You’ve researched the make and model you want in your next vehicle. You’ve calculated what you can afford each month for your new auto loan. You’ve found a dealership you trust to make the sale happen. It’s finally time. You drive up to the dealership, full of excitement.
You’ve put in the work on the front end, so driving off the lot with your new car should be a breeze, right?
Well, not exactly.
Most car buyers—even those who come prepared—spend several hours at the dealership when they’re ready to seal the deal.
In order to avoid getting frustrated over the time you’ll spend at the dealership, read on to learn what to expect when buying a car and why the process won’t be over in a matter of minutes.
Step 1 in Buying a Vehicle at a Dealership: Test Drive
The test drive isn’t just a joy ride; it’s a chance to get a feel for your vehicle before signing on the dotted line. Let a salesperson you trust go over the features you’re getting, such as an updated navigation or stereo system, enhanced safety features, or excellent fuel efficiency.
This step can take up to an hour, and you don’t want to rush it. Make sure the car you’ve had your eye on is worth the cost.
Step 2 in Buying a Vehicle at a Dealership: Negotiation
Did the vehicle live up to your expectations in the test drive? Great! Now it’s time to negotiate. Remember that your salesperson has limited control over the price of the car, but a good salesperson will respect your budget and do what they can to find a purchase price that balances your needs with the interests of the dealership.
For most buyers, this is the lengthiest part of the car buying process—anywhere from one to two hours. Once you agree on a deal that works for everyone, it’s time to sign some paperwork.
Step 3 in Buying a Vehicle at a Dealership: Paperwork
After negotiations are complete, the financial and legal part of the process begins. This will involve you, your salesperson, and the dealership’s finance office. You’ll carefully review the purchase contract, then accept and finalize your auto loan details.
If you’ve determined how much you can afford each month in advance, you’ll save some time. Also, having your documents for a trade-in vehicle readily available, along with your insurance for the new purchase, will help keep your time in the dealership’s office to a minimum.
Once you’ve signed the appropriate financial and legal forms, it’s time for the fun part—receiving your new car!
Plan Ahead for Your Visit to the Dealership
Purchasing a new or used vehicle can take anywhere from 90 minutes to five hours, depending on how quickly you move through each of the three steps. Even if you’ve done your homework ahead of time, don’t expect to be in and out of the dealership in just a few minutes.
Instead, be prepared to spend a good portion of the day finalizing your car purchase. Pack your patience and remember that taking the time to do things right the first time will ensure you drive away with the car you want—and don’t get called back for missed paperwork or legal delays later.