SOURCE: We visited a series of Honda New-Used Car dealerships within the New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut Tri-state area in search of the most stress free vehicle purchasing experience. With our specific year, make, model, and budget, we were ready to make a deal. Samuel K. Burlum shares what he did to get the most out of the buying experience and dealership relationship. 

As a driver and vehicle owner for well over 25+ years, I have always been fascinated by how much value and usage I seem to get out of a well serviced used vehicle. As an early driver, I never had the luxury of borrowing my parent’s vehicle, or a friend’s car; so I had to be my own best guarantee, making sure I was getting the most out of every vehicle purchase I made. With having well over a million miles logged behind the wheel, I have own and driven a number of vehicles, with all sorts of high's and lows of experiences as a vehicle owner and operator. What I have found is the journey all starts with the actual vehicle purchase experience. 

Here are some of the practices that I have managed to maximize my vehicle purchasing experience, thus getting the most value for your money.

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For this case study, I set out to find and purchase the lowest mile driven 2004 Honda Accord, for under the price of $10,000. So I bet your wondering, “Of all of the vehicles to choose from, why a 2004 Honda Accord?” For many reasons: the Honda Accord is one of the most popular vehicles on the roads today; are known to surpass a life span of 300k miles when properly maintained; have a great resale value; and the 2004 Honda Accord has been known as a year that offered some of the best fuel economy ratings for the vehicle model itself. This was important to me, because I usually drive a vehicle until it has between 250k to 300k miles on it. 

Purchasing a vehicle can be stressful. The internet has relieved some of the hassles such as price haggling, vehicle ownership history information, and availability. However when you do find that perfect used car, you still have to engage into the purchasing process. 

When I found the exact vehicle I desired, I called the night before my visiting the dealership, and made an appointment. This provides you an opportunity to have the vehicle held for being sold for a 24 hour period of your call. The next morning I arrived at the Honda dealership. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a smiling and polite Larry, the Sales representative.  He already knew my name, the vehicle I wanted, and had the vehicle ready for test drive.

When we sat down in the office, he provided all the documents about the car: Carfax report, vehicle service records, vehicle history, a vehicle frame inspection, and even the latest work order of items addressed prior the vehicle listed for sale. The vehicle had already been discounted prior to our arrival. There was no hassle, haggling, stress, or sales pitch. The experience was all about transparency and getting know the client and their needs. Larry made sure the vehicle would be ready for pick-up upon our arrival that afternoon.

The sales manager who shared with their policy and procedures of their internal, used vehicle selection service. After our interaction, I felt great knowing that they, the staff and the dealership, put such care into every vehicle and client. At the end, they asked if we would provide an online review about our experience. 

Finally I found a car dealership that understood the value of service without the hassle. What we ended up with was our desired 2004 Honda Accord, with just over 60,000 miles on it for the price of $8953 (before taxes and tags); fully serviced and certified. So you ask “How did I get the exact vehicle I desired with $1000 to spare?” Here is what I did:

I did my research. I utilized online resources Kelly Blue Book, Auto Trader, Cars.com, to get information on the vehicles, pricing, options, and their locations; compared them; narrowed the list down to vehicles that had the exact options I desired. You can also compare prices with car sales organizations as Car Max. 

I made appointments ahead of time. I made sure the vehicles were still available before showing up at the dealer. I spoke with the sales manager ahead of time to inform him that I planned to purchase the vehicle with cash and financing was not necessary. I let them also know that in the event I was satisfied with the vehicle, I would be fully prepared to conclude the transaction the same day.

Stuck to the budget and paid cash. I did not let the upsell distract me from sticking to the budget. At the end, I came home with money still in my pocket because I stuck to my  budget. Paying cash, usually means that you have all the money you need to make the purchase, always gives you an advantage, since the dealer does not have the hassle of having to secure financing on your behalf. It’s a good opportunity for a dealer to get inventory off the lot, without the extra expense.

Know thy vehicle. I asked for the following information: Carfax, service records if available, location which vehicle was first sold when new, and a list of the dealer’s work order-list of prep work for resale. I thoroughly inspected the vehicle myself, looking for worn out parts, areas of repaint on the body, and test drove the vehicle.

Spoke with mechanic who serviced the vehicle. Mechanics usually will share their opinion about vehicle brands; why they like a vehicle model over another. If they had serviced the vehicle, then they are a first source of information to explain what work had been done to the vehicle previous to the car being resold. I was lucky in this case the vehicle was first purchased, serviced and resold by the same dealer.

I asked for extras. I asked for other concessions. I asked for an extended warrantee at no cost (even if it was an aftermarket warrantee); a vehicle prep and detail, second key, small details that add up.

I was willing to walk away. There is an old saying, “the one who can afford to walk way has the most to win.” Remember this was not a vehicle I had to have; it was one I liked to have. Since the vehicle was older and not many people are looking for a 10 year old car, the dealer did all they could to satisfy my request.

I treated dealership staff respectfully. I stayed pleasant, joyful, and polite. I did not put any pressure on the sales representative with time restrictions, nor did I complain about how long it took to complete the paperwork. I got to know the sales representative. What school did he attend, his favorite vehicle, and other questions. With the pressure off, the sales representative had us out the door and back on the road in record time.

Understand that you will get what you pay for. When it comes to new cars, early market adopters  that get the latest model year off showroom floor, are paying to be the "first ones," however in the car business, waiting is an advantage. If you must have the new car, it is better to wait to for the model year end clearance, when dealers want to shuffle models off the lot to make way for new models.

When it comes to a good used pre-owned vehicle, you need to expect to pay for a quality used vehicle. The lower the price, the higher the number of miles on the vehicle and more wear and tear a vehicle will have. What I found is that the median range for a quality used vehicle sits around 60k-80k thousand miles, no more than five years old, in a price range of $10k to $15 is the sweet spot for purchasing a quality used vehicle with relative value to it, especially if you plan keep the vehicle for a few hundred thousand miles. 

Remember to enjoy the experience. If your like me, it might be a while before you head back to the car dealership for another vehicle.