The DOVE Approach to Buying Your First Car

During my 5 years and 11 months in automotive sales, it didn’t take long for me to realize that every customer experience is unique. I dealt with clients who claimed to have bought over 75 cars to customers who saved vigorously to purchase their first luxury sedan.

I felt that it was only right for my initial SteerCX (CX=customer experience) blog post to discuss more firsts – buying a car on your own for the very first time. Whether you are purchasing car number one or 76, the car buying experience is flawed. According to Beepi (now merged with, 87% of Americans dislike something about shopping at a car dealership, and it feels that salespeople could be a leading factor.

The goal of this blog is to clean up the customer and sales relationship at the dealership. As a shopper, you’ve got to appreciate taking action to improve your experience. In today’s car buying market, I recommend that you following my ”DOVE” approach to wash away a bad car buying experiences.

(…feel free to continue reading OR Download PDFDOVE checklist)

Do a dealership background check

You should spend time researching auto groups online and avoid visiting multiple dealerships. The average car buyer spends nearly 14 hours and 29 minutes doing research, according to TrueCar. I wouldn’t spend that much time, but I would focus my time on first and third-party websites. 78% of buyers refer to third-party sites to start the process. These sites such as TrueCar, AutoTrader, and CarGurus are a great way to find the vehicle of your choice.

However, take your research a step further and go to the dealership site to check inventory. Only 57% of people shop on a dealer’s page. A dealership’s page would show how involved the dealer group is involved in a community, what their service facility looks like, and more. Chances are there may be inventory in the queue that is available on a dealership site that won’t be available on a third-party site.

Also, review the salespeople from your potential dealership. Dealer Rater is a great site to check out staff ratings and testimonials. Yelp! is also a great place to see what other customers think about sales reps. I even received a few Yelp! reviews that earned future sales leads.

review 3

Finally, if you make it to the dealership, please check out the facilities, from the client lounge to the restroom to the service center. Scan the people chilling in the lounge to see if they are smiling or pissed off! I’ll get into this in a later post, but the client lounge could determine your extended warranty options.

Own your expectations

You should absolutely consult with family and friends during your purchase experience. However, you need to set your own expectations. As I mentioned earlier, not everyone will have the same car buying experience. The car buying process is different for everyone! You need to set your own payment goals and time constraints. Please take family/friends negotiation & payment advice with a grain of salt. There are too many variables that factor into a unique experience such as credit history, dealership inventory, sales events, and more.

If you let the sales consultant know what your payment expectations are, you can eliminate the dealership(s) who can’t meet your needs or reduce the negotiation frustration during the process.

Vehicle Rundown

If you are buying a new car for the first time, then the vehicle rundown is pretty simple. You should understand how long and how many miles the warranty covers. Every brand is different, but majority of brands will have 3 or 4 years of coverage with specific mileage restraints. Also, consider the technology you need and color combos that you prefer.

When it comes to pre-owned vehicles, the vehicle rundown is very important. I can’t tell you how many times I had to show customers the CARFAX for the first time at the dealership. Its startling that people spend 14 hours and 29 minutes researching cars and forget to review the CARFAX. When you have access to the this, I encourage you to either print or take a screenshot of the CARFAX as your consideration set of vehicles may change during your buying experience.

Confirm that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matches what you see online and in stores. If you’ve been online searching for cars, you may get your vehicles mixed up. Also, verify if the vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned or not. I’ll also cover this difference in an upcoming post.

Finally, pump the brakes on TV and online advertisements promoting deals and sales events. A brand’s national ad most likely will not factor in your local and/or state taxes. If you see an ad for a $699/month purchase payment – consider the down payment necessary to achieve your payment goal, cover your taxes, or balance out your trade negative equity.

Enjoy the Experience

Buying a car can be stressful, but selling a car is as well. Most sales professionals depend on customers to make a living and feed their families. As much as the salesperson should sell you the car, he or she must sell themselves to you to earn your trust.

With that in mind, have fun with the salesperson/dealership and enjoy that experience. Just because someone has a lower price does not guarantee that the experience will be better. In AutoTrader’s Car Buyer of the Future study, 54% of respondents would buy a car from a dealership with their preferred experience over a lower price.

The study also reported 84% of people want to buy a car in person. People work with people they like, and salespeople may go an extra mile to provide a better service for you.

Your first car purchase is a critical development stage for you. This car purchase can go a long way to determine your financial health, future car purchase, vehicle safety, and more. Do not forget the steps it takes to improve your own automotive experience. The DOVE approach will get you there and hopefully a great salesperson will appreciate your preparation as you impact the car buying experience.

Download PDFDOVE checklist

Articles and reports used:

4 reasons people hate buying a car and what auto companies can do about it

Why People Hate Buying Cars

AutoTrader – Car Buyer of the Future


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