It was my intention to start of this Money $aving Monday column with my first posted vlog, but I’m still anxiously awaiting the delivery of my Flip Mino camera – so it’s going to have to be an old-fashioned, still-the-norm text blog.
So I thought about it and decided to start big in a different way.
Most money-saving tips center around little increments that add up to big savings. But sometimes we have to make big purchases – like houses, cars, appliances – and there’s no reason not to save there as well.
Today’s tip is about Edmunds.com and is for those of you considering the purchase of a car in the U.S.
Whether used or new, before you sign on the dotted line, you should have done your homework on Edmunds.com first.
Yes, I know. You’re the sort of person who has gone to the trouble of looking up the Blue Book value of the car and think that you’re fairly successful at getting that salesguy down to the best price.
But take it from me, spending a little time and effort on Edmunds.com can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in both price, and problems down the line.
I know, because I used it to buy my last car.
One of the most important features at Edmunds.com is the ability to find out what a car, new or used, is really going for in your neck of the woods. As it says at the top of Edmunds.com they “provide(s) True Market ValueSM pricing, unbiased car reviews, ratings, and expert advice to help you get a fair deal.”
What does that mean? Well, it means that you can find out what the value of a car is in your area, with the options you want, based on real sales. Trust me – that can be huge. If you know that cars in your area are going below dealer invoice, you can save a lot when it comes down to negotiating a price.
The feature I like most though is the ability to compare cars of a certain type from different manufacturers.
When it came time to buy our last car, I knew I wanted a smaller-sized SUV. I didn’t want to pay over $25k. I wanted certain features.
I went to Edmunds.com and put in SUV, under $25k – then sorted by User ratings above 8. (You can sort by editorial ratings or user ratings which occasionally differ. I trust the folks who bought the car.) Then I went thru and selected my top choice and got to see what different “variations” that came in.
Since everything comes in mysterious LX, EX, ES, and other acronymic styles – it can get a bit confusing when you’re trying to figure out what the difference is. But here, you can just roll over the different styles and find out what they really mean and what the base price of each is. Don’t want to pay $4k more for leather seats and a sunroof? Then you know which one to select.
After you’ve chosen options – you can then add up to 4 other make/model cars to compare it to – selecting the ‘styles’ the same way you did before – so you’re not necessarily comparing apples and oranges.
The comparison feature is huge. Pretty much every category you can think of – and some that wouldn’t occur to you – are shown.
After you’ve spent several hours putting in different combinations (trust me, it’s kind of addictive) you can narrow down your list. Then armed with the True Market Value price supplied by Edmunds.com in a printable form – you can head off for your test drives 10 times more informed than the sales guy as to how it stacks up against the competition.
When I shopped, I had the top 5 make/models in the class I wanted. I knew the differences between them. I went to each dealership and test drove them, explaining to the salesguys that I wouldn’t be buying at that point, but would come back and buy the car I selected 2 days later, and if I did so, I promised to buy from them. Only one guy had an issue with that and kept trying to give me a hardsell. Eventually switching to GeekDaddy trying to pressure him into ‘helping the little lady decide.’ (Yeah, GeekDaddy laughed directly at him and said ‘you’re pitching to the wrong guy… try the lady behind you with all of the printouts. She’s buying the car.’)
In the end, I did buy the car I wanted, from the same salesguy I test drove it with, for $3k less than I would’ve if I hadn’t done my research at Edmunds.com. Their tips on negotiating, the TMV printout, and the confidence that comes from knowing I was fully-informed enabled me to bargain in a way I wouldn’t have before that.
If you do end up using Edmunds.com at some point? Let me know what you think. I’ve referred several friends there and every one of them has told me it saved them money. I hope if you’re in the market for a car in the near future, it does the same for you!