ASK AN EXPERT - Buying a car
In the great white north, in the lands of snow, long nights, wildlings, and white walkers, you need a car. It’s a massive purchase with a lot of stress attached to the buying process. Features, horsepower, the number and size of cup holders, buyers have so many questions about the whole thing. Scene PG supernatural correspondent Gobby McGobface seeks the truth!
Robbie Antoine moved to Prince George from Saik’uz First Nation which is located about 107 km’s west of town; born and raised there, He attended Nechako Valley Secondary School. Always getting in trouble in school for talking and being “too social”, car sales seemed like a great fit! Robbie joined the Northland Auto Group 5 years ago, moving to Northland Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in December 2015. His love for cars and taking care of customers has made him a stand out salesperson with a reputation of integrity. Gobby cornered Robbie to get some answers!
Q: I’m not a Time Lord—I don’t have all weekend. Why does it appear to take forever to purchase a car?
R: Usually one of two things is going on — or maybe both: You're shopping on a weekend or you may not have all the documents and information you need to purchase a vehicle.
Foot traffic, or “Up’s”, at automotive dealerships are lowest on Tuesday’s and peak on the weekends when most people have their days off. While there may be plenty of Sales Representatives on the floor, 20 to be exact, the bottleneck typically occurs at the finance and insurance office (also known as “the box” — we'll talk more about that later).
In the finance office, a manager will offer an extended warranty or other products and, of course, this is where you'll sign the sales documents. There are fewer Finance Managers than Sales Reps and each customer might be talking to one of the Finance Managers for average 30 minutes or so. While all this is going on, your new car is being cleaned up by our wash bay, gassed up and prepped for final delivery. If that process doesn't sync up exactly, you might have to wait a while longer for the car to be ready.
The other thing that takes time is, obviously, the deal itself. The average vehicle sale takes about four hours. Yes, it's a long time, and that's because there are a lot of pieces to it. You need to select a vehicle or “land on one”, test drive it, have your vehicle appraised that you’re trading in and figure out your buyout, agree on a price of the new vehicle you want to buy now, then pull your credit and get the loan approved. All of this takes time. If you forget a key piece of the paperwork, the deal comes to a halt. So, make sure you have the list below ready to go!
Void Cheque or Pre-Authorized Debt Form: You can get this from your bank or in some cases online. This is used by the bank for your payments to come out of your bank account. Biweekly, semi-monthly or even monthly loans can now be customized to fit your needs.
Driver license: You have to drive the car off the lot, so the dealer needs to know that you are a legally registered driver. The driver license also serves as identification for your cheque or other form of payment.
Registration for your trade-in vehicle: If you are trading in a vehicle, you will need proof that you own it. The Registration, sometimes called the "The Regi" shows that you are the owner.
Proof of Insurance: To drive a new vehicle off the lot, you need to prove you have insurance on that vehicle. You can call ahead and set up the new insurance policy if you know which vehicle you are purchasing.
Buyout amount: If you are trading in a vehicle that has an unpaid loan, you will need to bring the loan's amount in. Better yet, call the lender yourself and explain that you are trading in the vehicle and ask for them to email or fax you a buyout amount.
Q: I’m obviously important; I own a train. Why can’t they just give me the best possible deal?
R: It goes against one of the big rules of negotiating. If the Sales Rep did give you his best price, one of two things would happen: You would take that price to another dealer and ask them to beat it, or you wouldn't trust the first price and you'd ask for something even lower.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with comparing quotes or with healthy skepticism, but you can see why the dealer is hesitant to show all his cards at once.
That said, we are one of the biggest Auto Groups in Canada being a part of Auto Canada which means we are bucking the trend and offering a very competitive price upfront, so the tide may be changing.
Q: What’s going on when the Sales Rep takes the deal to the Sales Manager? I assume something involving The Force.
R: Most Sales Representatives aren't authorized to make deal decisions, such as determining a trade-in value or discounting the price of a vehicle on their own. They usually have to take a trip over to the Sales Manager (a process that's known as "visiting the tower").
Having 20 Sales Reps at Northland Dodge, more than likely the Sales Manager may be working out terms for other deals at the same time as yours. If you're shopping during peak hours, those deal discussions are stacking up like air traffic at Los Angeles International Airport.
Even if you are the only customer in the dealership, there is still no guarantee you'll be able to get a deal offer in a flash. If you're taking out a loan, the Sales Manager might have to run your credit to get your credit score. He'll call the Finance Department to get your interest rate, and then look up specials and incentives on the vehicle to make sure you're getting the right program offer for the right vehicle. Sometimes it takes a while to get all the information together.
Q: Don't dealers make a literal ton of money on every new car, giant bags of cash with dollar signs on them?
R: Maybe in days past, but certainly not now. Some new cars, like the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200, may have less than $500 profit for the dealership when they are sold at full sticker price, which makes it tough to make enough to keep the lights on! And most shoppers don't pay full sticker! These days, most dealerships work off of a volume based goal which means the more units they can sell the bigger, the bonus on most units. For sales, we get paid a flat (minimum) of $250; in some stores, it’s less! So, the days of Sales Reps making “a ton” of money is tough.
Q: I get the feeling the employees of the Finance Department are terminators working for Skynet. Who are they?
R: Think of the employees of a nice restaurant: You have waiters, bartenders, and chefs and all do their own special job. And for the most part, they do that job only. Many dealerships use this same technique. They delegate different parts of the vehicle deal to different parts of the staff.
Most dealerships are firm believers in this kind of specialization. One group of people (Sales Reps) demonstrates the vehicle. Another group (Sales Managers) works out the sales price, trade-in values and calculate payments. A third group ties up the loose ends of a deal and does the final paperwork. That's the F&I Department.
These people have the task of making sure all the appropriate legal and deal documents are signed and sent to the right place. F&I employees are also the people dealerships usually use to get loans approved. On top of that, this is the group who double-checks the information that the Sales Rep collected. You don't want your name misspelled on your vehicle's loan or registration.
F&I people also sell extra products for your vehicle, like extended warranties and protection packages, which we usually recommend because in Prince George we know what our roads are like and these products only extended the life of your vehicle and keep in looking great!