For most Americans, a new vehicle represents the second largest purchase they'll ever make, right behind a home purchase. So it's no surprise that the process of buying a vehicle is nerve-wracking at best, harrowing at worst. Because SUVs are generally bigger and sometimes more expensive than most cars, it can be even harder to get through the experience with your wits intact. I've got some advice that can help make buying a new SUV a little easier.
The best way to avoid fear of the unknown is to gather information. The more you know about your choice of SUV, the less unknowns there will be to fear.
Examine Your Needs
Why do you want to buy an SUV? How will you use it? How many passengers will you carry on a regular basis? How much cargo? Do you have pets who need space? When you answer these questions for yourself, you'll be on the road to matching an SUV to your needs.
Be Honest About Your Desires
You may not need a big luxury SUV -- it's still okay to want one. Just be aware of your desire, and be honest with yourself before you go to shop. If brand status is important to you, figure that out ahead of time. You may be willing to spend more money for a premium brand to impress your neighbors and colleagues. Make that part of the equation, and budget accordingly. If you don't care about status, your options may be broader.
Don't step into a dealership until you have determined exactly how much you can afford to spend on a new SUV. Be sure that you have accounted for all of the new costs a new SUV can bring -- insurance rates, fuel charges, taxes and licensing, etc.
Arrange Your Financing
Paying cash for a new SUV is a great way to get leverage at the dealership, but most of us have to finance our purchase and pay on time. If you go to your bank or credit union ahead of time and get qualified for a new SUV loan, you'll be able to walk into the dealership ready to buy. You'll already know what rate you'll be paying, a range of monthly payments, and how much you'll have to put down to make the loan work. Arranging financing for buyers is a source of income for dealerships -- they don't have your interests at heart, and won't help you get the best rate. Take the power out of their hands, and arrange your financing yourself.
Take Care of Your Trade-In
One of the biggest variables in the process of buying a new SUV is your old car or SUV. Take it out of the equation, and sell it yourself. Don't trade it in -- you're just giving the dealer another way to make a profit off of the transaction.
Bring Some Support
Do you have a friend who is a great negotiator? Bring him or her with you to the dealership, and use them as a sounding board during the process. It's sometimes easier to resist the hard sell at a dealership if you're not all alone.
Take Your Time and Be Patient
This applies on several fronts. Don't rush into the decision to buy, and don't let yourself be rushed through the process. If you need time to think, take time. Schedule a good block of time to test drive SUVs, and then expect to spend lots of time at the dealership negotiating your price and doing paperwork. If there are specific things that you want, a specific color/interior combination that you have decided on and the dealer doesn't have it in stock, be willing to wait for your exact vehicle to arrive in stock.
Salesmen Are People, Too
Car salesmen get a bad rap -- they don't all live up to the stereotype. Treat your salesman with respect and humanity, and you may be surprised at how well you get treated in return.
Try to Have Some Fun
Even with all of the anxiety, the pressure and the intensity that the SUV buying experience can bring, there's a lot to enjoy. You get to drive new SUVs, you get to learn about them, you get to meet people who are interested in SUVs, and at the end of the day, you get a brand new SUV in your driveway. Make the process a positive one for yourself, and you'll get to relive it a little every day when you open the door and turn the key in the ignition.