1. Research the vehicle or vehicles that you want thoroughly on a website such as Autoblog. Our site will take you to the specific make-and-model page for the vehicle you like, allow you to spec the equipment you want and tell you the best deal we can find for you.
2. When you go to the dealership, be relaxed and carry yourself with confidence. Remember, a car salesperson does this every day – and is paid to be an expert; that is leverage in the negotiation. If you look and sound confident, it will begin to tip the scales to a more even balance, if not exactly in your favor.
3. Never negotiate your actual transaction price down from the sticker price. Always know the invoice price, and negotiate up from that. Never raise your bid until the salesperson has counter-offered on the first bid you make. Never raise your bid by more than a $100-$200 increment.
4. When it comes to financing, go to the dealership knowing what you can get from your local bank or credit union, regardless of whether the car is new or used. Get the lowest rate you can find and start with that. If the dealer is offering zero-percent financing, have a good idea before you go in how much that is worth on the loan and terms you are planning on so you know whether to take the zero-percent financing or the rebate(s) the dealer is offering. And at a time of in-the-basement rates, the rebate is typically better. Make those calculations yourself. Don't let the salesperson tell you.
5. This is the most important rule. Go into the dealership ready to walk out without a car. Don't fall in love in the showroom, and don't rush it. If you are thrown curveballs you aren't ready for, or you don't like the way the process is going, just excuse yourself and leave. Remember, nothing is stopping you from getting out of the showroom. Go home to gather your thoughts and research what you weren't prepared for. The dealer will be open the next day. Car buying is too often a pressure-packed activity, especially if you are in a position where, for whatever reason, you need a car in your life as soon as humanly possible.
Following these few tips, however, will allow you to make a smart decision and will eliminate the majority of the stress that comes with this process. It's a big purchase, especially if you're buying for the first time. Hopefully, this little bit of homework will make it much easier to handle.
Car Buying Resources