I’m in my early 20's and can finally afford to buy a really cool performance car like a WRX or a Focus ST, but every time I go to the dealer for a test drive I get ignored. How can I get the salespeople to take me seriously, so I can test drive these cars and find out what I really want?
This situation happens frequently. Automakers release a performance car that is targeted towards the younger crowd, but when these buyers come to the dealerships they are not perceived as serious buyers. Recently opponaut Fractal Footwork was ignored by numerous salespeople at his local Subaru dealer when he tried to drive the new WRX.
Most salespeople are paid on commission, which means if they are not selling cars they are not making money. The problem arises because too many young people visit the dealership to try out the newest ride, but they have no intention of making a purchase or they don’t have the means to do so. I know this is true because I was guilty of it when I was in my 20s (I kinda regret that now). I’m also willing to bet a good number of you have done the same.
The secondary reason that dealers will sometimes ignore younger, performance oriented buyers has to do with inventory and profit margins. Hot hatchbacks and other sport compacts tend to have minimal markups and often dealers only get a few of these cars, so the law of “supply and demand” is in the dealer’s favor. This is why I suggested that it might be wise to wait until the hype dies down before picking up youth oriented performance car.
Are dealers “profiling” younger buyers? Well... sort of. What it comes down to is, “time is money,” and too often young visitors at the dealership are seen as a “waste of time.”
The key is to present yourself as a serious buyer. When I last wrote about “test drives,” I stressed calling ahead and making an appointment. When you schedule an appointment you can confirm that the car you want is indeed available, and make a time that is convenient for you so that you can maximize your test drive experience. Another strategy is to employ those 3rd party websites to make the dealerships come to you. While TrueCar might not always offer the best deal, if you submit an inquiry your local dealers will be hounding you in no time to come into the showroom.
If you insist on visiting a dealership without an appointment, try to avoid holiday weekends and the end of the month. These times tend to be very busy for car sales, and you might get put on the back burner. If you can, come early in the month and early in the morning. If you show up during a slow time, you might get lucky and get a gearhead salesperson who would love to show off the car’s full capability.
Also, and I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but when you show up to the dealership look presentable. You don’t have to wear a shirt and tie, but wear some clean clothes that look decent. Maybe choose and outfit that you would wear if you were going on a date.
Don’t be surprised if the dealer asks to run a credit check or even requires a loan pre-approval before handing over the keys. Again, this comes down to too many kids wanting to take joyrides with no ability to buy. So it is probably not a bad idea to get a loan pre-approval before you arrive; this also gives you financial leverage when it comes time to close the deal.
This post was originally published on July 11, 2014
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.