance on a new car, remember to consider all the other running costs on top of the
monthly repayments such as fuel bills, tax, insurance and servicing. Owning and running a car these days
is not cheap and when you add all these things up it runs into thousands of pounds each year. This is
obviously where the fuel costs of the new car come in. You don‟t want to discover that, because your
budget is so tight, you find yourself filled with dread when you make the twice-weekly trip to the petrol
station in your very shiny but extremely thirsty new car.

When salesmen talk about the “cost to change” or “changeover figure” they mean the difference between
what they are allowing you on your car as a part-exchange and the sale price of the new car.

Almost all salesmen are trained to focus on this difference as it is easier for them to negotiate on a single
figure, than it is to haggle with a customer on both the cost of the new car and the allowance on the part-

These may seem like the basics and, of course, they are, but you can be sure that a sales person will be
attempting to establish these necessary details as soon as possible in order to give himself the best
possible chance of selling you a car.

OK let‟s make a start by looking at what a typical car dealership would use by way of a sales process
when attempting to sell cars in a modern car franchise
The sales process

Once you have made contact with a showroom having researched your potential choice the following will
probably happen.

“The 9-point plan”

The sales process has been developed over many years and evolves with each new generation of sales
teams, new products coming to the market and the need to develop new income streams and profit
centres. The fundamental process has remained the same, however, and is designed with only one
objective: to separate you from your money.

This is the general chain of events when your average customer enters the showroom:

    The “meet and greet”
    Information gathering (qualification)
    Part-exchange appraisal (where appropriate)
    The test drive (“test drives sell cars!”)
    Funding solutions (our friend, the Business Manager)
    Third-party involvement
    The close

These nine actions are all part of a deliberate plan and can be broken down as follows:

The meet and greet

The salesman is trained to greet the customer with a big friendly smile and a warm handshake. This is
vitally important as another mantra is “people buy people” and first impressions are important to both the
customer and the salesman. Training also teaches the salesman to pick up on any sign of timidity or lack
of confidence and use it to their advantage.


The salesman will announce his name and perhaps offer a business card. He will always offer the
customer a seat while maintaining eye contact. By asking the customer to sit down he is attempting to
gain control of the situation at an early stage as he tries to qualify the customer‟s needs.

Information gathering/qualification

The first and most important thing the salesman will do is record the customer‟s details as they are now
officially a “prospect”. Name, Address, Telephone Number and Email address are all vital for today‟s
marketing databases. The salesman will then begin to qualify the customer by establishing the “wants
and needs”.

    “Do you need a 3- or 5- door car?”
    “Do you want a petrol or diesel engine?”
    “How many miles do you cover a year?”
    “Is this a first or second car?”
    “Would you like a manual or automatic gearbox?”
    “Do you have a part-exchange?”
    “What is your budget?”
    “Whose bank will you be using to fund your purchase – ours or yours?”
    “When are you looking to make your purchase?”
    “What model\colours do you like?”

All these questions are designed to try to match the customer with the correct car but, as we know, this is
not always the “correct” car for the customer. It will on many occasions turn out to be the “correct” car for
the salesman (the one which earns him the most commission). If you follow our earlier tips on research
you can avoid the pitfalls that may occur here if you were underprepared.

Part-exchange appraisal

The salesman will attempt to gather as much information about the customer‟s current vehicle as
possible. He will often say that the customer‟s particular model is outdated and therefore worth less than
they may think. The salesman will more often be told not to ask the customer how much they are looking
for because if they say a higher figure the salesman will have less confidence when delivering his
valuation. The salesman will take a tour of the vehicle, recording all the relevant information such as
defects or marks. He is not likely to want to do much conversing during this exercise. When he has
finished looking over the car the salesman will then go and ask the controller or manager to give a
valuation figure.

These valuations are worked out using the trade “bibles”: Glass‟s guide and CAP Black Book.

Note: An increasing number of non-franchised part-exchanges end up being re-marketed through the
auction network. This is a great place to pick up a used car and we will be covering this in detail in Motor
Trade Insider Guide to Buying Used Cars.

Test drive

Based on the information given, the salesman will always offer a test drive (he needs to “create desire”).
Usually the customer will be taken on a prearranged route for 10-20 minutes and during this time the
salesman will ask various questions relating to the car:

    “How does it feel?”
    “Is it comfortable?”
    “Is the engine responsive?”
    “How‟s the visibility?”
    “How smooth does it feel?”

A little trick widely used in the trade is where the customer is directed to park on return from the test drive.
Believe it or not they will always try to park as close as possible to the customer‟s current car so a direct
comparison can be made. They want the customer to get out of the shiny new car and see their old car
sitting next to it. They want the customer to think “I‟ve got to get back in the old car after driving this lovely
new car”.

