Local News

Car dealers say they're willing to make a deal

Posted February 6, 2009 5:26 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Auto industry analysts keep saying that now is the time to buy a car, but consumers seem to be doubting whether the deals and financing options are really out there, dealers say.

"We are basically in a buyers' market. It couldn't be a better time for the consumer," said Paul White, owner of Universal Chevrolet in Wendell.

Yet, by and large, people aren't buying, unsure if they'll be able to finance a new car, White said. Meanwhile, industry experts say, car sellers are trying to work the market.

"They're dealing. They want those cars off their lot," Barbara Abate, with AAA Carolinas, said. "They have to finance the cars, and they don't need that money on their books, either."

While dealer financing is slowly coming back, buyers can find money from other sources – often, credit unions.

Southeastern Credit Union's base interest rate for people with excellent credit runs between 5.35 and 6.75 percent, for loans ranging from 36 to 72 months. Coastal Credit Union's best rates for consumers with average credit were between 6.5 and 7.5 percent, depending on the age of the car.

Dealers say their ability to offer financing depends on the customer's creditworthiness.

"It's a matter of us having a discussion with you, seeing where you stand in the vehicle. Do you have equity? Do you have money to put with it?" White said. "We have to work out – which has always been the process – we've got to work out your needs."

Leasing no longer appeared to be an option at local, domestic dealerships.

One customer, Bill Dinwiddie, said he was ready to deal, paying cash up front, but about six different car companies refused to go lower than the sticker price. Instead of spending money on a new car, Dinwiddie said he spent it fixing up the car he owned.

"Everybody else in the business world is taking less money for their services or product, but the dealerships do not seem to be affected by that," Dinwiddie said.

Industry experts and dealers said they were suprised to hear of other dealers not going below sticker price.