The traditional order of operations at a dealership has the customer selecting a vehicle based on its sticker price or perhaps a perfect-world monthly payment. It's not until the end of the process that everyone learns if the customer can actually afford one of the most expensive things they'll ever buy.
A better path might be to take a note from those buying homes — the biggest consumer purchase for most people — and figure out how expensive a vehicle they can afford. The customer and salesperson can look for something in that price range.
If a dealership fails to address affordability up front, it's likely to foul the deal later, according to West Herr Auto Group marketing director Matt Lasher. During a Chernek Consulting "Digital Age" forum April 7, he gave the example of a customer who selects a Cadillac Escalade only to have the F&I office nix the deal.