Again they are creating desire.

Business Manager

On arrival back at the showroom the salesman will usually introduce the customer to the Business
Manager while he goes off to get the price on the customer‟s part-exchange. The Business Manager will
attempt to interest the customer in various finance packages (which are usually the ones which earn the
company the most profit) and explain about other add-on products and accessories. An attempt will also
be made at a “trial close” by asking a question such as:

“How will you be leaving a deposit today?”

The Business Manager will also ask other leading questions such as:

“What is your target monthly payment?”


“Did you want to put any more money down on top of the value of your existing car?”

The customer will always be offered add-on products such as paintwork protection, GAP protection
(basically “back to invoice” insurance which covers the difference between an insurance payout and the
original price of a new car), tyre protection and PPP (payment protection plans). These are all valuable
products but the dealer usually makes a massive margin on them so, as with everything, it pays to shop

Third-party involvement

The salesman will have informed his Controller\Manager of every action that has been taken so far and
will have been coached on what to say to the customer based on their responses. This is all designed to
ensure that the sales process is adhered to. The customer may not even have had any dealings with a
manager at this stage.


The customer will no doubt be aware what the retail price of the car they potentially want is. They may
have an idea how much their current vehicle is roughly worth and they will have an idea of the cost of any
optional extras. Also they will have an idea of the cost of the monthly repayments if they are getting
finance on the vehicle. The negotiation begins when the gap between the figures the dealer has
presented and the customer‟s “ideal world” has to be bridged.

The close

When the customer is content with everything that has happened and is prepared to proceed with the
purchase, a deposit will be taken and they will be asked to sign the purchase order. At this stage a mutual
collection point will be arranged and the customer will have been closed.

Now, we‟ll take a more detailed look at the techniques used by the modern-day new-car salesman and
the best way to combat them.

Sales Techniques

Although many consider the “hard-nosed” salesman to be a dying breed and that modern-day car
salespeople are little more than glorified information gatherers, customers should always be prepared for
the hard sell.
A salesman is trained to sell, not to let you buy, meaning it‟s his job to sell what he has, not necessarily
what you think you want. In other words if they haven‟t got or can‟t get what the customer has asked for
he will try to convert the customer into what they have got; another reason why a customer can often end
up with the wrong car.

A Sales Manager might say to his team:

“I don‟t want [expletive deleted] order takers, I want salesmen. If you want to be an order taker go and
work in [expletive deleted] McDonalds. I want people who are going to sell what we have in stock!”

A salesman is trained to control the customer by asking questions.

He is trained to answer questions by asking questions.

Put another way, he will seek a commitment to purchase a car by answering a question with a question
that asks for the sale.

When a customer asks: “Could you get the car next week?” the salesman will probably answer by asking
another question: “Will you buy the car if I can have it ready for you by next week?”

The question has not really been answered and instead the customer has been set up.

It is imperative to control the process and if we are to control the salesman, we must learn to use the
“question principle”.

So the customer must either answer the salesman or ask another question.

If they simply say “yes” or “no”, they have not received the answer to their question, but instead have
answered the salesman‟s question; so the customer either agrees to buy or leaves the door open to
another question from the salesman.

A suggested response would be:

“If I decided to buy the car, yes, I would want delivery within a week. Can you deliver the car within a
week if we come to terms?”

Here, the customer has got themselves off the hook; then they go back to the original question (as yet
unanswered) and no commitment has been made.

The old adage is very true:

“He, who asks the questions, controls the situation.”

When the customer asks a question that requires a lengthy response, it gives them a chance to think of
the next question and it forces the salesman to stop and think.

A question breaks up a salesman‟s pattern, interrupts the train of thought, and causes him to stop and
give an answer.

As long as he is answering, he is not asking. This does not mean the customer should spend all their time
asking questions for the sake of asking, nor does it mean that, if a salesman asks a question, they should
refuse to answer!
How to react to a question asked by a salesman depends upon the type of question it is, whether it is a
“qualifying” question or a “commitment-seeking” question.

There is a fine difference between qualifying the customer and closing on a particular car.

Closing is landing the customer on a particular car and asking purchase commitment questions.

Questions or statements like these are “commitment seeking” in nature:

    “Will you...if I can…?”
    Will you buy, if I can get the price reduced?
    “Would you consider this?”
    Would you consider the blue car instead of the red?
    “Would you like to…?”
    Would you like to take it home today?
    “Why don‟t you ...?”
    Why don‟t you give me a small deposit?
    Why don‟t you take it home today?
    “Let‟s do this...” as if “we‟re all in this together” (watch out for this one).
    “Let me do this for you.”
    Let me:
    Write up your figures?
    Take another £100 off the price?
    Talk to my boss?

