You’ve decided: After your old roadster’s many years of faithful service, it’s finally time for a new ride. With firm resolve, you step into the ring of dealership negotiations, poised to outplay sales tactics and emerge with an unbeatable deal. This is commercial combat in its most primeval form, especially in a tough market. But with the right approach, you can gain an edge and drive off the lot with a purchase that leaves you in the driver’s seat — and doesn’t run your budget off the road.
Research, Research, Research
Before you go anywhere near a showroom, hit the internet. All the information you need is out there. Once you’ve made the big decisions — style and type of vehicle, your maximum budget, preferred extras and deal breakers — narrow the field to a handful of models. There are scores of auto research sites, including owners’ forums. Go online and find out:
Current demand and availability for your top models: Lower demand or high inventory can typically get you a better price.
Long-term reliability and operating costs.
What the dealer may have paid for the car you want, and the average selling price in your area.
Read expert reviews and opinions of people who own current and prior-year models. Cars that are “all new” may be exciting, but those new features may also have untested reliability over time.
Secrets of Smart Financing
The cheapest financing is financing, so if you can pay cash, you have extra leverage. Check with your bank or credit union to get pre-approved for a loan. Dealership finance managers are often commissioned salespeople; if you come armed with a pre-approval, they know they need to beat the offer you already have, and they may even come up with some manufacturer’s incentives, cash back and discounts that will best your current offer.
Become a Digital Road Warrior
Shop online. When you call to inquire about a dealership’s online car listing, the sales rep won’t have you captive in the showroom, so tell them what you want to pay and ask for their best “out the door” price. Tell them you’re getting proposals from other so they know they have to compete for your business.
Once you have all your bids, go back to dealers nearest you and see if they’ll meet or beat the best price. And don’t forget to also research the reputation of the dealer you plan to purchase from for fairness and good pricing. Decide in advance whether you want or need certain “extras,” such as paint sealers, extended warranties or special equipment. Dealers will often try to push these items before finalizing the sale, and they can add considerably to your total price.
Beyond the Brand New
Dollar for dollar, used cars are often the best deal. Do your diligence through online marketplaces and comparison tools that show what cars are selling for in your area. One advantage of a used car is that a simple internet search for “problems with [Make] [Model] [Year]” can turn up a lot of useful information. If you decide to go used, consider a dealer’s certified program and get any vehicle checked out by a competent mechanic (other than the dealer) before you buy.
Calculating Costs for the Long Haul
Purchase price is just one component of the cost of car ownership. In addition to checking the reliability history of the models you like, research the cost of insurance, fuel and anticipated repairs. If a major repair would shatter your budget, consider building that into the purchase price with an extended warranty. Also remember that, when navigating the complex terrain of car buying, it’s always wise to seek guidance from a trusted financial professional who can help steer you toward informed decisions tailored to your unique circumstances.