Four Services Only Found at the Dealership

by By Keith Buglewicz
When buying a car, it's important to do your research, know how much you can spend, and how much is too much for your budget, and to have a good idea of what kind of car you want. But that doesn't mean you have to walk onto the showroom floor with a chip on your shoulder. The reality is that most car dealers are simply performing a valuable service: Getting you into the car you want.

Besides, there are some things that only a dealer can do. For example, what if you've never used an in-car navigation system before? Maybe you want that low financing you saw on TV. These and other things can often be addressed only with a dealer's help.

Feature Walkthrough

Feature walkthrough
When was the last time you bought a new car? Five years ago? 10 years? 15? If so, you'll be amazed at the explosion of new technology in modern cars. Even low-end economy cars are expected to offer navigation systems, Bluetooth, and USB inputs.

For some shoppers, the array of technology can be overwhelming. Sure, you can read up on stuff online – and any smart shopper should – but until you actually press the buttons, turn the knobs, and ask the car's nav system, "Where's the nearest McDonalds," you really won't have a good idea how all that stuff works.

That's where a knowledgeable dealer can help.

You’ll not only kick the tires and drive the car around the block, but you'll get a tutorial on how all these advanced systems work. Want to know how to sync your Bluetooth phone with your car's onboard system? Ask your dealer. Want to know how your iPod works with your car's audio system? Your dealer can show you. Not only will you learn about your new car's features, it's also a good barometer of how dedicated your dealer is.

Certified Used Cars

certified used cars
One of the most common reasons for buying a new car is the peace of mind a factory warranty provides, and you don't need Captain Obvious here to tell you the only place to get a new car with a new car warranty is at a new car dealership.

However, when it comes to used cars, the story is a little different. If you're buying a used car with the money you found in your couch cushions, then combing Craigslist and buying from a private party is the best you can do. But if you're looking for a later model used car, it's worth spending a little extra by going to a dealership to get a used car with a factory warranty.

Even though they add a little to the cost of a used car, a certified used car warranty can be extremely beneficial when buying a used car. Not only do they potentially extend the drivetrain warranty by tens of thousands of miles, but they also add in a year or two of bumper-to-bumper coverage on top of the standard manufacturer's warranty. It's something you can't get from a private party, or anywhere else for that matter.

Gap Insurance

GAP insurance
Would you pay hundreds of dollars each month for a car you can't even drive? That's what can happen if you don't get GAP insurance (check to make sure your insurance company doesn't offer it). GAP insurance is usually offered after you've negotiated your final price, as you're finishing your closing paperwork. If you're in an accident after buying a new car, you'll kick yourself if you don't have it.

The "GAP" stands for "guaranteed auto protection," and it all comes down to the resale value of a car. The moment you drive away in a new car, it's considered used, and the price can drop by 30 percent or more. This is known as the fair market value, and if you're in an accident that totals the car, it's what your insurance company will pay out, leaving you holding the bag for the remainder.

GAP insurance prevents this by supplementing your standard policy, ensuring that you'll receive the full purchase price of the vehicle in such a worst-case scenario. If your insurance company doesn't offer it, then the dealership's offer is one you should take.

Competitive Financing

cut-rate financing
You can't turn on a TV or computer without seeing ads for competitive financing on new cars. Finance terms of 3.9 percent. 2.9 percent, 1.9 percent, and even lower are everywhere, and you may wonder if they're for real.

They are, and there's only one place to get them: the dealership. These financing rates are offered by automakers' financial arms, and they're usually unbeatable by banks, credit unions, or any other third-party finance arm you can think of. Granted, there are a few caveats. The advertised rates are usually available only to those with stellar credit ratings and there may be other qualifications. However, if you do qualify, then the dealership is the only place to go.

On the other hand, if you don't qualify for the low-rate deal, a dealership may be able to get you financed when others can't. You'll have to pay a higher interest rate, but if the problem is a lack of credit or a poor score, then financing a car and faithfully making the payments on time can be a great way to improve your credit.

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