Many people hate negotiating the price of a new car and are willing to pay a bit more if they can avoid the stressful high-pressure sales tactics sometimes employed by dealers. But other people love the thrill of arm wrestling to get a rock-bottom price. Here are buying tips for both types of buyers.
A. The ‘pay more, stress less’ method:
If you want the least stressful buying experience and are willing to pay about $200 more to avoid the worst part of the car-buying experience, here are two options:
1. Check out the car-buying services offered by a credit union, wholesale club (Sam’s Club, Costco, etc.), road service (AAA), car insurance company, professional association or local car-buying brokerage service. These services locate the car you want and get you a locked-in price. You show up at the dealer, check out the car and sign on the dotted line. You still have to negotiate the value of your trade-in and work with the dealer’s finance department, but at least the vehicle price is established.
2. Choose the car or truck you want on edmunds.com or truecar.com and request a VIN (vehicle identification number) email quote from local dealers. A VIN quote is for a particular car already sitting on the dealer’s lot. The dealer quotes will list the vehicle’s color, factory- and dealerinstalled options and the dealer’s best price. Just pick the best offer. If you want the vehicle, act fast—it may sell quickly.
B. The ‘fight-for-the-last-dime’ method:
Using the dealer cost information from edmunds.com or truecar.com, call the dealer and ask for the Internet sales manager. Let the dealer know you already checked out its cost on edmunds.com or truecar.com. Then ask the dealer to find the vehicle you want. Once the vehicle has been located, offer the dealer invoice cost. They won’t accept your first offer—that’s when the games begin. The dealer will usually counter with a minimal discount off the full retail price. Ignore that offer and follow these rules to get the best deal:
1. Negotiate up from the dealer’s invoice cost by raising your offer in $50 increments, and reject offers to “split the difference.”
2. If you can’t reach the deal you want on your first color choice, choose a less popular color and start the negotiations anew. Let the Internet sales manager know that the new color isn’t your first choice, but if you can get a super deal, you might buy it.
3. If the vehicle has dealer-installed options you don’t want, like paint protection film, undercoating, etc., tell the dealer you don’t want them. The options won’t be removed, so your goal is to pay as little as possible for them or choose a vehicle without them. Simply add up the retail cost for all the unwanted options and divide by two to arrive at their cost. Add that amount to the dealer invoice and make your offer.
If you’ve negotiated the price of the new vehicle by phone or email, get the terms in writing (in an email) before you head off to the dealer. Then drive your trade-in to the dealer, present a printout of the used-car valuation research you’ve done. Ask the salesperson to beat (or at least meet) that price for your trade-in.
Then Close the Entire Deal
The deal comes together in the finance department. If you’re financing the purchase, ask the finance people if they can beat the interest rates and term quotes you got from your research. Then ask them to beat the Internet price quotes you got for an extended warranty and local vendors’ prices for other add-ons.
Before you sign the papers, double-check the agreed-upon sale and trade-in prices, interest rate and loan terms. Reject any additional charges like dealer preparation. Don’t rely on verbal assurances.
— Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor