OP/ED: Ladies, If You're Looking, It's A Car Buyers Market, So Please Read Carefully

By: Ruben Borjas, Jr., Columnist, Montgomery County News
| Published 06/19/2024


MONTGOMERY, TX -- I just recently bought a gently used car. I was gonna buy brand new, but the body style on the Lexus RX 350 that I wanted wasn’t in the cards. The 2021 style I liked, and thankfully I found one with low mileage that was taken good care of by a senior citizen in Florida. Truly, I felt driving the car home that I had purchased a brand new vehicle. I not gonna get into the purchase price of the car nor the details of the sale, but I did study a lot of the YouTube channels who discussed new and used cars and the market as a whole, and the advantages that car dealers took during pandemic times when people were paying an over MSRP price points to get used cars that they wanted. Times have changed, and we are in a buyers market now.

I started my car search early this year, and took my time. I hadn’t bought a car since 2012 so I was out of practice, and decided to search good ‘ol YouTube. Surprisingly; there are some pretty good channels that are dedicated to helping potential car buyers to navigate the pitfalls associated with dealing with car salesmen that may not be on the up and up when selling you a vehicle. I learned a tremendous amount, which gave me growing confidence as the year progressed, and during that time, I thought about writing a column, at least for the widowed or divorced ladies, so they can be aware of the tactics used, but of course everyone should be made available.

The chip shortage of the pandemic era sparked a race for used cars, and that of course made the prices more expensive in the competition for stock amongst the sellers. They were racking it in during Covid times, but now with the economy under Joe Biden, with $20 Big Mac meals, and uncertainties with the middle-class being squeezed with jobs, their hard-earned dollar is not going as far as it did under President Donald Trump.

Gone are the days when new car manufacturers were clamoring for chips to get cars on the showroom floor. Nowadays, even Toyota is feeling the pinch a bit with shifting household budget policies, but it’s also other manufacturers who have overbuilt truck models with dealer add-ons that raise eyebrows with prices north of $100K. And with the avoidance of building midsize trucks which many dealerships have been lacking, it makes you wonder who the auto manufacturers are looking to for common sense in production. Do they even have marketing teams interviewing potential buyers on what vehicles they prefer? Many dealerships are not yielding on prices, and with 2025 models coming online, some markets across the country are still dealing with new 2022 models that have been sitting around causing ‘lot rot,’ with tires that are more than likely flat-spotted, and have who knows how many other issues with vehicles that have been sitting over 500 days on a car lot waiting for owners.

If you are looking for a new vehicle today you are better off selling your trade-in yourself, and using those funds towards the purchase of your next vehicle. Dealerships are starting to send used stock to auto auctions to make room for 2025 models, which in their own right the newer vehicles will be spending well over a year on a dealers lot. So the trade-in values may not be what you are expecting if you go the dealer route.

The auto YouTube influencers I follow are stunned. They are predicting a collapse of the used car market, and some are predicting Stallantis, which oversees Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram, with lots full of new 2022, 2023s, 2024’s, ready to go, with 2025 models soon to arrive. Well, it's gonna be a ‘bloodbath.’ And incredibly, new vehicles on dealer lots are being repossessed at an increasing rate. It may not be so prevalent in Republican states, but in Democrat states it's a growing occurrence.

So even before you go into a dealership, do your homework, or due diligence. First, make sure you can afford a vehicle, and call your insurance agent to see if the cost of your coverage will change. If you are gonna finance, check with your bank or credit union, which generally has better terms than dealer financing departments. Get the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, and check the book value of the car on one of a website that specializes in car values. And research local dealers, and have their names on your tongue when discussing price with a salesman.

Learn what sales terms mean, and inspect the vehicle carefully. A vehicle history report is a must to understand about maintenance or being the scenes stuff that the car or truck may have encountered. If you know someone who is a mechanic, ask them for their opinion.

When negotiating a price, be aware of dealer mark-ups, or aftermarket add-ons. This is the time you have to be strong, and if you have to use your feet to get out of there, do it. Dealers will add things to the vehicle, and come up with crazy fees just to soak unsuspecting buyers out of hard earned money. You do not have to pay for them. Stand up while standing your ground on mark-ups.

Required fees of course include sales tax: 6.25% of the total vehicle purchase price, title transfer fee: $28 to $33 (varies by county), and tag/license fee: $50.75 base fee, $10 local fee. Others may include a transfer registration fee: $2.50, and still more fees involving new residents, and emissions. Dealers can charge what they want on Documentation Fees, so call around to find a happy medium but $150 appears to be the average across Texas.

The important thing about negotiating the price is your resolve. This is the time not to be nice. Don’t cave on your walkout price which should include the required taxes and fees. If a salesman goes to ask his sales manager about your requests, head to the front door with keys in-hand. Make the salesman search for you, because they are more than likely desperate now to sell a car, even in the earlier parts of the month.

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