How To Get The Best Price When Buying a Car

Almost every family I know has a vehicle.  Next time you need to buy one make sure you are getting the best price.  Here is a method that has saved me thousands of dollars.

A vehicle is one of the largest purchases your family will make.  Ensure that you are a good steward by getting a good deal.

You may not need this information today, but I pray it will give you some things to think about.  File it away or bookmark it for the future.

Buying a vehicle is challenging.  What make and model do I get?  How much can I afford?  How do I get a good deal?

Often the joy of buying a new vehicle is shadowed by the experience of working with dealerships.  Every aspect of a car dealership is carefully crafted to get you in the door and make them money.  They have many tricks to get you to pay as much as you can and more than you were planning.  Don’t be a victim.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are honest salesmen and companies with integrity.  I have known a few.  But they can be hard to find among the wolves.

If you have money set aside or financing through your bank, you should look for a used car that was driven by elderly folks.  You will rarely go wrong doing that!  However, in many cases, you will need to look to dealers for your next vehicle.

Before we get into the main steps, let me give you a few comments of advice regarding negotiation.

  1.  Don’t wait until you are desperate. Salespeople can smell desperation a mile away.  Buy a car before you must have one.  Don’t try to buy above what you can afford.  If your credit is bad, drive an inexpensive car until you build it back up.  You will always pay more if you don’t have many options.
  2. Be willing to walk away.  Don’t fall in love with a car if the price isn’t right.  Don’t get so invested that you must have it.  Don’t believe that you will “never find a deal like this again.”  Last time I went to buy a car, I walked out of a dealership after 4 hours of playing “negotiate & wait” because it wasn’t the right deal. The dealerships are there to help you find what you need at the price you are willing to pay.  If not, walk away. Sometimes when you start to leave, they will renegotiate. Sometimes they don’t.  Either way be ready to walk.
  3. The best car deals are usually available at the end of a quarter or the end of the year.  Often, the dealerships have quotas to sell and incentives to reach.  The next best time is the end of the month.
  4. Usually, you’re better off buying a lightly used vehicle.  New cars lose a substantial amount of value as soon as you drive them off the lot.
  5. Ask someone who knows cars to check out the vehicle for you.  They will understand what to check for existing problems.  Items like engine noise, tire wear, leaking fluids, rust, etc. can be warnings of problems to come.

Here are ten steps to get the best price on your next vehicle.

1. Choose the vehicle. 

Know what you want before you buy.  The internet can give you most of the info you need.  Next, go to a dealership to look at vehicles, but tell the salesman that you are not buying today.  Usually, they will give you the access you want, but leave you alone because they are looking for a sale.

Sometimes, it is a good idea to rent the same make and model of vehicle you are interested in for a day or two.  It is an extra expense, but you will find out whether you genuinely like the car before you make a multi-year commitment.

2. Do your research. 

Know the facts. Learn the details about the vehicle that you want. Do your research before you show up. Know what they usually sell for and what makes a great deal. If you don’t know the facts, you will have to rely on the salesman to be honest. Not a good idea. 

You can find car values at sites like KBB.com.  Edmunds.com will give you expert reviews and tons of information.  TrueCar.com will tell you what others have paid in your area.  Don’t fall for the MSRP scam.  A vehicle is not worth the retail price.  It is worth what people are willing to pay for it.  Pay less now.  Have more value later.

Don’t forget to research the reliability of the car you’re interested in. Fuel economy is an essential factor everyone notices, but also consider the cost of upkeep and repairs. ConsumerReports.org is an excellent resource for vehicle reliability information on popular makes and models.

3. Decide upon a price you are willing to pay.

Don’t fall for gimmicks. Teaser rates will get you in the door, and then they will raise the price of the vehicle you want. The salesman will focus on how much you can pay per month instead of the total cost. You should worry about total cost, payment per month, and the percentage of the loan. 

Pay attention to the Truth In Lending information.  Consider the total cost of the car versus what it is worth today and what it will be worth at the end of your loan.  Bankrate.com has a useful loan calculator.

Prepare your financing through your bank or credit union.  Talk to them and get the current rates.  Tell the dealership that you have your own financing, but they can try to beat it if they like.  This puts you in a stronger negotiating position.

4. Email 5 dealerships with your offer. 

This is the key.  Today, many dealerships have internet departments with people that will cater to you if you contact them online.  They will give you a better price to get you to come to them than if you walk in the door and you are already on their lot.

Here are some details to include in your email.

  • Make, model, and year range.  Pick one or two vehicles out of their current inventory and ask for their best price.
  • Tell them you are going to buy a vehicle within the next three days.  This lets them know that you are a serious buyer.
  • Tell them how much you plan to put down.  Start with a number like $500 – $1000.  You can always give more, but a low downpayment helps keep them honest and lets them know that you need a reasonable price because you are not rich.  Tell them you don’t have a trade-in.  I’ll explain below. 
  • Remind them that you want to buy a car, and they want to sell one.  You will be an easy sell with no hassle.
  • Tell them that you are sending this email to 5 other dealerships with the same information.  You will call the dealership who offers you the best price.  You will come in to buy the car within three days.  Best offer wins. 

5. Confirm the deal over the phone. 

Call to confirm the numbers and deal.  Tell them that you don’t want to show up and hear something different.  Make sure they send you the details by email.  Set an Appointment.  Print off the email to take with you.

6. Show up at the dealer for paperwork. 

Don’t be surprised if that person you worked with on the phone isn’t “available” or “had something come up.” and they ask a new salesman to help.  Don’t get nervous if he “doesn’t know the details the other salesperson gave you.”  That’s ok.  You have printed the email and brought it for them to see so there are no misunderstandings.

7. Confirm numbers before you test drive.

Confirm the price before you get behind the wheel.  Usually, they will push for you to test drive the car first because they know you will pay more if you love the car.  You have done the research.  You don’t need to drive the car.  You need to see if you can afford it.  They may get frustrated but stick to your guns.

Some years ago, I negotiated the price on a vehicle, and then I test drove it.  I told my wife later, “I’m glad I had the price before I drove the car.  I like the vehicle so much that I would have paid more.”

8. After you negotiate the best price, ask about your trade-in.

Dealers can manipulate the value of your trade-in to make it look like they are giving you a better deal than you are getting.  Only bring up your trade-in after you have the rock bottom price.  Usually, the salesperson will get flustered because they know there is no wiggle room left.

Don’t lie about this.  Just keep your options open.  If you have taken good care of your vehicle, you can always sell it privately for more than the dealer will give you.  However, Tell them “I have a car, but I am considering a private sale instead of a trade.”  Then when the price is settled ask, “How much would it take off the price if I trade in my current vehicle?”

After you negotiate a good price, they may offer you a comical amount for your trade.  Once, I had a van worth $8,500, but a dealer would only offer me $1800 for it after I used this tactic.  I laughed out loud. Then laughed again when He said that was the best he could do.  Needless to say, I walked.  A different dealer gave me $8500 for the same vehicle in trade.

9. Beware of extras. 

When you go to the sales manager, they will try to sell you warranties, paint and upholstery guarantees, extra accessories, etc.  Just say no.  You don’t need them.  If you want them, you can find them cheaper at places like AAA.com, AutoAnything.com, or ETrailer.com.

10. Enjoy your new ride.

You will enjoy your vehicle better knowing that you got a good deal.  Every time you drive it, you can thank God for a great car at a great price.  Also, you will have some extra cash to give to a good cause or take care of your family.

I pray that helps.  Do you have any tips to add?   Leave them in the comments below.

I love input. I look forward to your comments. I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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