Do your research
Don’t look to buy the first time you visit a dealership. Let dealers know you are just looking or go to a dealership when it’s closed and inspect window stickers. Then go home and do your research, noting what you liked and didn’t like. Figure out exactly what kind of car you want and research available options. It is a good idea to investigate what other people are paying for that car before you go to a dealership.
Find out what the dealer paid for the vehicle
An important piece of information you need is the dealer’s cost of the car you want to buy. There are several websites that have the invoice price of any vehicle and you can negotiate from there. You should know the invoice price that includes all the options you want, not just the base price.
Get an online price quote
Most dealerships have online sales departments that can get you a quote quickly. Sites like Autobytel.com and PriceQuotes.com are helpful sites where you can cross-shop multiple dealers.
Get your paperwork in order
Print out the invoice price on the model you want with a list of options you’re considering. Research any manufacturer incentives or rebates that apply to the car you’re shopping for.
Settle on a price before you talk financing or trade-ins
The new car, the trade-in and financing are three separate negotiations and your goal should be to get the best possible price on each transaction. By doing your research ahead of time you will be better prepared to negotiate these prices. Check into financing on your own first so you know if the dealer is offering you a good rate or if you should finance elsewhere. Remember that lower payment doesn’t always mean lower price. If the salesman offers to lower your monthly payment by changing loan terms, that doesn’t mean that the price was reduced.
Keep your emotions in check
Taking a new car for a test drive can be exciting but you want to make sure you don’t show too much emotion. If the salesman sees you’ve formed an emotional attachment to the vehicle, he may not be as willing to compromise. When you’re test driving a vehicle ask questions and pay attention to the car’s behavior. Observe the environment of the car and make sure it’s comfortable and equipped with the things you need and that make sense for you.
Look at all the numbers and fees
Before you sign anything, make sure to take a close look at all the numbers on each contract to ensure it’s what you agreed upon. There may be a number of fees on the sales contract that are standard, but some of these fees are negotiable. Keep an eye out for hidden fees that may increase your payoff period.
Don’t buy unnecessary dealership services
Dealers will try to push useless extras such as rust-proofing and fabric protection and you don’t need these services. Most modern cars already have rust protection from the factory and fabric protection is easy to do yourself with a spray can and paint sealant from an auto parts store.
Be prepared to walk away
The ability to walk away is the greatest leverage you have with an auto dealer. Car salesmen aren’t going to take a loss on a sale but they know that even a few hundred dollars is better than no deal at all. Be firm with what you’re willing to pay and be prepared to take part in negotiations. A smart dealer will agree upon terms that are acceptable and make a deal quickly so they can move onto the next buyer. If the dealer is not willing to discuss the sale and is being unreasonable, then it’s time to politely walk away.
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