Advance Author Series: Sarah Lee Marks and The Complete Internet Car Buying Guide

Advance Auto PartsSarah Lee Marks—also known as “MyCarLady”—has a grandfather who used to sell auto parts. Her other grandfather was in the oil business, so it makes sense that cars are in her blood–and not surprising that she grew up to create a consulting business (Automotive Business Services, Inc.) where she helps people buy or sell their cars at the best possible price, addresses their service issues, and advocates for them when problems arise.

And, in 2001, she wrote a book that discussed using the Internet as part of the car-buying process. “Nobody knew what info online was valid,” Sarah said, “or how to process that info.”

The book, The Complete Internet Car Buying Guide (previously titled The MYCARLADY Car Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know but Didn’t Know to Ask), has been updated five times, the last of which in an e-book form. Today’s she will be sharing current car buying trends and advice with Advance Auto Parts readers.

Car trends by MyCarLady

“The biggest trend,” Sarah says, “is that consumers are coming back into the car-buying market after an extended period of time, two to four years longer than they used to, and are shocked to find out there is less negotiation going on.”

That’s because, Sarah explains, there is less inventory. With less selection, the process becomes more of a “take it or leave it” situation; where once a buyer could negotiate a price down by $2,000-$3,000, he or she may only successfully negotiate the price down by $500 in today’s market.

As a tip, Sarah says that, if you have a choice between a rebate or zero percent financing, take the latter, as that will save you more money, unless you can pay off the car quickly. Zero (or very low percentage) financing is typically only offered to people with outstanding credit who can pay off their loans in 60 or fewer months. “Interest rates go up, by automatic default, if the loan will last for 72 months,” she explains. “And, nowadays, it’s very difficult to get a decent car loan if you’ve foreclosed or defaulted on a house. Banks are showing their muscle about being serious about credit.”

“Here’s a strange trend,” she continues. “Lately, I’ve noticed that people decide on a color for a particular car and pass up good deals because the color wasn’t right. The reality is that, in these uncertain economic times, manufacturers aren’t making extra cars, so you may need to go to multiple dealers to find the color you want–and, by that time, the incentives you were offered the first time might have expired. Do you really want to be inflexible about a color?”

When asked about finding quality car information online, Sarah warns that there is in fact a tremendous amount of DISinformation about car buying online. “Many times, a source borrows from another source who borrows from another, and then you don’t know who to trust or how to analyze the data.”

Then, there are the dreaded typos. “CarFax and AutoCheck, to use two examples,” Sarah says, “get some information from the vehicle registration processes, some from factories and so forth. But it is entirely up to the factories whether or not they will provide the info–and I’ve seen typos, including when a car with 8,000 miles was advertised to have 80,000 miles on the odometer. With incorrect info, buyers are negotiating from the wrong place. So, a huge trend is that people rely on online info as gospel without reading between the lines, and that can be dangerous.”

When asked for one more example of a trend, Sarah talks about buying American, which many people in the United States want to do. “It’s getting harder and harder, though, to define what buying American really means,” she says. “Do you want to buy cars that have their parts manufactured in the United States? that are assembled here? that come from companies that are wholly owned by Americans? that have plants that employ Americans?”

That’s a lot to think about. Let us know your thoughts on buying American, or any other car issue on your mind.

Editor’s note: As you’re pondering the latest in car trends, visit Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of quality auto parts, tools and accessories. Buy online, pick up in store.

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