Before you parachute into a new car dealer looking for the best deal on your next set of wheels, take time to equip yourself with these 10 No-Holds-Barred Buying Tips:
If you plan on paying cash, don't say so until after you've negotiated the purchase price:
Reason? A lot of a dealer's potential profit is built into financing; that means the salesman may be more likely to negotiate a lower sales price -- if he thinks he can make it back on the financing. Never discuss how you'll pay for the car until after you've negotiated a sales price -- and have it in writing.
Don't shop on a weekend (or weeknights):
The law of supply and demand doesn't work in your favor when there are lots of other customers around; if you don't buy, the odds are the next guy will. But when you hit a dealership mid-week, when there aren't nearly as many (if any) other customers around, interest in you (and the potential sale you represent) will go up. You've got a better chance of negotiating a great deal when the salesman feels pressed to close the deal -- with you, specifically.
Forget about the monthly payment:
Worry about the actual price of the car. This goes for leases as well as purchases, since the "balloon payment" at the end of the lease will be based on the purchase price you sign on to at lease inception. A "low" monthly payment does you no good if it is based on a higher-than-it-should be purchase price -- with those "low" payments stretched out over an extra year (or obliterated by an obnoxiously high balloon payment to buy the car at the end of your lease.
Keep quiet about your trade-in:
Never discuss what you plan to do with your current car until after you have completed negotiating the price of the new car. There are two reasons for this. One, you don't want to add an additional factor (negotiating your old car's trade-in value) to an already complicated process before you've dealt with the first one (negotiating the price of the new car). Two, if the salesman can get you talking about your trade-in before you've come to an agreement on the price of the new car, he may be able to shift your attention to the "great deal" he's giving you on the trade -- causing you to forget all about the not-so-great deal he's giving you on the new car. Focus on one thing at a time; deal with your trade-in after you've tied down the deal on the new car.
Beware "no haggle" pricing:
Anytime you hear something that sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. "No haggle" is the same as walking into a standard dealership and agreeing to pay the full MSRP sticker price on the window. You don't "haggle." You just pay what they tell you to. This may be less stressful for those who hate the back-and-forth of the typical new car purchase process -- but it's far from being a great deal. (If the brand/car you want is only sold at a "no haggle" dealership, that doesn't mean you can't negotiate. You've got nothing to lose by making a fair offer under the "no haggle" price -- while the dealer has the single most important thing of all to lose by not playing ball with you -- a sale.)
Worry about incentives and rebates after you negotiate your best deal, not before:
Like haggling over your old car's trade-in value, it's best to stay focus and not confuse the issue by adding factors that can distract you from negotiating the best possible deal. If there's a $1,000 cash back offer, you can subtract it from your final deal (or better yet, just have them send you the check, if that's an option). Remember: It's the sales price of the car that matters most; everything else is secondary.
Don't take the car home for the night:
This is a common offer designed to get you emotionally attached to the vehicle; to think of it as "your" new car, even before you've formally decided to buy it. Anything that clouds your judgment or tends to make you emotional should be avoided. If you buy the car, you'll have plenty of time to gaze lovingly at it and think how nice it looks in your driveway. Don't fall into this trap before you get the deal nailed down.
Add-on fees are always negotiable:
Don't let yourself be talked into paying a couple hundred bucks above the "final" sales price you just agreed to, no matter what rationale the salesman tries to peddle. You do not have to pay for the dealer's "marketing fees" of anything else -- other than applicable sales taxes, title and vehicle registration fees mandated by your state/local government (and payable to them, not the dealership).
Just as car salesmen get you to drop your guard by getting you to think of them as "nice guys" with friendly chit-chat, your cause will be well-served if you get the salesman to like you as a person. Being needlessly hostile (or cold) adds tension to the process and should be avoided. The salesman's a human being, just like you -- and most of us prefer doing business with people who are warm and friendly. If it helps you get a better deal, so much the better.
Be ready to use your trump card
Which is to simply get up and walk away if the salesman is pressuring you, or you don't like the way the deal's going. You are under no obligation to buy the car -- and that's your number one ace to play. Be polite, but tell the man you don't think this is working out and that you'll try your luck elsewhere. Nine times out of ten (unless you are being completely unreasonable) the salesman will do whatever it takes to get you back to the table. Keep that in mind -- and be ready to exercise your option to split -- and the odds of getting the best deal possible will always be in your favor.