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How Older Car Shoppers Can Get the Best Deal

And five car-buying myths you need to know

By Bart Astor

As an older car buyer, just walking into a car dealership gives me a feeling of dread: I feel like I’m going to be taken in by a slick salesperson, tricked into buying something I don’t want and into spending more than what I want to pay. Maybe you feel this way too.

Edison Van Vlimmeren, a sales associate with Dulles Motor Cars in Leesburg, Va., insists that older car buyers aren’t viewed as pushovers anymore. “The days when car salesmen looked at older car buyers as easy marks are long gone,” he said.

Why Some Car Salespeople Like Older Buyers

In fact, he told me, showroom salespeople often look forward to working with older buyers because these customers are usually better able than younger ones to qualify for financing. (Dealers love to sell car loans, since they’re a profit source). Older auto shoppers, Van Vlimmeren noted, also tend to display more loyalty than younger ones. That’s something every sales associate cherishes, because loyalty leads to referrals.

That’s not to say that sales associates won’t try to convince you to pull the trigger or steer you toward a particular car or option.

Luis Sanchez, a sales associate at Napleton Northlake Kia in West Palm Beach, Fla., confessed that he has a mixed reaction when he sees someone a bit older walk into the showroom. Older car buyers, Sanchez said, “can be difficult to work with. And, at least here in Florida, they don’t have a good idea of what they want or what’s available.” They don’t do their homework and are shocked by the prices of options, he added.

The Error of Lumping Older Customers Together

Joe Coughlin, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab and author of The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market, thinks it’s a mistake for car salespeople — or anyone in business — to broadly lump all older shoppers together. But it happens often.

“When most people picture ‘the old,’ a specific impression usually comes to mind… this group is often seen as a singular, homogenous population,” Coughlin wrote. “Yet as most of us know, those of us 50+ are anything but homogenous.”

Stereotypes or no, it’s essential to do your research about car prices and options before you walk into a showroom. You’ll get the best deal that way and will likely walk out paying at, or below, the invoice price (that’s typically what the dealership initially pays for the car). When I started looking for a Kia recently, following Van Vlimmeren’s advice on how to do my research, I was given a figure that was less than the invoice price. Here’s how you can, too:

Continue reading at Next Avenue...


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