December 1st, 2014
One of the trickiest parts of purchasing a car is the negotiation process once you've finally decided on what model to buy. Unlike auto insurance, where you can simply compare the offers from several different providers before making a decision, buying a car can be a dance between buyer and seller. It's understandable if this stresses you out before your first car purchase, so keep these tips in mind before you head into the showroom:
Do some homework
While it's impossible to nail down exactly what a salesperson thinks a car is worth ahead of time, you'll want to have a rough idea of how much the car you're interested in is selling for. There are several websites that can provide information about the average price of a certain model in your area, and if you're interested in a used car, there are various resources such as Kelley Blue Book that will provide a solid estimate of the vehicle's value. Where this gets tricky is in the intangibles. If you're looking at a new model, check the sales numbers for the last few months. If that car has been slow to sell, chances are good that the salespeople will be much more flexible when you present your offer.
Be friendly, but firm
It helps to do research up front because that knowledge will let you pick the perfect price to shoot for. Counterintuitively, one of the best things you can do when negotiating the price of a car is not negotiate. Rather, you want to present an offer that you're willing to pay and make it clear that any other offer won't get you to open your wallet. There's no reason to be aggressive, just make it obvious that you'll definitely buy the car if the dealer agrees to your price. While they might not agree immediately, if you picked a reasonable amount they should come around.
Give yourself some time
The last thing you want to do is imply that you need to buy a car quickly. This signals that you're willing to compromise because of your time constraint. If you're considering buying a car, visit a few different dealerships that have your desired model well before you actually need to lay down some cash. Giving yourself this sort of time has a few benefits. First, it will make you relaxed around the salespeople, and beyond that it will give you time to compare prices from several dealers. Plus, it will provide the chance to visit the dealer at a later date.
Go on a bad day
It might not be fun to venture out during inclement weather, but that can be the best way to get a decent price on your new ride. Bad weather means a slow day at the dealership, and that can put salespeople in an accommodating mood. Showing up on an ugly day is particularly effective if you've visited the dealer ahead of time and put in an offer. Then, you can call ahead and bring up your willingness to drop in - for the right price.
Ignore rebates for the moment
Referencing rebates and other offers before you and the salesperson have finalized a price can make it difficult to get the initial price where you want it. Don't mention any offers until the base price has been finalized. You should check into offers before arriving at the dealership, however, because serious deals could indicate a willingness to negotiate on slow-moving models.
Target fees last
Buying a car is full of hidden fees that get thrown on your negotiated price at the end. Fees for things like "dealer prep" are generally a way for the dealership to make back some money, and they are definitely up for negotiation. Once your price is locked in for the car itself, take a crack at getting these add-ons out of the way.