Questions like these are qualifying in nature:

    “Do you want ...?”
    “Have you seen...?”
    “What do you have now?”
    “Who else have you seen so far?”
    “Do you plan to do this?”
    “What colour, size, style?”
    “Do you like this?”

A customer shouldn‟t worry about answering qualifying questions. A salesman needs to ask them to give
you the best they have to offer.

If the customer is not ready to make a commitment, they should be evasive or simply not answer
commitment-seeking questions.

The best way to avoid answering any question is to pretend that it wasn‟t heard; change the subject or
ask the salesman an irrelevant question. If the salesman asks too many personal questions, ask them
whether you are there to buy a car or to apply for a job!
Funding Solutions

Buying the car outright

If you have the money to spare, buying a car outright can be a cost effective alternative as you will not be
making any interest payments – the price you negotiate is the price you pay. You also have the
advantage of owning the car outright from the start but it will be a large capital outlay with no long term

Hire purchase HP

This has long been the traditional way of financing a car and is often arranged through a dealer. You can,
of course approach car finance companies direct and it will certainly be beneficial to get a broad range of
quotes. In principle you are basically hiring a car which comes with a “right to buy” – but remember you
do not own the vehicle until every repayment is made. HP agreements can be quite flexible and the rates
fairly competitive but not as good as a personal loan from the bank and the monthly payments will be
higher than a PCP. Obviously if you do not keep up with the payments then the car can be repossessed.

Personal (car loan)

Basically you already have the money for a car loaned to you by a bank or building society before you
venture forth to the car dealer. You buy the car outright and the repayments are made to the loan
company. As always it pays to shop around. One of the advantages is that the loan is not secured against
the vehicle so it‟s yours to sell when you wish and generally personal loan rates are quite favourable. If,
however, your credit rating is not so good the monthly payments may be quite high.

Car leasing

With a car lease you will usually pay a monthly sum over a two to four year term and at the end of the
agreement you simply give the car back. Think of it as a (very) extended car hire as the car never belongs
to you although some leasing some leasing companies will give you the option to buy the car at the end
of the term. This option generally only requires a small deposit and at the end of the lease you just walk
away (usually into another new car). Some people however, may not like the idea of never taking
ownership and there will be a mileage limit on the lease with charges levied for exceeding it.

Personal Contract Plans PCP

Personal contract plan (or PCP), is a similar process to hire purchase but you don‟t buy the car at the end
of the term. Instead the manufacturer/dealer works out how much the car will be worth at the end of the
term and you pay off the difference, plus interest, known as the “balloon payment” Minimum Guaranteed
Future Value (MGFV). At the end of the term you can buy the car outright, walk away or use the
difference as a deposit on your next car. PCP‟s offer lower monthly payments with maintenance charges
often included and they also have some flexibility in that if the car is worth more than the predicted value
you can sell it on; if it‟s worth less you can hand it back to the car finance company. Again there will be a
mileage limit that needs to be adhered to and although the monthly payments will be lower a PCP can
work out more expensive than HP over the full lifetime of the loan.
Some other important things to remember:

Always ask for the „total amount payable‟ to be made clear. This is the total cost to acquire the car after
all interest payments and additional fees are included. Also be aware of additional charges – such as
administration and documentation fees that can be added to the total package and increase the car
finance company‟s profits.

Most importantly be wary of taking on more credit than you can actually afford. It is never a good idea to
extend your mortgage to finance a car as you will end up paying far more in the long term. Always think
about what you can comfortably manage on your budget. Most car dealers and finance companies will
provide an online car loan calculator so you can work out the affordability and it‟s always best to build in a
comfortable “affordability cushion” in case your circumstances change.
Obviously each individual negotiation is different but we hope the above has given you some insight into
the mechanics of the car sale process. The result, in an ideal world, is that you would have just completed
a deal and would be looking forward to collecting your new car, however we don‟t live in an ideal world
and this sales process is designed, in its simplest form, for the sales person to sell you a car. As much as
you may get a really good, experienced professional who is looking at the long term and can visualise the
benefits of ensuring you have a car that suits your needs and budget, there are those who will just tell you
what you want to hear and sell you a car at any cost, financial or otherwise. So how do you counteract
this? The best way is to basically have your very own process to work to so when the choice of car has
been narrowed and the homework is done, it‟s time to let the battle commence.

You know how you will buy the car, you know what sort of car you need, you have a wish list for colour
and spec, you know the budget and what sort of all round package you need, you have a good idea of
what your existing car is worth and you have done everything possible to maximise its value.

Now you need to execute the deal and ensure that all that research and comparison work will have been
worth it.

