Observations from the Owner about Maine Car Dealers & Buying your next Maine new or used car
Being in the auto business since my teens back in the mid 80’s I’ve certainly seen a few things. I started working at a dealership after school reconditioning automobiles. I loved this job. Working with car, cleaning, buffing, waxing, shampooing carpets, and bringing dirty cars back to life. The worse the car was the more gratifying it was to clean and recondition it. Even today with a small fleet of company and personal cars it would seem that I’m still cleaning cars for a living today, at least some of the time.
Today, some dealerships seem to rush through this process. In my opinion the most basic thing an auto dealer can do is clean and recondition a vehicle properly. When a vehicle is cleaned inside and out correctly including paint correction it no doubt raises the value of that vehicle in the potential customer’s mind and makes the selling process easier as well for sales people. When a used car is exceptionally clean the perception of many people is that it’s probably been maintained mechanically as well.
Do I need to drive south to get the best deal on my next Maine Car or Truck?
Since traveling the state and meeting with dozens of dealers on a regular basis for my job something I often hear is that many Maine car buyers feel they have to “drive south” to get a good deal. It’s true that in some cases depending on where you live you may have to “drive south” for the best selection and price but keep in mind that large new car dealers pay the same price from the manufacturers as small new car dealers. Some dealers may simply work off of volume accepting a smaller profit but making up for it in more sales month over month. Most smaller new car dealers will work with you on pricing the same as a larger one would. In many cases too the dealer can locate the car you want from another dealer in Maine or maybe even out of state and go get it for you. This has occurred more than once for me.
Do I have to pay the required “Doc Fee”? (Documentation fee)
Maine law requires that if one person pays the doc fee than all must. It’s technically non negotiable. Doc fees can range from $99.95 all the way up to $599.95 in Maine! Always factor in your doc fee as total price paid when negotiating your best deal.
Wiscasset Ford, Central Maine Motors and no doubt a few others charge no doc fees. Most Maine car dealers however do.
What is the best way to begin the car buying process?
As most of us know the internet has changed everything. If you are generation X than the internet has always been here and this is all you know compared to some of us who may remember using newspaper or the Yellow Pages for information gathering. Today a majority of people use dealer web sites including a 3rd party automotive web site such as MaineAutoMall.com to buy their next vehicle. When shopping for a Maine used car a good best practice is to take special interest in vehicles with lots of photos so you can see the overall condition. The less photos of the used vehicle the less control you have to do an online inspection from your computer. This isn’t always true but less photos or photos taken from a distance may indicate the vehicle is hiding something. There is no substitute of course for being present and standing right next to the vehicle but a dealer that affords lots of photos of it’s inventory gives the online shopper a much clearer and transparent picture of what they are offering and it’s true condition. In the case of a Maine used cars look for interior / exterior blemishes in the photos. Remember too that many of these things can be repaired by mobile vendors and/or the dealership themselves but it’s good to keep these repairs in mind when negotiations begin especially if you may have to cover the cost.
Will I get more for my trade if my car is clean?
Keep in mind that when you have a trade in you aren’t just buying a car but you too are selling a vehicle to someone. That someone is the dealer. A simple rule is if a clean car impresses you and builds value than the same is probably true with the dealer. Even though they have their own reconditioning departments if you spend $200-$300 on getting your vehicle professionally cleaned and detailed including engine wash you most likely will be ahead of the game respecting more for your trade.
Should I buy an extended warranty?
There is a lot to be said for peace of mind. I’m a bit of a dice roller. I typically buy new cars and take very good care of my vehicles thus have come out ahead in most cases. When buying a Maine used car there is always risk and if having a good extended warranty helps you sleep better at nice than the cost of an extended warranty may be worth a good night’s rest. Running an AutoCheck or CarFax can help fill in the blanks as well about what you are buying and who owned it before including any accidents that “could” maybe affect future reliability and resale value.
Service and perks after the sale!
Most Maine new car dealers offer some perks after the sale. For example a free loaner car if you have your vehicle serviced there or at least a free shuttle service. Charlie’s Motor Mall in Augusta offers FREE car washes for life if you purchase from them. No doubt some Maine used car dealers also have programs in place to entice customers as well.
