A lot of car dealers make it a point to market to members of the military, but don’t be dazzled by the incentives and the sweet talk, experts say.
The minute a service member walks onto a car lot, salespeople identify them by their haircuts and by the way they walk and talk, according to Robert “Camo” Gleisberg, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and a community education officer for Pacific Marine Credit Union, who teaches a car-buying class at Camp Pendleton.
Military personnel are attractive targets for car salespeople because,“they have an absolutely guaranteed paycheck that comes in twice a month,” according to Holly Petraeus, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Gleisberg advises his students not to be taken in by what he calls “military sales rhetoric.” He warns service members to go into the car-buying process armed with information.
If you’re in the market for a vehicle, you need to be prepared. These five tips from Edmunds.com are geared specifically towards service members who are shopping for a new or used car:
1 - Check the value of the vehicle you’re considering before you walk onto the lot. Use online guides, such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and check local classified listings so you’ll know the asking price of similar cars.
2 - Plan for the total cost of a car. In his class, Gleisberg uses the acronym GRIM to educate his students:
G is for gas costs. Buy a fuel-efficient car.
R is for registration. Keep in mind, the costs of registering a car, which can be more than $300 for a new vehicle.
I is for insurance. If you don’t choose your car wisely, your insurance premium could be more than your monthly car payment.
M is for maintenance. Make sure to set aside extra money for routine service and repairs. If you run into a costly or unexpected repair, a short-term military loan can help.
3 - Don’t be afraid to walk away. “Be prepared to do an about-face if you don’t like what you’re hearing,” said Craig Hughes, a Marine financial counselor.
4 - Check out the dealership’s reputation ahead of time. Use a Better Business Bureau website to find out its rating.
5 - Take a test drive…and then walk away and check with other local dealerships for price quotes on similar cars.
The main thing to remember when looking for a vehicle: Don’t rush into anything! Experts stress this one fact above all others: When you sign a sales contract, you’re legally obligated to make the car payments. Don’t be afraid to sleep on it before you sign anything.
What tips do you have for military member looking for a new or used car? How did you navigate the car-buying process? We’d love to hear and share your thoughts and stories!