Plenty of people agonize over their car buying decisions. Once they finish narrowing the field down for the best models for their needs, they spend days and days looking up dealerships, negotiating, and wondering if they need to pony up thousands more than they originally planned. Often, they will simply choose a used car because they can’t get a dealership to give them a reasonable quote. None of this is actually necessary.
First, never mind buying used and don’t even negotiate
Certainly, a used car is a great idea in many situations. For most people who need to commute to work and to go on long road trips with their families, though, there’s simply no substitute for the reliability of a new car. If you know how to go about the new car buying process, you don’t need to lower your expectations and turn to a used car lot. You will likely find a model that’s priced right.
Once you’ve decided on a car, it’s time to take a test drive. All you need to do is to go up to the dealership, get a test drive, tell the salesperson that you can’t negotiate now because you haven’t made up your mind yet, and come away. This sets you up as a player of hardball, and gives you some leverage.
Think about what you plan to do with the old car
It doesn’t make any sense trading an old car in at a new car dealership. It gives them too many ways to make money on the deal without letting you know. It’s best to separate the deals for the old car and the new car, instead. Simply research your car’s value on Kelley Blue Book, find a trustworthy used car dealership that gives you a good price, get a 7-day price guarantee, and come away. It isn’t right to sell your car before you completely sure about what you’re buying, and when.
Now find out what you should pay for the new car
No one should pay list on anything, leave alone on a car. The MSRP is usually simply a figure plucked out of thin air by the manufacturer to help dealerships offer imaginary discounts. You need to do your research, and find out what the car is really worth.
Plenty of sites help you do this. Edmunds, Costco Auto Program, Consumer Reports Build and Buy Cars Buying Service, USAA and True Car are some of the most trusted names. These services allow you to determine what people in your area are actually paying for the car that you have in mind. The MSRP on the 2016 Ford Fiesta, for instance, is approximately $16,000. According to True Car, though, the average buyer pays $15,500; True Car’s own estimate for the best achievable price is $15,000. This type of information can right away help you save hundreds off the sticker price.
Going in with your own financing
It’s a good idea to avoid the dealership’s own finance department as far as possible. As with offloading your old car, you don’t want to mix your deals up — it gives the dealership too much wiggle room when they try to hide what they really are charging you. Approach a credit union or other source for financing, and prepare your own loan. Plenty of online car loan calculators help you decide what you can really afford, and what you should pay.
Finally, make the dealerships an offer
Now that you have all the information you need, all you need to do is to cold call the dealerships, and tell them what you’re willing to pay. You should use every method available to you — the Internet sales departments of these dealerships, the phone, the fleet departments and so on. You don’t want to actually step into any one of these dealerships at this point; doing it all by remote control allows you to save time and sidestep practiced sales pitches by the car sales people. Once you’ve made your calls, all you need to do is to wait for them to them call you. Once it’s done, you can be in and out of the dealership in under an hour.
George Davis is responsible for a car fleet in his job and uses his experience to track down the best deals when buying new cars. He likes to share his insights online and is a regular writer for a variety of consumer interest websites.