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Fewer Wheels Rolled In October

Awful. That’s the one-word description for car sales during October, locally and elsewhere.

Maybe more took the bus.

Maybe more took the bus.

No matter how broad a range of choices Sanatogans saw at new car dealers last month in nearby Pottstown and Limerick, or at used car dealers within the confines of Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township, many seemed to join other Americans in deciding not to buy themselves a new set of wheels.

Auto sales in the U.S. fell 32 percent overall in October, Bloomberg News Service reported Monday (Nov. 3, 2008), to the lowest monthly total since January 1991. Reduced access to loans and a weaker economy kept consumers off dealer lots, it said.

General Motors’ dealer sales dropped 45 percent from October 2007; Chrysler, 35 percent; Nissan, 33 percent; Ford, 30 percent; Honda, 25 percent; and Toyota, 23 percent, according to a Bloomberg compilation.

Dealers apparently weren’t spending either, at least not on promotion. Journal Register Company – the Yardley PA-based firm that owns The (Pottstown PA) Mercury, The (Norristown PA) Times Herald, and several other newspapers serving Sanatoga – said Monday that its third quarter 2008 automotive classified advertising revenues were down 21 percent “due, in large part, to the continued weak automotive market.”

Will November be any better? Dealers interviewed across the country told Bloomberg reporters it probably can’t get much worse. For those who will consider buying a car this month, offered these tips last week (Oct. 30, 2008):

  • Deals abound; do some homework. Car dealers are moving inventory now to make room for 2009 vehicles. Pay attention to local dealer websites, newspapers and circulars for price cuts and special promotions on 2008 makes and models they must clear off their lots. Due to recent high gas prices, many larger cars are heavily incentivized with rebates and cash back offers … sometimes by as much as $10,000 or more.
  • Be smart about car financing. Check a variety of lenders, including local credit unions, to find the best rates and loan terms. If financing through a car dealer, check credit scores online and bring the information to the dealership. It can help in determining available financing programs. Making a larger down payment could broaden the range of financing programs while reducing monthly car payments.
  • Be flexible about the cars being considered. Research a variety of makes and models in the same or similar class to find comparably equipped cars at more affordable prices. A second, third or even fourth choice may cost less without sacrificing desired quality and features.
  • Consider a used car. New cars depreciate in value as soon as the leave the dealer’s lot. Used car buyers both avoid hefty depreciation costs and usually find a great vehicle in excellent condition for less money. Those scared by buying used should check into certified pre-owned vehicles, which have gone through rigorous inspections and come with warranties.
  • Pay attention to the trade-in. Research its trade-in price, and be honest with the dealer about its condition. Give the car a good detailing and repair any minor damage before visiting the dealership.

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