After the test drive, how do I start the negotiations?

I’ve never bought a car before. I’ve looked at a few cars and am ready to test drive the model I want and buy it. If I like the vehicle after the test drive, then where and when do I make an offer: Do I make an offer right in the parking lot? Do I ask the salesperson to walk me into the office to talk price/options? Or should I wait until the salesperson suggests this so I don’t seem to eager?

They’ll take you into their office and want to make the sale. You give a low ball number and work up from there. Have a number in mind that’s agreeable to you and also a number that you say no deal.

Feel free to tell the salesperson you’d like to talk price and options. But know before you go in what your willing to pay, what your budget will support, and be willing to walk away if the numbers aren’t right. There’ll be other cars, and if you walk away I guarantee the salesman will call you and just might give you exactly the deal you want.

Others disagree, but I believe that if you like the car you need not be afraid to say so… as long as that does not affect your willingness to walk away.

I like to go prepared with the latest copy of Consumer Reports New Car Preview as well as NADA and KBB references… remember that the negotiation for your tradein amount is part of the final price of the new car… unless you’re going to sell it yourself.

Don’t let him talk you into paying for anything you don’t want. If he says “well, the XXX is already on the car” simply say “that’s fine, but I’m not paying for it, so subtract it from the price”. They paid a tiny fraction of what they’re gong to try to charge you for it anyway, so it won’t be a big loss to them.

Don’t let them talk you into “packs”; extended warrantees (a ripoff), rustproofing (no longer needed), “finish protection” (a $300 wax job… call me, I’ll do it for $250+ travel expenses). Whatever it is, if it were that necessary the manufacturer would have designed it in at the factory. They even get hundreds now for floormats comparable to the ones I can get at the auto parts store for $20.

And, for a first time buyer, I think that once you get a firm price you should think about it for a day or two. He’ll tell you the deal will be gone once you walk out the door, but I guarantee you it will not. Take a day. Think about it. Don’t sign anything until you’re certain.

Best of luck. Make the decision carefully, remember that YOU are in total control of the negotiation, and you’ll be off on the right foot.

Is that standard procedure for salespeople… test drive, then try to hook the customer into the office? What if the salesperson tries to push another vehicle: Do I say let’s talk price on the first vehicle (at the risk of sounding too eager)?

+1 for Bing. Works for me.

Play the game, then say I will think about it, because I am looking at some similar cars and leave. Don’t do nothing else, they will call you back in a day or 2, look up what you can buy it for online, sorry for godfather reference, but when they call say make me an offer I can’t refuse. Sure it seems like a bad thing to do,but take that offer to any other dealer, and they will probably match it. Sure You want to be loyal to a dealer and their service dept., but that is not a guarantee of better service.

Yup, that’s standard procedure, especially if they know that you’re a first time buyer. They’ll try to make you feel like they have all the answers and “guide” you into what they want, then they’ll try to load on as many added costs (the “packs”) as possible. They may even “double team” you.

Then they’ll hand you off to the “finance guy”, who’ll double talk and BS you forever. He may even add amounts to the bill that you never discussed… DO NOT give him that freedom. Make him explain everything to your satisfaction… you can still “walk away” until you agree to the financing terms… you are still in full control at that point.

But always remember, you are the one who’s really in control. NOT the salesman. And you want ALL the details. Don’t be afraid to say “no” and don’t be afraid to have them give you whatever information helps you understand the negotiation to your satisfaction.

Keep in touch. we do care.

Don’t do anything like it’s 1973. Get to the internet and get a price quote there. They know that the internet is everywhere and they can’t mess around as much. Sometimes you get their best offer right away. They will e-mail you an offer and you go from there. We don’t need spears, arrows, or horses to hunt cars when a keyboard works much better.

Figure out a price before you enter the building and stick with it. Once you sit down and the words start flowing along with bogus trips where the salesman to hash things over with the sales manager, etc things often take a turn for the worse financially; at least on your end.
Those kind of acts are subtle ways of applying the thumbscrews.

Negotiate the car price and not the monthly payment! For me, if I couldn’t pay off the car in 3 yrs, the car is too expensive.

My method is as follows:

First, get some pricing via the internet.
Then, visit 2 or 3 dealerships and tell them that you want their best bottom-line price.
Casually mention that you are not in a hurry, as they will invariably try to push you to “buy today”, just so that you can’t do much comparison pricing.

I use internet pricing to influence the prices that are quoted to me (Really? That’s the best that you can do? Look at this price quote that I got online!), and then I use the lowest dealer price that I receive in order to pressure the preferred dealership to meet that price. (By preferred dealership, I mean…the one that has the best reputation and/or the one that is most convenient to your home or business and/or the one that provides free loaner cars when you bring the car in for service.)

Guess what?
Even with a bit of squawking on their part, my preferred dealership always meets or beats the competing dealer’s lower price.

Then, when they try to “upsell” you with…extended warranties, paint and upholstery protectants, door edge moldings, and other bits of poor-quality aftermarket stuff, just say NO.

