It’s been said that the best way to handle stress is like a dog:
if you can’t eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away. Oh, if only we could live the simple and carefree life of our four-legged best friends.
As humans, we seem to find new ways to stress out on a regular basis, including making major purchases. But shouldn’t spending thousands of dollars be fun? Won’t the outcome make us happier? Then why is buying a house so stressful, or choosing a vacation? Even choosing a new cell phone/plan/carrier can raise one’s blood pressure a few (or more) points! And yet, there’s one transaction that seems to breed even more dread for many consumers — buying a car. According to a study conducted south of the border by Edmunds.com, 21 percent of American consumers would rather give up sex for a month than go through the car-buying process; and 33 percent would rather do their taxes or sit in the middle seat of an airplane. Our American neighbours seem particularly masochistic when it comes to vehicle acquisitions.
SO MANY QUESTIONS…
But why is this so? Not why are yanks gratified by pain, but rather, why do consumers fear car-buying? What is it about this specific transaction that causes such anxiety? Perhaps it’s a feeling of vulnerability and not knowing who to trust. One thing is certain, it can be confusing.
Let’s start with experience; or the lack thereof. Most consumers only go through the vehicle-buying process every 4–5 years so there’s little experience and just so many questions: should I buy new or used; what are my needs…and wants; what are the reliability ratings; depreciation ratings; should I get front wheel drive, all-wheel drive or four wheel drive; should I finance or lease; are their incentives available; what are the monthly payments; what are the interest rates; what other monthly expenses will I incur; how long do I think I’ll keep the car; should I buy an extended warranty; rust proofing; how can I tell if a used car has been in a collision; should I get it inspected; what kind of deals are available this time of year; and the list continues. Add to all of this the fact that acquiring a vehicle often involves haggling and the process can become overwhelming.
RESOURCES AND CONSIDERATIONS…
And yet, today’s information age has made the buying process more transparent than ever. Information about brands, features, warranties, reliability/depreciation rates, reviews and more is available at the click of a mouse. There are websites that provide dealer cost information and consumer advocacy groups like the Automobile Protection Association and Car Help Canada that provide members with purchasing services. Today’s car purchasers have easy and immediate access to information that should allow them to make better informed decisions. And yet, there’s one question that often gets little consideration: who should I buy from? A private seller or a dealer; and if a dealer, which one?
According to OMVIC, Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, smart consumers understand that the protections available to them depend entirely upon whom they purchase from. “Only consumers who purchase from a registered dealer are protected by OMVIC and Ontario’s consumer protection laws and have access to the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund,” stated Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications and Education for OMVIC, the provincial vehicle sales regulator. “That means consumers who purchase privately are essentially on their own should problems arise.”
So if a consumer opts for the protections provided in a transaction with a dealer, is there a way to check that dealer out? “OMVIC doesn’t have a rating system for dealers,” explained O’Keefe, “but it does make information public regarding all dealers and salespeople related to charges and convictions, discipline proceedings (for breaches of OMVIC’s Code of Ethics), even Registrar issued Proposals to Revoke or Suspend Registration.” And all this information is available at omvic.ca by utilizing the “Find a Dealer/Salesperson” feature, or by visiting the “Enforcement/Compliance” webpages.
CONSUMERS HAVE TO DO THEIR PART…
Considering the information available, today’s informed consumers should have more confidence (and less anxiety) than ever before when buying a car. But that’s the rub; consumers have to do their part too. They need to research; ask questions; know when they’re protected (and when they’re not); and accept some of the responsibility for protecting themselves. According to O’Keefe, “An educated consumer is a protected consumer.”
So don’t stress that car-buying decision — spend a little time informing yourself and make an educated decision. It’ll probably turn out to be a lot more fun than giving up nooky or window seats.
To learn more about OMVIC and the services it provides Ontario consumers and dealers, visit omvic.ca.