Car Buying

Buying a Car: Who Will You Meet at the Dealership?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2014

If you're interested in buying a car from a dealership, you're probably used to meeting with salespeople, since they're the ones who show you the cars and take you on test drives. But what other dealership employees should you expect to encounter during the car-buying process? We have a breakdown of everyone you'll meet at the dealership and exactly what to expect from each of them.

Salesperson

Aside from a receptionist, the salesperson is the first employee you'll meet when you walk through a dealership's doors. This will be your primary contact throughout the car-buying process.

The first thing a salesperson will likely do is ask you what type of vehicle you're looking for. He or she may also ask you to provide an estimate of your budget. Even if you come to the dealership with a specific car in mind, the purpose of these questions is to figure out what other cars he or she may be able to help you find, in case you don't end up liking the one you're interested in or it's out of stock.

Once you've selected a car to drive, the salesperson will take you out for a test drive in the vehicle. Expect him or her to point out many of the car's features and allow you to drive it on a variety of different roads. If that doesn't happen, request it; you should feel comfortable in your car before signing the papers.

When you return to the dealership, the salesperson will likely ask you to sit down to discuss the terms of the sale. Obviously, this is the time to make it known if your intentions are or aren't to buy that day. If you do plan to buy the car right away, this is where you'll begin the discussion of interest rates, money down, monthly payments and loan terms. It's also where you'll negotiate the car's purchase price.

Sales Manager

At some point, the salesperson will probably introduce you to the dealership's sales manager. This is the employee who observes all sales and likely has final discretion over whether or not to accept a certain offer. While your salesperson will serve as the liaison between you and your sales manager, an excellent sales manager will want to meet nearly every customer who begins the car-buying process, even if they don't complete the sale.

In most dealerships, you will sit down with the sales manager again after you and the salesperson have agreed on a purchase price. That's because you typically have to enter the sales manager's office to sign the final paperwork, which includes official legal documents and government forms.

F&I Manager

Once you've agreed on a purchase price with the salesperson, you'll sit down with the dealership's finance and insurance manager, also known as the F&I manager. The F&I manager is usually the one responsible for getting loans and setting up leases, and the salesperson probably already dealt with him or her regarding your sale if you financed your vehicle through the dealership.

In addition to offering loans and leases, the F&I manager also has several other goods and services to offer you. These items include options such as LoJack stolen-vehicle protection, tire warranties or other aftermarket features that aren't included when the car leaves the factory. If you're buying an out-of-warranty used car, the F&I manager is also likely to offer you an aftermarket warranty at an additional price.

Be careful when dealing with the F&I manager, as the aftermarket items he or she will offer you can quickly become costly. We also strongly suggest that you carefully read the language of any aftermarket warranty you sign, as many of them don't cover major parts that could be especially expensive.

Accessories Department

In nearly any car sales transaction -- new or used -- you're likely to meet with the dealership's accessories department. A sales associate from this department will present you with various aftermarket items for the car, ranging from unique alloy wheels to pinstriping, all-weather floor mats, gold-plated emblems or tow-hitch covers. Many shoppers believe adding these kinds of accessories gives the car a unique appearance that sets it apart from other similar cars.

Title Clerk or Licensing Clerk

While you might not meet the dealership's title clerk during your car-buying process, you might deal with him or her when signing the papers after you've agreed on the price. Either way, the clerk will certainly help you, even if you never meet.

The title clerk is responsible for making sure your accurate information makes it to the DMV, which will process your paperwork and issue you a license plate. In some states, a dealership title clerk can issue plates, but he or she still must submit your information to the DMV for the registration to take effect. If you have any problem with your registration, such as an incorrect name or address, it's the title clerk you will want to call for help.

Service Department

Although most shoppers won't visit the service department when buying a car, we strongly recommend doing so. It's likely you will be back in the service department some day, although hopefully not anytime soon. When that day comes, it will be good to have met a service adviser you can trust. Ask your salesperson for a recommendation, and be sure to take the service advisor's business card.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Who Will You Meet at the Dealership? - Autotrader