Buying a car? Here are guide questions you should ask the sales agent
By Botchi Santos
May 13, 2015 at 8:39 am

So you’ve done your research and plan to drop by each dealership. You’ve read the reviews online, on newspapers and magazines, have spoken to owners of the cars you’ve short-listed and researched on potential problems the cars might have.

The next step is to actually check the cars out in the flesh. A sales executive hovers by you, trying to sell you the merits and virtues of their car. Now it’s time to really make them work. If they can’t answer your questions, request for another sales executive who can. Or at least get an official answer from their sales manager, because otherwise they might be blowing smoke up your behind.

1) How much does this vehicle cost all-in, including any other additional fees and expenses?

Many times, we make a decision on which car to buy based on our budget, that universal constraint we all cannot escape from.

The problem is, the listed price doesn’t indicate other necessary expenses, particularly if you will be financing the car.

Additional expenses such as chattel mortgage fee, three-year LTO (Land Transportation Office) registration and comprehensive insurance add up to a tidy sum. Some dealers will sometimes offer extended warranty for a fee, which may or may not be useful for you.

Ask all you want regarding expenses and don’t leave until you’re satisfied. You just might be shocked at the final tally.

2) If the sales agent offers you in-house financing, ask for the interest rate they are giving you.

All car dealerships offer in-house financing combined with ultralow down payment, with  all-in LTO registration, chattel mortgage fees and free one-year comprehensive insurance.

Seems like a sweet deal. The problem is, these in-house financing schemes charge very high interest rates. Snooping around banks, the average per annum interest rate on car loans is around 4.5 percent thereabouts.

In-house bank financing rates can be as high as 8 percent per annum, double that of what a typical bank will charge you. The moral of the story? Look at it from a long-term point of view, where you will be paying for  much less. In short, secure financing on your own, as you will find better deals.

A tip? Look through the smaller banks. They offer better, more attractive interest rates as they tend to be more aggressive and  offer lower rates.

3) When is the next minor/major model change?

Sometimes, when you walk into dealerships, an agent will try to press you to buy a particular vehicle color or variant. It’s a dirty secret: The dealership, alongside the manufacturer, is trying to unload last year’s model to make way for a newer model coming within the next few months.

Generally this is not bad. But if you are buying a new car and expecting it to be the current model for the next few years or  expecting it to be at the start of its current shelf life, you might be in for a nasty surprise when the manufacturer and dealerships roll out the newest, the latest facelift or even an all-new model.

If the sales agent is honest with you, have him/her list down what differentiates the model you are looking at (technical specification, pricing) versus the   model coming out soon. That way, you would be  able to judge for yourself if it’s worth the wait or not, or the premium of a new model.

4) Fuel economy/consumption figures: What’s the lowdown?

In my 11 years of testing cars, it’s funny how sales agents quote fuel consumption figures that generally seem double than that of my actual experience.

Of course, a variety of factors come into play. But you as a buyer should ask for two fuel-consumption figures: the manufacturer’s quoted fuel-consumption figure and the Department of Energy’s quoted fuel-consumption figure.

These might not be very accurate, but it’s a consistent baseline, since manufacturers and the DOE will test the vehicles on a specified and standardized route and condition. Sales agents tend to sweeten the figures, so be wary of accepting what they tell you at face value.

5) How does your (enter brand name and model of vehicle here) compare to (enter brand name and model of any of its competitors) in terms of (power, speed, space, refinement, performance, flood-fording ability, etc.)?

A seasoned sales agent will have extensive product knowledge and information about the vehicle he or she is selling.

In my experience, agents who perform poorly lack product knowledge on  what they are selling. But the truly best sales agents not only know their product but also their competitors’ as well, and how their own product performs or outshines the competition.

If the sales agent can’t answer any comparative questions, it’s best to walk away or look for another agent. Chances are the agent will be of little or no help to you and  he just wants to sell you the car and move on to the next.

Remember: A car is, for most people, the second-biggest purchase one will make in his or her life; there’s a lot of emotion as well as cold-hearted logic attached to buying a car.

You need to be able to trust someone who is competent and knowledgeable about the car you’re investing in,  which will be with you for the next three to five years at the very least.

6) What else can I get for free?

I believe in getting the most out of any purchase. So try to haggle for more: free comprehensive insurance, free three-year LTO registration, gas coupons, a free car cover, wraparound tint, umbrellas, shirts/jacket, gym bag, rust-proofing/undercoating, full exterior detailing prior to release, accessories such as an upgraded sound system, wheels and tires package, anything that can sweeten the deal. Ask that from the agent and the dealership.

It’s not a certainty that you will get these for free, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

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