An Overview of What Happens During Your Dealership Visit

Most car buyers don’t purchase vehicles very often, and a visit to the dealership can be stressful and nerve wracking. A lot of buyers don’t have a good sense of what is going to happen at the dealership, and if you find yourself at a high pressure dealership, it can take a stressful situation from bad to worse. Here’s a run down of what you can expect from your dealership visit.

Every dealership does things a little differently, but for the most part dealerships train their staff on a particular sales process. The sales process at a dealership can range from incredibly rigid to a flexible process tailored to meet each customer’s needs. It may seem absurd, but there are dealerships out there with such a rigid sales process, that if you want to deviate from their process they will send you on your way rather than letting you do things the way you want. And to put it bluntly, you’re probably better off walking away from a dealership like that.

You may have noticed some dealerships where they won’t tell you the price of a vehicle or show you numbers until after you have gone on a test drive. You may have been to a dealership where they won’t let you test drive a vehicle until after you have sat down with a salesperson to discuss your needs and wants. When these types of things happen, it’s not necessarily the salesperson’s fault for not accommodating you. A lot of times, the problem is the dealership and the dealership’s management.

After a salesperson has greeted you, at most dealerships the next step will either be a needs assessment or an appraisal of your vehicle. The needs assessment can either be something very formal and structured like a form you have to fill out or it can be a casual conversation in which you and your salesperson discuss your needs and wants. A lot of dealerships use the trade appraisal as an opportunity to find out more about your needs and wants as well. Most people like something about their current vehicle, or they wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. Most people don’t like something about their current vehicle, which is why they are at a dealership looking to trade it for something different. Finding these things out can help your salesperson help you find the right vehicle.

A good salesperson can help you figure out the things that are going to help you find the right vehicle. I’ve had a couple of customers that bought the wrong vehicle because they picked something out before coming to the dealership and just wanted to come in, sign paperwork, and leave. I’ve had a couple customers that I was able to help avoid making an expensive mistake because I was able to get them to take a look at the vehicle before they signed the final paperwork, even though they thought they had picked out the right vehicle before coming in.

At most dealerships, after the needs assessment, the salesperson is going to show you a vehicle that they think will meet your needs. A good salesperson will walk you around the vehicle, pointing out the features that are important to you and how those features will help you do what you are trying to accomplish.

Most car buyers want to drive a vehicle before purchasing, which is usually the next step in the sales process. Even if you are very confident that you have picked out the right vehicle and don’t need to drive it, I would strongly recommend taking a test drive. Even if you have previously driven a particular model, the vehicle you are looking at may have slightly different options and equipment. And if you haven’t driven a particular model, it’s a good idea to see how it drives, see what kind of road noise you can expect, and make sure there is enough visibility for you to be comfortable and safe on the road. When looking at pre-owned vehicles, a test drive gives you an opportunity to see if there are any noticeable problems with the vehicle.

At most dealerships, at some point after the test drive, the next step in the process is going to involve taking a look at pricing. In the car business, this pricing sheet is called a worksheet or a four square. It’s important to know that even though your salesperson is going to want you to sign or initial the worksheet once you have agreed on numbers, this isn’t legally binding. Some dealerships will try to guilt you into paying more because you signed the worksheet, and then they will show you the fine print that those numbers didn’t include taxes or fees, and some dealerships have pretty egregious fees.

After the worksheet, the next stop at the dealership is the finance office. This is where the legally binding paperwork is signed. Most finance departments will also try to sell you finance and insurance products for your vehicle. Some finance departments will also try to sell you vehicle accessories. Some people seem to think these products are all a scam, and there are dealerships that sell questionable finance products at inflated prices. At our dealership, most of the employees (including the finance managers) buy these finance products because they understand the value.

Once you get done with all of the paperwork in the finance office, a good salesperson will offer to show you how everything in your new vehicle works. As a salesperson, I wanted my customers to be happy with their vehicle purchase, so I was happy to spend as much time as necessary for my customers to be comfortable using their vehicle before they drove off the lot. If they were eager to take their new vehicle home, I was happy to show them just what they wanted to see or nothing at all if they preferred. And I always invited my customers to stop by the dealership if they needed any help with their vehicle.

There are salespeople out there that will hand you the keys and move on to the next customer. A few times, I have had to help someone with their new Ford that they bought at another dealership because their salesperson didn’t want to take the time to show them how everything on their car worked.

This should give you a sense of what you can expect during your dealership visit. There’s a lot of things going on during your dealership visit, and this is just a quick overview. In future articles, I will discuss some of these topics in greater detail.


If you are ready to schedule your dealership visit with a no-hassle, transparent dealership, give me a call at 812-331-2200 and ask for Robert Kobey.