Houston is a car buyer’s dream, boasting hundreds of dealerships in the 10-county region, with many offering extra features and attractive interest rates due to the competition, says Steve McDowell, president of InfoNation, a Houston-based company that publishes TexAuto Facts, a provider of data on the Texas auto industry. Shoppers should start by doing research on the Internet by visiting Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book and other websites, McDowell suggests. These sites often combine raw data and expert opinions to help buyers develop an informed point of view before they ever step foot onto a dealership or car lot. But remember, if you live in the city, going to a suburban dealership doesn’t necessarily save you additional money anymore, so save yourself the haul and shop close by, he says. Here are some tips:
Do Your Homework
“In general, if you’re knowledgeable, it almost doesn’t matter where you shop,” he says. “The Internet has leveled the playing field since the market now is very much influenced by it. Almost all knowledgeable buyers can go online and find out what they ought to pay.” With that said, Houstonians should keep an eye out for incentives from manufacturers, such as zero-percent interest rates and rebates, because these can lower the total cost of the vehicle, McDowell says. “It’s a booming market,” he says. “You can really benefit from very competitive pricing in Houston.” The Houston auto market is competitive across nearly all brands and it’s now in a “healthy” period for dealers, which translates to a good market for buyers too, he says. “When dealers are financially healthy, they are able to maintain a large inventory,” McDowell says. “You have dealers who want to move the merchandise so their costs can come down. Houston is a great place for consumers. Dealers want to move those vehicles.” Once consumers are armed with information about the kind of vehicle they want to purchase, they should be prepared to negotiate, since cars are one of the few items that consumers can “wheel and deal on these days,” says Jack Nerad, executive market analyst and executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. Qualified buyers with good credit are still rare commodities, which gives them an added advantage, he says.
How to Negotiate
Dealers always want to make a sale, so if you feel pressured, simply walk out, Nerad says. Or, if you want to skip the back and forth of haggling, email three to five dealers and tell them specifically what features you want in a car, how much you are willing to pay and wait for their offers, he says. “The best time of the week to go is when you have done the research, feel refreshed and are willing to take the time to negotiate,” he says. “It’s more important that you are in a good mental place to make a deal. You should be prepared. It doesn’t have to be a battle because the dealer wants to save time, too,” he says. Social media networks are also a good place to find deals. Some dealers offer incentives only found on networks such as BoostUp,a social-savings platform. In Houston, four dealers offer cash incentives of $100 to $500 off new vehicle purchases for BoostUp members. The offers from dealers typically last six months to one year, giving consumers time to save for a larger down payment when they purchase a new vehicle, says John Morgan, CEO of BoostUp. By preparing before you enter a dealership, you’re one step closer to purchasing a car on your own terms.