How to Get the Best Car Audio Deal at a Retail Shop

One of the hardest thing to understand when you come into a car audio shop is how things work. You walk through the front door and the equipment and the sound assaults your senses. Where to start? A salesperson approaches you and asks "May I help you?" and you reply with the standard "Just looking.". Wrong answer. Now you're on your own. If you're just looking I recommend surfing the Internet and checking out the manufacturer's websites. When you walk into a shop you should have a pretty good idea of what you're looking for. Now you can find out more about the equipment from the salesperson. Most importantly you can find out if the salesperson is interested in your business or your money. You want to find a salesperson who is interested in your business. Here's a few key differences:

A salesperson interested in your business... A salesperson interested in your money...
asks about your vehicle and your musical tastes asks what size woofers you want
asks to see your vehicle is "already familiar" with that vehicle
explains why they carry X brand equipment tells you why Y brand equipment is no good
patiently answers your questions until you understand makes you feel stupid for asking questions and talks down to you
let's you know about upcoming sales tells you the deal is only good today
sells you what you need and want sells you this week's special
shows you the equipment you ask about tries to switch you to an off brand
asks you to come back after you've shopped around and gives you his card tells you to come back when "you want to get serious"
puts you at ease makes you uneasy

The best place to go for shop and salesperson recommendations is your friends. Ask who they've used and who they've been the most happy with. When you find a good shop with a good salesperson you'll want to check them out. Let them know that they come recommended. It makes them feel good about what they're doing and they will probably be more receptive to you. Let them know that if they do right by you that you'll also recommend them to your friends. Any salesperson who's been on the floor will know that the easiest sales are made to friends of customers. They already trust you which is the biggest barrier on the floor.

When you approach a salesperson you need to show respect. Show respect and expect the same in return. Don't treat them like sleazy salespeople unless they prove otherwise. If you find yourself dealing with a person you're not comfortable with you can either find another salesperson or walk. Always remember that you are in control of the situation. You have the money and can walk at any time. There's plenty of shops but there's only one of you. You have to be prepared to walk if you don't get what you want. On the other hand, if the shops gives you what you ask for then be prepared to follow through. Don't waste their time offering deals you aren't going to take.

Discounts You Can Ask For

One of the most often asked for discounts is the price match. If Shop A has the same equipment for $30 less you may be able to get Shop B to match or beat it. Some shops will even match mail order prices. This is usually more common for the mass merchandise retailers but some smaller shops will also do it. Don't bring up price matching until you hear the price that the shop will sell it for. If they sell it for $130 and the best price you've found is $150 then you'll probably be leaving $20 on the table by speaking too soon. Make sure all of your sources are factory authorized dealers. You want to be comparing apples to apples on price matching. You don't want to have a blank look on your face when the salesperson asks if your other source is authorized. Make sure you know the answer. Contact the manufacturer of the product if you are in doubt.

One discount you may be able to get is a cash discount. Retailers must pay a fee to credit card companies when they accept payment with a credit card. This is somewhere around thirty cents per transaction plus 2-3% of the sale (higher for Discover and American Express). The shop owner may give you this discount off your purchase price if you pay with cash (or a check). They're not going to offer it so you have to ask. Some will and some won't. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend paying in cash. Using a credit card further protects you in case of a dispute in addition to possibly extending warranty coverage. Still, on a multi-thousand dollar system this can add up to a good chunk of change. You'll have to decide which is more important to you.

Bundling is the practice of grouping equipment together. If you're a salesperson it's the way you get a customer to buy a CD changer with their new head unit or some similar additional sale. You can turn the tables in your favor if know how to play the game. If you're shopping for a head unit, an amplifier and a subwoofer you might be able to get a discount if you buy them all at the same shop. Most store owners would rather sell you extra pieces at a discount than have you give your business to a competitor. Ask if there is a discount on multiple item purchases. Otherwise it might make more sense, at least financially, to get your equipment at more than one retailer. Personally, I like to buy all of my equipment at the same place. It saves a lot of hassles and I only have to work with one salesperson. Plus, if you have your equipment installed at multiple shops there is a much greater chance of faulty equipment being blamed on "the other guy's install".

Freebies are another perk of knowing how to deal. There are a few items you can get thrown in or substantially reduced if you ask right. Good examples are the high profit items such as RCA cables and wiring. As a general rule installation parts are high profit items. A salesperson may want to get you to upgrade to the next model amplifier for another $40. You're going to need a set of $20 RCA cables so why not ask for them to be included if you upgrade? The cables probably cost the dealer $7 and the amplifier upgrade might net them another $20 in profit so it makes sense for them to give you the cables and net $13. You would have bought the cables anyway so your real upgrade cost is $20, not $40. That's a win-win situation. One item I would not try to get "thrown in" is installation. I believe you get what you pay for in the install bay. There are too many corners that can be cut when installing and taking a hard line on free installation might get them cut in your install. You wouldn't ask the home audio salesman if installation is included would you? Of course not. And there's a lot more work involved in installing a car stereo than there is with a home stereo. Get your discounts in other areas and it'll all work out the same.

One final thought. Price is not the most important thing. The most important is the relationship you form with the shop, especially if you're new to car audio. You want everyone from the salesperson to the installer to know and respect you. If they see you as the type of customer who only shops price then they won't treat you as favorably as a customer who sees them as a partner. Find a shop you can trust with your vehicle and price won't be as big a factor as you might think it is. Don't try to squeeze every last nickel out of the deal. The shop personnel need to make a profit. They've got kids and mortgages too.

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