What @VDCdriver said. Say no (politely) to EVERTHING they try to sell you at closing, no matter how good they make it sound. That is where the dealer makes their profit.

If anything is rubbing you the wrong way, WALK OUT. I get the deal done start to finish in an hour or so. If they leave you sitting in the salesman’s office for any length of time, leave. They’ll call you back.

Read all the different articles here about buying a car:

Lots of great advice here. Remember, the salesman is a pro, he does this everyday, several times a day. Don’t get emotional, don’t take it personal (he isn’t your friend), walk if you feel like it isn’t going your way. If the salesman is still hungry and there is still profit for him in the deal, HE will contact YOU in a day or so to reel you back in. There are many other dealers with thousands of other cars out there. YOU hold the upper hand… the hand that signs the contract!

If you live in an area where the new car dealers are closed on Sunday go look at what you want and write down the info on several cars and then check their web site and you may see the selling price discount.

Do not buy the first car that you test drive. Go to another dealer or two to get some experience as a buyer. One of the skills that is needed is to be able to walk away. Practice walking away until you are accustomed to doing that. Be as nice as you can when doing that. This is easier to do in a large urban area where there are plenty of cars and dealers. After some practice, a good deal and a salesperson who you will like will become apparent.

PS, A salesperson must not be overly pushy or a bad listener or I am out of there! There are few good auto sales people out there and a lot of less talented ones. I have bought brand new cars twice from two different sales people who I liked and respected for their handling of the entire deal. If I did not like them, I would have found someone else to sell me a car.

Don’t be overly concerned with paying possibly a few hundred dollars too much for a car. Over the time that you might own the car, a few hundred dollars are insignificant.

If you want to help yourself buy a car from a position of strength, save up so you can pay cash.

What @mustangman said. The salesman is not your friend, he never will be, and you are not there to make a new friend. It’s normal American human behavior to be friendly and pleasant when dealing with a stranger about a complex financial transaction, and you can be, but you must remember that this is not a friendly chat on the golf course. The person you are dealing with is a trained predator, and you are the prey. They will try many things to make you feel that you are somehow obliged to buy from them, but that’s just sales manipulation and you are not. You are buying a product that is sold in many places, and you can simply decline to make a deal anytime.

If you give in to their pressure in an attempt to escape, you will fell pretty bad about yourself later. Don’t do it.

Idiot666 is dead on with the comment about negotiating final price and leaving the monthly total out of it. Dwelling on the monthly payment is where you can get had.

A survey from a trade publication some years ago showed that almost 90% of people questioned while car shopping were only concerned with one thing; how much a month.
While they’re focused on per month they’re often getting stuck on the total, the add-ons, trade-ins, interest rates, etc, etc.

The customer leaves the place smiling and thinking they put one over on the dealer because they got a new Whatzit for only 279 dollars a month with little or no down.
As the new car owner drives off the salesman, sales manager, and F & I guy are high fiving and whooping it up about drinks at the bar later…

This maybe a technicality but I believe you always tell both the salesman and the manager you ARE ready to buy immediately when ready to talk price and Don’t negotiate UNTIL YOU ARE. I have relatives in the dealer ownership business…twelve and counting, and they will not take you seriously or give you a bottom line price just for the asking. You need to have check in hand, ready to buy now to get the best deal. The second thing is…be focused on the “deal” and not the car. If they know you can take or leave any car, you maybe able to swing a better deal on a car you thought you could not afford. This has happened to me several times where we got a better car for the same or less…go figure.

The reason is…
They know how much they have tied up in a car and what they have to make on it and you don’t.

That’s why it’s important to have several cars in a negotiation at once. One should always be a " dream" car you may want but for a rediculouslty low price. That’s why you must over time, try out several cars you may be willing to accept. Remember, don’t like any car in front of them but treat them like commodities…that’s the way they look at them and you must be cold, hard and convincing the same way. It’s a business deal for the both of you…but one in which you must remain friendly, courteous and in good humor. Have prices in mind already by doing reaserch. But, these prices are guildines only that you never go above. Your job as a negotiator is to pay less. That’s why you give a dealership a chance to move a car you will accept for a price lower then you thought. That’s why you have several cars in mind before you start.

One final mportant point. Negotiate " walk out the door prices" that includes sales tax and any processing fees. that gives you a chance to eliminate them ( the value of some fees ) while negotiating because you make the point early, the total includes them which is part of the negotiation.

Many dealers have their inventory on line and post prices. You can see options on the car for both new and used cars, and mileage for the used ones too. If you spend time on line checking out cars you are interested in, you will bet a good idea of what a good price is. Using other on line sources like and edmunds,com also give you an idea what Otha pay for the cars you like.

It helps if the salesperson knows you are seriously considering other competing cars. If they know you’re only looking at Civics, just to choose a car, they know their only competition is other area Honda dealers, if there are any, and they know what kind of deal you might get from them. If you have researched other models they have more reason to think you’re an informed shopper and will walk away if you get jerked around. With as many good cars as there are available now there almost always are reasonable alternatives unless you’re buying something very unusual.