I needed a new car. But I didn’t have time to sit at my desk researching on my computer, or at least, not enough time. I had ‘idle time’ waiting in the school pick up line, on the train to NYC, or waiting for my breakfast to microwave—time I usually spent on Facebook—but I needed a car, so idle time became shopping time.
Reason No. 1 This Strategy Rocked: Shopping On My Own Time
I downloaded a some apps to my phone that would help me find a car. AutoTrader, Cars.com and Kelley Blue Book were the most helpful; I also looked at Craigslist and Facebook’s Marketplace. I found that most dealers list all their models on every site, so it was really the app’s function that mattered more than anything else. In the end, it was AutoTrader that I used the most. I played with the app settings to look at different models, prices and dealers, and pretty soon I knew the location and price of every possible car for me within a 50 mile radius. And then, it was Christmas. We planned to drive to Florida, stopping through North Carolina to visit family. This gave my car shopping a whole new light. Perhaps I’d find a better deal on a car in Virginia? Or Florida? Or Georgia? I could test drive cars in New Jersey and Delaware and I could pit one dealer against another seven states away. Before hitting the road we went out to some local dealers and test drove a number of cars just to ensure that the car I’d identified as my perfect model was in fact what I wanted.
Reason No. 2 This Strategy Rocked: No Dealer Nonsense When we got to the first dealer in Darien, CT, I went into the showroom, asked to take a test drive and was assigned a salesman. I’d like to drive the 2009 535 i, I told him. The Silver one. He was a bit surprised. He asked a few questions and quickly realized I’d narrowed down my search and in fact, he had only one model on the lot that met my criteria. We drove it, it wasn’t perfect, and we moved on. He didn’t call me to try to sell me something else, and neither did any of the other salesmen we met. We visited several other dealers over the weekend and by the time we left for Florida I knew exactly the model I was hunting for: a 2008 or 2009 BMW 335i 6 speed. I liked it in Monaco blue, but was flexible on the color. As my husband drove to Florida, I searched. I found a few, even one in Monaco blue in Baltimore. I scheduled test drives, searched more, and pretty soon had an itinerary of cars to see. Besides the one in Baltimore, there were four in Charlotte, one in Atlanta, one in Jacksonville, and several in New Jersey.
Reason No. 3 This Strategy Rocked: Power In Your Hand Once I found a potential car, I had to vet it. Several apps made this really easy. First, Carfax is a must for used or pre-owned cars. Most dealers have a current Carfax on all their inventory (if not, you should be suspicious). This is usually part of the listing and I was able to read them on my phone. If you’re dealing with a private seller, you can buy a report; you get reports on up to 5 VINs for $45. One caveat: some buyers have reported that not all history shows up on the Carfax, so while it’s a good check, it’s not a guarantee. I also found Car and Driver’s Buyers Guide to be a helpful resource when I needed to know what other reviewers had to say about the car or if I needed specific information about a model. The next app I found essential was Yelp. I could check dealer reviews and see what people had to say about the dealer and the buying experience. I tend to believe that dealers with lots of reviews, both good and bad, are probably more accurate in balance; unhappy customers go out of their way to detail their experiences, and sometimes even happy customers do, too. And of course, Google reviews were helpful, too.
Reason No. 4 This Strategy Rocked: Price Negotiation Once I found the car I wanted, it was time to negotiate price. Between AutoTrader, KBB and Cars.com, I knew what dealers and sellers all over were asking for the car I wanted. With Carfax I knew the car’s history, and it also gave me a fair market value for the car. So when it came time to talk about price, I was armed with some good information.
Reason No. 5 This Strategy Rocked: Pre-Sale Inspection It’s always advised that if you buy a used car that you have a mechanic check it over before you buy it. But we were in Baltimore; I didn’t know anyone there at all, so how could I find a good mechanic? Google. I searched for BMW mechanics, found a forum for them and narrowed it down to a couple who were near the dealer showroom. Finally, I used my phone to make a call: I called the mechanic to see if he could do a pre-sale inspection of the car. He was happy to, and pretty soon my new car was in his shop being inspected. Not long ago I attended a conference and one of the panelists in a session told the story of how she renovated her house with her iPhone. The audience gasped. How could that be possible? But there in the back of the room, I nodded and smiled. Because I got it. I bought my car with my iPhone.