Going to a dealership to buy a new car is a daunting business, but there are a few tips that can make the transaction easier and less wallet draining.
Why is it so nerve-racking? People aren't as nervous about buying a refrigerator or dishwasher. The cost is one issue. The average price of a new vehicle has climbed to above $30,000. If you are financing or leasing, your minimum commitment is probably three years, and maybe as long as six or seven. That's a long time to be in a relationship with a person, let alone a car or SUV.
Buyers need to be armed with information and resolve. Remember, the car sales-person does this every day. They get good at it. They know when they have an unprepared buyer, versus one that is on their toes. Wouldn't you practice and prepare for a tennis or golf match with a ranked player? Then do your homework before buying a new car and check out some of our tips that will help you.
[Image Source: Simon Grieg, Flickr]
1. Don't provide a budget
At some point, the sales-person will ask you, "So, what is your monthly budget?" Do not give them this information. Better that you tell them the key-code to get into your house, or the password for your online checking account. Sales folks are trained to try and get that info, and then sell you a package that is a bit above that.
Your answer? "I don't really have one. I'm going to just get the best price and deal I can."
Remember, write everything down. Clutch your notebook, and keep jotting. He or she is wondering what you are jotting and may become a bit unnerved.
And come armed with a dozen questions about the product, such as how different features work. Sales people can be notoriously unprepared to answer detailed questions about this $30,000 thing you are about to buy. Ask them enough questions they can't confidently answer, and then you start to put them back on their heels and you level the playing field a bit. Better yet, ask questions that you already have the answers to. When the sales person can't answer, you say, "Oh...you know what? Silly me. I have that information already. Here, I'll tell you what that thing does."
[Image Source: Contemplative Imaging, Flickr]
2. Don't rely on the dealer invoice
There are some services that will sell you the dealer invoice for the car you want, right down to the engine-block heater option you want. But these days, having the invoice doesn't give you a good picture. Most people think they can get the invoice and then settle for a couple of hundred bucks on top of that.
You may be short-changing yourself. The invoice won't tell you, for example, all the extra money the dealer has to play with offered by the automaker. The invoice may say the dealer paid $25,660 for the car. But it won't tell you if the automaker is offering the dealer an additional $500 for each Chevy Malibu he or she sells, or maybe $1,000 per car if they sell 100 Malibus that month.
The best thing to do is go to our search tool at AOL Autos and check out what the car is selling for in your zip-code and then negotiate down from that price.
[Image Source: Myoldpostcards, Flickr]
3. Look for an unpopular car
How's that? Yes. Look for the wallflower, the geek of cars. No matter how much research you do, you aren't going to have much bargaining power if you have to have the hottest car in the showroom--the car that comes off the truck at the dealer and is pretty much already sold. If you don't pay what the salesman wants, he or she knows they can have another buyer on the hook for it later in the day.
Instead, check out our monthly "Best Deals" story, and also observe the dealer's inventory. Does the dealer have an entire aisle of Ford Focuses or Fusions, but only three or four Mustangs? Does the Toyota dealer have 40 Corollas on hand, but only five Camrys?
If you are really looking for a reliable car at the best price, and not fixated on one model, take advantage of the dealer's inventory problem and show interest in the Corolla or Focus. The dealer is desperate to move vehicles he has too many of, and those cars generally have incentives from the factory to sell them on top of the direct consumer rebates.
[Image Source: The Toad, Flickr]
4. Be tough
This is the hard part. But you must tell yourself that, if the final price really matters to you because you are on a budget, do not go to the dealership with the idea of buying on the first trip no matter how many times you hear, "Is there anything I can do to put you in a new car...today?" "Nope," you tell them. "I didn't even bring my checkbook today."
Don't even bring your checkbook. Instead, bring a notebook and write everything down the salesperson offers you. At some point, make sure you tell he salesperson, "I absolutely have to have a new car in the next week or so. It's just a question of which one, and the deal I can get." Also, tell the salesperson, "let me make sure I have your card, because I know I am going to call you with questions I will think of later."
Have you ever tied to cancel cable or your cell-service? Same thing. Make them roll out every give-back and gift they have in the drawer to close the deal--another $250.00 off the sticker, free Sirius Radio for a year, etc.
5. Wait until December
This maybe be the hardest one, especially if you are shopping in August. If you can delay until December, then the deals will get better and better. In fact, about ten of the best days to buy a car are in December, or at least between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Dealers are desperate to clean out inventory by year-end. And automakers are chasing final-year sales numbers so the money is flying in terms of rebates, incentives, etc. Best day to close a deal? December 31. Happy New Year.