Simple best practices for caring for your car:
Now that you have your new or new to you car or truck here are some best practices for making your car last!
Regular engine oil changes.
Do it less often if using synthetic oil and more often if using conventional motor oil. This is the most basic and important thing you can do for your vehicle. Refer to owner’s manual but most new cars today vary from 5,000 miles to 10,000 depending on the type of oil you are using. Synthetic oil may cost more but typically lasts almost twice as long. Synthetic oil also covers the inner cylinder walls of your engine better thus offering more protection to your motor especially during “dry starts” or starting your car when your motor is dry of oil until it warms up and oil disperses through it. A good example of this is when your vehicle sits overnight and the oil drains out of the cylinder walls. The colder the temperature the harder it is on your motor when starting it.
Sometimes we forget that there is oil in our automatic transmission. Refer to owner’s manual but in most cases 60-90k is a good timetable to do a full transmission flush. If the oil is fresh and clean your transmission will shift smoother and last longer and hopefully the life of your car even if you keep them for a long time like I do. 250-300k miles.
Rotate and balance your tires.
In the past I never did this thus would always have to replace prematurely two tires at a time. Typically the front two tires since they wear quicker from steering and the weight of the motor. Every 5000 miles I have my tires rotated and balanced thus they last longer and now am able to replace all 4. Who wants two used tires and two new ones right?
Balancing is important too as over time your tires can develop some share and wiggle. Balancing off sets this even with older tires. A good rule of thumb is if you feel a shake in the wheel you need balancing of the front tires. If you feel a shake in your driver’s seat or butt you need balancing of the rear tires. Many dealers and tire warehouses like VIP which are throughout Maine offer free rotating and balancing if you buy tires from them. Rotating and balancing alone can cost $40-$50 thus this is a nice perk over the life of the tires and really adds up financially!
Front End Alignments
Pot holes, snow plows, salt and cold harsh Maine winters really do a number on the roads when it comes to beating up Maine Cars and Trucks. It’s a good idea to get a 4 wheel alignment every 10-15k miles. This too will help with the “scalloping” of your tires. Scalloping is when the outer or inner edges of tires become smooth like a clam shell. When the tires are aligned upright and correctly you avoid scalloping. One bad pot hole can put one or more tires out of alignment and thus the premature tire wear begins. VIP Auto Service here in Maine has a $199.95 package that allows you life time alignments. One alignment by itself can be $79.95.
Once a year at least it’s a very good idea to get your vehicle professionally cleaned and detailed including paint correction and light paint touch up. As most of us know the State of Maine uses a hybrid of salt and sand which has small rocks in it to melt the ice and give traction to our winter roads. The sand and small rocks that is put down causes road rash to our vehicles, especially the front of our vehicles, side view mirrors and windshields. Having your vehicle professionally detailed which would be shampooing the carpets, buffing and waxing or sealing of exterior finish, cleaning of entire interior using a moisturizing sun repellent on all the plastics, vinyl including a quality brand leather cleaning and protectant, (if needed) pressure washing of motor, along with buffing out the clear coat from light scratches, improper car washing as well as paint touch up to avoid rust.
When washing your car by hand yourself use plenty of car wash (preferably a Carnuba type wash that leaves some wax on the finish) and be sure to change out the water and add more car wash once the water gets slightly dirty. Every time we make contact with the finish (especially if the finish is really dirty such as in the winter time) we are putting light scratches into the clear coat. If the water is clean with lots of suds than we are less apt to harm the finish. Over time however it’s hard to avoid all together thus reconditioning at least one per year will help bring back the life of your car inside and out. If we neglect our vehicle year after year it may be hard to bring it back to life and this too will affect your trade value.
What if I don’t want to trade my car in at a dealership and sell it myself for more money?
MaineAutoMall.com has not only made it easy to buy your next Maine car or truck but also to sell your vehicle! Click here to list your vehicle with photos FREE!
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Loren “Gibby” Gibson