As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing avoiding the finance office, inspecting “certified” cars, and when ridesharing makes more sense than owning.

First up, is it possible to buy a car from a dealer and avoid all the pitches from the finance office?

Is it possible to negotiate a deal on-line then ask that the dealer prepare an invoice reflecting that deal, then show up, with financing in hand, and avoid the whole finance guy thing?

This is certainly doable. When you are negotiating the deal, tell the dealer you are bringing your own financing and to structure everything based on a “cash deal.” Inform them you will need a copy of the purchase order or deal sheet, so you can take that to your bank and have a check cut for the correct amount. You show up with this check and the dealer is very likely not going to bother with the pitch for the warranty or service plan because that’s all the money you are bringing.

While being a cash buyer is empowering in this way, it might not be the most advantageous path. As I discussed in a previous post, sometimes there are rebates and additional discounts for using the manufacturer’s financing, and often local banks and credit unions can’t touch low APR specials. So don’t leave money on the table or take a higher interest rate just because you don’t want to finance with the dealer.

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If you do finance with the dealership and don’t want to get into a back and forth with the finance person offering all kinds of extras, there is a way to handle that. When they start their pitch, just calmly say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, and I realize you need to offer these things, but I’m only interested in buying the car today and nothing else.”

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Usually they will get the hint, if they don’t your next move is to say “I really need to wrap this deal up quickly as I have an (appointment, event, family function) to attend to, if you can get through this paperwork quickly, I’ll be sure to give your dealer high marks on the survey.” 

If neither of those lines work, every time the person pitches you something just say “not interested.” Don’t go back and forth, don’t debate it, just hold your ground. They can’t make you buy anything, but be sure to check your purchase agreement for any warranty and service add-ons that were not discussed.

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Next up, should you still get a car that is “certified” inspected?

When going the pre-owned route, when should I insist on getting an independent inspection before purchase? It would seem obvious in something like a Craigslist sale. But what about a pre owned off a dealers lot or when the dealer has a certified pre-owned vehicle? I would hesitate in the latter situation as I would feel like I’m calling them out to be a liar. But at the same time I feel like I should be doing my own due diligence and not taking anyone’s word for it on such a big purchase.

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First of all, don’t worry about the dealer’s “feelings” in thinking you are calling them a liar. While some dealers have gotten better and are honest operations, far too many are still operating on an old mindset where deception is the best way to sell. Inspecting a certified pre-owned car is a case by case basis. It is never a bad idea to inspect a certified car, but it might not always be critical. If it’s a very low mile example, and you can test drive it before you buy, you may have enough confidence in the car to forgo the inspection. If you are buying a car from a distance, and/or the car has some age and miles on it, the inspection could be worthwhile.

I recently helped a client in California purchase a CPO BMW 3 series wagon from a dealer in PA. Despite the fact that the car was BMW certified they got it inspected anyway. We found a local shop near the dealer who found that the brakes had a serious vibration when slowing down from higher speeds. After some back and forth with the dealer, they agreed to address the brake issue prior to sale. Even if a car undergoes a “certification” process, sometimes things get missed.

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Lastly: does it make more sense for someone to switch to Uber or Lyft if they don’t drive very much?

I drive 4,000 annually and turning in my leased car 1/20. My friends are telling me to use uber instead of getting another car. I am 67, live in a senior community who offers buses, but they don’t go everywhere. I like having my own car, but I don’t want to waste money.

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Often when people reduce their vehicle usage it may make more sense to just rely on ride-share platforms to get around, especially if other means of affordable transportation are available. In this instance there are two ways to look at this, the first is to examine the cost, think about how many trips you may do every month using rideshare and estimate the total cost. If that number is significantly less than the lease payment, this could be an opportunity to save some money. Of course, if that number is close to your current lease payment, it’s probably better to continue with your lease.

The other way to look at this is to determine which lifestyle makes you feel better. There is a freedom in having your own car and being able to go where you want when you want. If you use your car to drive long distances to see family, ride-share isn’t really optimized for that kind of travel. Furthermore, getting into a car with a stranger has an element of risk to it. If you like having a car and you aren’t burdened by the payments, another lease is likely the best path.

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Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!