As we‟ve said, the sales person will almost always work to a strict process which is mainly designed to
gain control of the meeting; this is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you know what is happening. It
is important to both the dealer and the manufacturer he represents, that you are dealt with properly and
professionally so giving information about yourself and your buying criteria will only be a help, and the
more information you give about your requirements will almost certainly prevent you either buying the
wrong car or paying over the odds for it and not getting a good deal.
                               A few tips when going through this process;

   Make sure you can drive the model you are interested in or at least one with the same engine.

   Make sure you have printed the description and picture of any cars you have researched on the
    internet to ensure that the specification of the car matches what is actually on it.

   Make sure that the price you have seen it advertised at is the same as the sticker price.

   Do not let the salesperson engage you in distracting conversation whilst you are examining the car.

   If it‟s a used car, ask to see all paperwork, including service history registration documents and MOT
    if appropriate.

   Take a look at the car data check (this will almost certainly show that the car is as it should be but
    always check).

   Ensure that you check the tyres for plenty of tread, remember the MOT limit is 1.6mm but on some
    cars that may only allow you to do a few thousand miles before they become illegal, so you will need
    at least 3.5mm.

   Check that the gaps between the door shuts boot and bonnet are all even and not out of alignment,
    and that all the carpets and headlining are in the condition you would expect for a car of that age and
   Ask to have the warranty explained and ask for details of what is and isn‟t covered, it is not enough
    for the sales person to tell you it‟s 'all component' like most policies there will be small print so find out
    what the exclusions are first,

   Make sure everything works, the car is test driven in the conditions you would normally use it for and
    that it is comfortable, also that if anyone else will be having extended use that they can drive it too.

   If there is anything on the car which needs to be rectified or repaired make sure it is recorded on any
    order form before signing as it will avoid any “confusion” when you come to collect.

   Make sure that anything which is agreed as part of the deal like mats or a phone kit or upgraded
    alloys etc are also included on the order form.

   Set a figure which you will be happy to pay and work to have as much as you can included in that
    figure, and if the salesperson wants to concentrate on a monthly payment which includes add ons like
    GAP insurance, paintwork protection, payment protection, alloy and tyre insurance always ask how
    that is broken down and what each policy costs outright.

   Ask what the flat rate of interest the finance is and work the figures back to give you an accurate real
    figure of what you are paying. For example if you borrow £10,000 over 3 years on hire purchase at
    5% flat that will cost you £319.50 therefore £319.50 x 36months = £11500 meaning the cost to
    borrow is £1,500 or £41.66 per month in interest. With PCP deals this is obviously a lot more
    complicated to work out but you can ask what the actual cost over the term of the deal is and work it
    back against your payment. Remember if in doubt don‟t buy the car!

   Make sure you know all the fuel consumption figures and don‟t let a salesperson close you unless the
    deal is right for you, and be prepared to walk away if it isn‟t.

   Never get too excited. If you start saying things like “this is exactly what I want” or “I have been
    looking for this exact car for ages” you will just minimise the chances of getting a better deal because
    the car salesperson will know you are hooked. However if the car actually is a rarity and you have
    been looking for a long time be prepared to pay the money to get exactly what you want.

   Make sure you find out who is in charge of the showroom and make a note of their name.

   When collecting the car check it thoroughly before even going through the paperwork or handing over
    any money.

Despite all this it is important to remember that sometimes your experience will rely solely on the quality
of the person who handles your enquiry. There really is a genuine desire among manufacturers and their
franchises to put customer care as their number 1 priority and although some people may disagree with
how that is executed there is certainly no doubting the intent.

That said we are sure there is a tendency among sales professionals to view each customer the same
and because they deal in big ticket items every day it can never have quite the same significance that it
has for the person paying for it.

Whilst we are sure that many people who have bought brand new houses could tell some horror stories
regarding the quality of the building work and the after sales back up. These events, however distressing,
will never be quite as immediate or emotive as suffering a car breaking down just after buying it or, from a
customer‟s point of view, realising they purchased a nail within a short time of having handed over their
money and left the showroom.

From our point of view, whatever a customers experience today, the will and attitude of the business as a
whole is of one which has improved immeasurably and great strides are still being made to continue that
progress. This of course is not to say it is perfect by any means because it is plainly far from it, but the
point is that most people in the motor trade now realise that to have any kind of long term profitable future
in the business treating customers properly has to be the key factor in assuring this longevity. The fact is
with all the tools now available to customers they can play a key role in insuring that car dealer‟s step up
to the mark with the service they offer, the deals on their products and their desire to keep a customer
and all his or her associates in the family of that particular franchise.

With the simple steps which we have already outlined a car buyer can regain control of their buying
situation and ensure that they buy the right car for the right price from the right dealer, and if a dealer
looks to meet their customers on this basis there is no reason why the industry cant thrive and prosper in
the coming years, despite the fact that car ownership is under pressure like never before.

We wish you the best of luck and...happy motoring!


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