Know the showroom

Oct 16, 2013

Essential hints and tips for making the most of your visit to a new car sales room.

Car showrooms can be intimidating environments. They’re packed with expensive, complicated machinery and the sales staff can often seem too pushy. And as most of us will only visit a car dealer once every few years – if not less frequently – the whole experience is pretty unfamiliar, too.

Our top tips will help you ensure your visits to a showroom are as productive as possible and will take the stress and uncertainty out of shopping for a car.

Be prepared

There was a time when the only way you could find out about a car was to go to a showroom and ask a salesperson about it. But that's no longer the case – thanks to the internet and websites like CarBuyer, there's no reason you can’t research your next car thoroughly from the comfort of your own home.

Doing your research beforehand means you’ll know exactly which model you want to look at, as well as which engine best suits your needs and what equipment you want. Not only will that save time on browsing, it means you’re less likely to be talked into getting something you don’t want by a salesman.

Take a look at our how to choose the right car article for advice on the best way of picking the right model for you.

Get a feel for the car

Just because a car has been given a great review and seems on paper to be just what you’re looking for, it doesn’t mean it will be right for you. Use your visit to the dealer to go over every aspect of it.

Sit in the car and check the driving position is comfortable. Make sure it's got enough rear legroom. Check the how big the boot is. Have a play with the buttons, the media system and any gadgets – and don’t be afraid to ask the sales staff to show you how things work. If you end up buying the car, you’ll use these things every day, so make sure you can live with them.

Remember, not all features on the showroom car will come as standard – so ask the salesperson whether any items cost extra and how much they cost.

Dealing with sales staff

Showroom sales staff range from ultra considerate to extremely pushy, but whoever you’re dealing with, remember that you are in control. If you’ve done your research and found a model that meets your needs and is within your budget, then you’ll already know which car you’re interested in. Your objective is to ensure you actually like the car – don’t let the salesperson distract you from that.

Also, always keep in mind that the sales team is there to try and make you spend as much money as possible. They may do that by trying to persuade you to go for a more expensive version of the car you like or by offering you costly extras you don’t need. Again, if you’ve done your research and know what car and equipment you want then you can avoid these traps easily.

Always be polite and friendly as the salesperson is more likely to be helpful and to offer you a good deal if he or she likes you. But don’t be afraid to be firm if they insist on attempting to sell you things you don’t want.

Ask for a test drive

If you’re still keen on the car once you’ve sat in it, checked out the boot, tested the legroom and played with the gadgets, then it's time to see how it drives.

Ask to test drive the model you’re looking to buy – at the very least it needs to have the same engine and gearbox as the model you’re interested in. If you can, try a model with any driving-related equipment you want, too, such as sat-nav or parking sensors – and try them out on the test drive.

Don’t let the salesperson fob you off with a test of a similar model to the one you want – as this might be a ruse to disguise problems. For example, if you want to buy a diesel model with an automatic gearbox and the salesperson tries to persuade you to test drive a petrol version with a manual gearbox, it could be because the diesel engine you want is very noisy, or because the automatic box is jerky.

Don’t just take the car for a quick spin around the block – get out on an A-road and motorway to see how it performs at higher speeds. Take a lengthy test drive and keep an eye on the economy figure over the course of the run – if there's a big discrepancy between the claimed mpg figure and the real world figure, your test will show it.

If the model you want isn’t available to test drive, see if you can arrange a test at another date or with another dealership.

Don’t rush into buying

Don’t let the salesperson pressure you into buying the car there and then if you’re not ready to. If there are other cars on your shopping shortlist, make sure you test drive them as well.

If you’re sure you’ve found the right car for you and you’re ready to do the deal, get ready to haggle – you should take a look at our how to negotiate a car price article for some top tips.

And always get a detailed quote on the deal you’re getting – and read the fine print – before buying anything.

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