Unless you're someone who's checking their mail every day for the lastest edition of Motor Trend, buying a car can be a pretty intimidating task.

Because knowing the make, model, and colour you want don't exactly cover all the important bases. And it's what you don't know that can end up costing you by the time you hit the road. Which is why we spoke to current President and CEO of Pfaff Automotive Partners, Christopher Pfaff. Pfaff has been a leading Canadian automotive retailer since 1964 and was created out of the desire to provide the best customer service experience in the industry.

So, with that in mind, Chris gave us some insight into the kinds of questions you should be asking when you're considering buying a car. From transparency to a money-back guarantee, make sure your dealer is offering you the full package.

Is the car you’re buying the right one for you?

Buying a Car

A great dealer will listen carefully to your needs and present you with the vehicles that fit them best, showing you the features and letting you take a test drive to ensure your expectations are met. Are the dealer’s salespeople paid based on an old-school commission, where they are motivated simply to sell you the most expensive vehicle, and provide the lowest trade value, or are they truly finding the vehicle that best suits your needs and not theirs? Remember, this is about you -- not them.

Is the sales process transparent?

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A modern car-buying experience should be free of the old-school tactics of “let me ask my manager,” conversations that happen behind closed doors, and endless back-and-forth negotiations that include numbers scribbled on scraps of paper. A great car dealer will present you with their best price first, right up front, and you should be able to complete a transaction in a fast, easy, and un-pressured manner that values both your time and your intelligence.

Are there any hidden fees?

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Some dealers will heavily discount the price of the car, only to recuperate those dollars with fees and additional extras. Check to make sure that you’re not saddled with unnecessary administration fees, or any fees other than those for items actually installed on the car, or required by legislation. When comparing price quotes from different dealers, compare the “all in” cost inclusive of the vehicle and all fees to determine whose price really is the best.

Is the trade-in value provided for your car contingent on you buying their car?

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Dealers may provide a higher trade-in value for your existing vehicle only if you purchase the vehicle they are presenting; this is another form of old-school negotiating. A more modern, transparent way of doing things is to present a trade-in value that is valid even if you choose not to purchase the car – a true reflection of your vehicle’s value. When presented hand-in-hand with a dealer’s best price (that they gave to you the first time around), a fair trade value is the most transparent way to purchase a car.

Do you have recourse if you decide that the car you’ve chosen isn’t right for you?

Buying a Car

Should you for whatever reason decide you’ve chosen the wrong vehicle, does your car dealer offer a money-back guarantee or exchange policy? Dealers like Pfaff’s GTA-area stores offer reasonable exchange and guarantee policies that make it easy to return a car if you think you chose the wrong one.

What is your time worth?

Buying a Car

While you may save a couple of hundred dollars by driving all over town to different dealerships, and by negotiating with multiple salespeople and sales managers, your savings will rarely be compensated for if you consider what all those hours are worth to you. Do you want to waste countless hours sweating through negotiations, or would you rather be presented with a fair, market-based price upfront, and experience a faster and more transparent sales process?

Personal Finance