How to best buy/sell car for elderly relative?
September 15, 2019 2:13 PM   Subscribe

What kind of services/options are out there to help an older person buy a new car?

My mother in law (an older person) needs a new car and she needs to trade in her old car. She will be doing it alone.
She does not know the first thing about any of this. She is in Staten Island, so metro-NYC/NJ is the relevant area. She is pretty susceptible to getting tricked/taken advantage of because she does not know what she is doing. We are out of town and can't be there in person with her.

If she were anywhere else, I would probably have her go to CarMax, but there does not seem to be a CarMax anywhere in the NYC area. I am wondering if a car-buying service (like through Costco or TrueCar) would be helpful, but I am not sure how the trade-in on the used car would work. I am also worried that even if we get a good pre-negotiated price on the new car through a service, she will still be exposed to extra charges/tricky nonsense through various "dealer fees" and the like when it comes time to pay - or she will get an unfair price on the trade-in. She will be a cash buyer.

I know about the various online strategies for doing email negotiations with dealers, but I am not sure any of that will work because it all hinges on my m-i-l physically going to the dealer to close the deal, where she can be taken advantage of.

Has anyone dealt with a circumstance like this? Any advice on how to make this work? I may need to tell her just to wait until we can be there in person with her, but, if there is some other way (like a service), that would be ideal. Thanks
posted by Mid to Shopping (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Buy a car on her behalf, pay someone to drive it to NYC.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's a good idea, but then what to do about her trade in?
posted by Mid at 3:55 PM on September 15, 2019

Does the trade in have significant value? If not, she could just donate it and be done with it, there are plenty of places which will just collect it from her address.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2019

I haven't had this specific situation, but I did in fact recently buy a car. I did an AskMe about it.

If she has access to use True Car, though USAA or otherwise, it's pretty straight-forward. The TrueCar Price is the price I paid for my car, minus my trade-in and my down-payment. The "True Car Price" is the price she will pay. Feel free to meMail me about it if you have questions.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks, were you able to do anything to avoid getting ripped off on the trade-in value? I am concerned that even if the purchase price is fixed, she will get an unfair deal on the trade. That said, the trade is a 15-year-old Camary, so I may be overthinking it.
posted by Mid at 6:41 PM on September 15, 2019

I just did a quick lookup on a midlevel '04 Camry with average miles in average condition and got a trade in value of $1317. If the car is loaded, has low mileage or is super mint, or the value of 15 year old Camries in NYC is way more than it is here it could be worth more. In general, if she's got enough money to be buying a new car I wouldn't be too worried about the +/- on an older trade in like this. You can use the online car valuation tools (I used Edmunds TMV) with the actual details of the car and get a more accurate price than my guesstimate.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree with Larry David Syndrome. If she's financing a new car, the total trade-in value on a 15 year old Camry is a few dozen dollars a month. It's your decision how much to worry about that.
posted by glonous keming at 7:46 PM on September 15, 2019

When my daughter needed to buy a car, we paid Authority Auto to act on her behalf. We used their turn-key service which include negotiating with every profit center and arranging for delivery of the car to her home. (They actually got the best price from a dealer in another state two hours away.) To be honest, i can't remember any more how I picked them - I know I did some research on which service to use but like you, it worth it to get the full service features and the door to door delivery.
posted by metahawk at 10:15 PM on September 15, 2019

I know of a couple people that have used this auto brokerage place in Staten Island. They do trade-ins, financing and leases. They will also bring the car right to your house, where you sign the papers and they hand you the keys. Supposedly excellent prices and no nonsense.
posted by dancinglamb at 12:44 AM on September 16, 2019

If the trade is a 15 year old Camry, I think you're over thinking it. I would not worry about it so much.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:28 AM on September 16, 2019

Oh, man. As someone who has lived in NYC for 15 years, has never bought a car from a dealership, and is Very Stupid about financial stuff, I feel the pain. It's scary!

However, after hemming and hawing over seemingly unending options and all of the "ifs, ands, or buts," I eventually settled on a make and model, and went to its nearest authorized dealership. (In my case, Friendly Honda in Poughkeepsie.)

They presented me with an itemized list of all of the moneys needed (registration, taxes, etc.) and nothing looked out of whack or unnecessary, but I got nervous and wanted some time to think it over. They let me put down a refundable deposit of a couple hundred bucks to hold the car for a few days. I took that itemized financial paperwork home, and texted a pic of it to an Experienced And Smarter-Than-Me friend, who gave it the thumbs up.

Went back the next day, paid, and drove off.

I also had a couple of 15 - 20 year old beater Jeeps I needed rid of (their KBB value looks about the same as your Camry), so I donated them to Habitat for Humanity, which sent a truck for them. Don't send it to a scrap yard, though, as your relative won't get the tax benefit.

It was honestly so painless, even for clueless and nervous me. Maybe this plan would work for you all?

Also, some friends (also in the NYC area) just bought a Subaru through the Carvana service, and recommend it—as long as you know exactly what you want.
posted by functionequalsform at 5:43 AM on September 16, 2019

Response by poster: Metahawk - what was the all-in fee for the Authority Auto service? The website says $200 upfront but does not say what you pay at end. Is it a percentage of the deal? Ballpark is fine.
posted by Mid at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2019

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