Time your purchase: Like other items, cars go on sale. Dealerships will often discount the cars on their lot to make room for new model year vehicles, usually in the later months of the year. However, this sometimes means that there's only a limited selection of discounted cars available, so you might not get the exact options you want. Also, new model year vehicles might have updated features that weren't available on the previous versions. Still, if you're flexible on the trim and accessories you want, shopping on-sale cars is an easy way to save.
- Stay aware of model updates: New model releases will often be accompanied by increased advertising to drive awareness of the new car. If you notice an uptick in ads for a new car, it's possible the older version is about to be discounted.
- Scout around for rebates or special offers: Discounts often come in the form of rebates or offers, such as low interest rates. Look online or in newspapers for these discounts before you head to the dealership.
- Go to the dealership and speak to a salesperson: Let the salesperson know which car you're interested in, and of the special offers you know about. Don't hesitate to ask if there are any other discounts available.
- Familiarize yourself with the car: Sit in the car and play around. Make sure you're comfortable in the driver and passenger seats. Ask the salesperson to demonstrate how different features and systems work, especially the infotainment system and how to check various fluids.
- Go for a test drive: Take a test drive to make sure you like how the car behaves on the road. Go for a mix of city and highway driving so you can feel it in different scenarios. Don't let the salesperson rush you – a car is something you're probably going to keep for many years, so you want to make sure you're familiar with it, comfortable, and enjoy it behind the wheel.
- Complete the transaction: Restate all the discounts and special offers to the salesperson before they create the bill of sale. Once it is presented to you, make sure that all the discounts are applied and that each fee is clearly explained. Be certain that the vehicle on the bill of sale is the exact one that you want and took for a test drive. Once you're positive everything looks good, sign the bill of sale.
- Don't fall for the salesperson: Good salespeople will do everything they can to align with a customer. They will try to be as likable and friendly as possible, asking you details about your personal life or cracking jokes. Don't fall for it. Keep it strictly business and only share the minimum amount of necessary information.
- Be knowledgeable: Another tactic salespeople try is to wow you with unimportant details or features. Do lots of research before you go in – know all the packages and options that are available, and identify the ones you specifically want. When the salesperson thinks you know more about the car than they do, you gain control.
- Be price-conscious: Know the high end, low end, and average sale price of the car. Use online resources to educate yourself on fair pricing. Kelley Blue Book is one of the leading sites for researching new car pricing, and their "Price New/Used Cars" tool shows the MSRP, the dealer's estimated invoice price, and a fair purchase price range. If the salesperson tries to take you outside that range, use what you know to your advantage.
- Negotiate hard: Start negotiations by making an offer on the low end of a fair purchase price. Don't be afraid to be firm or curt – when thousands of dollars are on the line, playing nice might put you at a disadvantage. If negotiations seem to be going your way, don't let up, and keep pushing the salesperson. Don't forget to negotiate delivery charges and other dealer fees outside of what's on the car's options list.
- Sign the agreement: Once you reach an agreeable price with the salesperson, sign the sales agreement after careful final review.
- Research accessories: Before you go to the dealership, look online for what accessories are available and decide whether they're something you want on your car. Common options include floor mats, mudguards, remote starters, running boards, trailer hitches, or chrome trim and other style enhancements.
- Negotiate what you want: Tell the salesperson you're willing to pay the sticker price, but only if the accessories you want are added. You might want to pad your list with accessories you're actually fine without. You can use that as a bargaining chip against the salesperson by offering to exclude them, making them think they're getting a deal.
- Sign the agreement: If the accessories you want are added to the deal without inflating the sticker price, sign the sales agreement after careful final review.