|The Providence Journal
How to buy your next car: 101
By Peter C.T. Elsworth
Journal Staff Writer
Buying/leasing expert Steve Hague, gives tips on getting the best deal when buying or
leasing a new car.
What’s the biggest mistake you can make when buying a new car?
Showing the salesperson how much you love it, according to Steve Hague, owner of
Professional Auto Buying Services which helps clients buy or lease cars.
“When you go on the car lot and see the car that you love, that you’ve wanted for a while,
don’t say: ‘I love it! I think it’s great!’ ” he said. “No, no, no!”
The problem with showing your emotions, he said, is that you may find yourself agreeing to
a price that is more than you really should pay, as in: “I have to spend more money, but I
guess it’s worth it.”
Instead, decide on the car you want and then establish a price you are willing to pay before
you start negotiations.
“And don’t be a payment buyer,” Hague advised, meaning someone who comes into a
showroom and immediately announces what he or she can afford. Instead, let the
salesperson initiate any talk about money.
Take the car for a drive and make sure the windows are rolled up and the radio is off,” he
said, as you want to hear the wind noise and any rattles. And be wary of the sales person
“shooting the breeze, pointing things out, asking you questions.”
“It may be just shooting the breeze, but he’s building a profile of you,” he said. “A car does
not have a price. A dealer is looking for a comfortable monthly payment and he’s going to
put you in that car for that money.”
Hague said he has always had an interest in negotiating. He has a graduate degree in
industrial management from Rhode Island College’s School of Management and
Technology and teaches a three-hour course on “How to Buy or Lease a Car.”
Under the aegis of his auto-buying company, he will also negotiate the purchase or lease
of a new car for clients for a fee of around $250. “You either love negotiating or you hate
it,” he said. “I love it and it saves my clients (who hate it) aggravation, time and most
He said he got interested in negotiating the purchase of new cars after he bought his first
car. “I was 23 years old and just out of school and thought I knew everything,” he said. “But
I made mistakes.”
“I financed the deal through the dealership, which is not always a good idea, as the
dealership is taking a percentage,” he said, adding that he also agreed to some “extras” he
He cited some extras to be wary of, including window etching, or making the car easier to
find if stolen by having all the windows etched with an identification number; fabric
protection, which “is pretty much the same thing as going to the store for a $5 can of
ScotchGuard;” and security systems, which you can get installed as such places as Best
Buy for half the price.
In addition, he mentioned fees for such services as extended warranties for the drive train
(“the base warranty is sufficient”) and dealer prep. He said that he once came across a
one called the ADM, or Additional Dealer Markup, fee. “I swear to you,” he said laughing.
Hague said a dodgy sales person might try to work higher numbers, and even go off to
“consult” with the general manager. Indeed, the general manager may make an
appearance in a “good cop, bad cop” scenario, he said. “(The general manager) may be
gruff and say: ‘There’s no way I can make that work.’ Appearing in this way makes him
appear as a higher authority, and you might find yourself going along because, ‘Gee, he’s
the general manager, it must be true,’ ” he said.
But be firm, said Hague. “Say: ‘This is the car I want, this is the price I’m going to pay.’ Say
it with confidence.”
“Remember, the most powerful thing you can do is get up and walk away,” he added. “Nine
times out of ten, dealers will not let you. They don’t want you going down the street (and
buying a car from someone else).”
In general, Hague advised would-be buyers to do their homework, making sure their credit
history has no surprises and researching the real cost of the car and thus what is a
reasonable markup for the dealer. He said the sticker price, or manufacturer’s suggested
retail price, may be a few thousand dollars more than the cost to the dealer.
“Have a good idea what the cost to the dealer is,” he said, adding that Edmunds.com was a
good start. “Ask the dealer to send you the invoice on the car. (He or she) may be
reluctant, but it will give you the cost.”
Regarding leasing, Hague said it was good for “people who do not drive a lot and like to
have a new car every three or four years,” but warned that you would have to abide by the
restrictions to avoid heavy penalties. “If you’re planning to keep a car, it’s not the way to
go,” he said.
And as for buying a used car, Hague said that while you can find out values from such
sources as Kelly’s Blue Book, the best thing to do is to take it to your local mechanic. He
said the dealer should be able to put temporary plates on the car so you can drive it for a
couple of days.
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