Negotiating new car price

I despise the new car buying/negotiation dance and submit to it as infrequently as possible. I keep my cars forever…my current cars are an 18 year old Volvo 91 wagon bought new in 91 with 225k and a 97 Lexus ES300 with 190k purchased certified used in 2000. So I’m getting nervous about having 2 high mileage cars and on the prowl. I’ve read consumer reports, taken test drives, got the consumer report dealer invoice costs report and checked the CR prices with those at various ‘free’ web sites. I like the Toyota Highlander, base model with 4 wheel drive, V6. I put together a price starting at dealer invoice and adding the couple of options I’m interested in, then calculated a range 2.5% and 4% above that as my negotiation range. Does this seem in the ballpark or are the ranges too low? Does one include things like Dealer prep and title/registration or only base price+options. One sales guy tried to imply that the CR prices were not what his actual costs were. I doubt this, but of course I have no way to know. Any and all advice/tips/horror stories would be helpful.

This site is filled with numerous threads with tips for purchasing a new car. One very good one is at:

You need to do enough homework to develop a mindset that will keep you in control. Much has been written on this subject.

My favorite resource is a book by Remar Sutton called “Don’t Get Taken Everytime”. I’m not a big reader, but I couldn’t put this one down.

Good luck.

If you want a Toyota Highlander only, then you’ll have to shop at several Toyota dealers to secure the best price. Don’t worry about their story on price and costs. Your calculations have you in the ballpark. Find a number of cars at a couple of dealers and tell the sales person what your offer is for the car, then leave your name and phone # and walk away. If you stay in the sales reps office then they’ll hold to their price. Once you have their counter offer, ask if that’s the best they can do today? When they say yes ask for the sales persons card, the VIN and/or stock # of the car you are dickering over and leave. Tomorrow they might do better, if they call you then you are back in the control seat. Whenever you are in the dealer’s store you are in their home court and they have the advantage.

When you have a deal the dealer will send to a guy whose job is to close the sale with as many add on’s as he/she can get away with. Fee’s for stuff, protectants for the seats, security etching, extended warranties, yadda yadda. This is a huge dealer profit center. Be ready to say NO firmly. If there are fee’s and junk added you don’t understand be ready to walk again. They’ll call you and suddenly have a way around the fee if they want the sale. As long as you have your money and they have the car there is no deal and you still have some control. The more you want a particular car, the greater the advantage of the dealer and the more likely they will find a way to hose you out of some more money.

The best time to shop and select possible cars in after the 20th of the month. As the end of the month approaches the deals get better. Sales people with prospects for a particular car will work the phones and that’s when the real dealing starts.

Make it clear to the salesman you are dealing with bottom line price before sales tax is added (if applicable). Let him either waive (some dealers don’t like waiving the fee, because they can’t truthfully then say that everyone pays this fee) or deduct the additional fees from the bottom line offer, to accommodate whatever dealership policies they may have.

If they can’t meet your price, then go on to another dealer. Take your time. As Uncle Turbo said, time is on your side so long as you put no money down.

After visting several dealerships, doing my online research, and using a “pricing service” like those from AAA or Consumer Reports, I know what would be a fair price from my perspective. When I make my final car purchase visit after doing all of my “homework”, I bring a small piece of paper on which I have written the maximum price (pre-tax) that I am willing to pay.

After being told the so-called best price by the car salesman, I produce that little piece of paper.
I have had salesmen tell me that this price is not possible, given the invoice price of the car or the trade-in value of my old car, or the time of the day, or the phase of the moon, or…whatever the B.S. de jour might be. I then reply that they can juggle the numbers any way that they wish regarding the price of the new car and the trade-in credit for the old car, but that the bottom line price had better not be higher than what is written on the paper.

In every case, after some hestitation, I have gotten the price that I stated was the maximum that I would pay.

The link doesn’t work. I think you need to separate the link from the period at the end of the sentence.

Thank you Whitey for catching that. I removed the trailing period.

One other low-cost thing to do is check out the buying service at the local Sam’s, Costco, and your credit union or bank.

Thank you all for taking the time and providing input. It alleviates some of the stress knowing that I’m basically on the right track and will continue to take it slow and get used to leaving dealerships. The longer I wait the more money I can save , less I’ll have to borrow and as the 10’s roll in I would think the 09’s would become an even better deal. Thanks for the link, its good to have many sources of information.

thanks again

I don’t have a direct answer to your questions, but I do have a suggestion to make your car shopping experience a little better.

Walk into the dealership and when you are approached by a salesperson, ask to speak to the sales manager. Tell the sales manager you don’t like dealing with slimy shark-like salespeople, and ask her or him to put you with a salesperson who will treat you with respect. If the sales manager can’t accommodate your request, it is time to leave the dealership and find another. If you like the salesperson assigned to you, get a business card so you can contact this person directly throughout the process.

My first car buying experience went a little like that because my coworker’s daughter worked at the dealership. She introduced me to the sales manager. He asked me if this was my first time buying a car, and I said yes. He said, “then let me put you with a human being.” The salesman he gave me was professional, polite, and give me a great deal without making me go through any haggling. I will take this experience with me every time I buy a car, and the moment I start to dislike how I am being treated, I plan to walk out.

Don’t hestitate to contact several dealers through their internet website. The ones interested in really selling you a car will give you a price, and won’t just say “come visit us”. We have purchased two cars that way, and have been very happy with the negotiation process via email.

My usual method is to make a list of maybe five dealers who sell the car I want. I generally have a rather specific car in mind. I then go to each dealer. I tell each one the same thing. I am going to buy a new car, It will be a 2010 Stanley Steamer. I want manual transmission, and an extra large coal box and I want it in black. I include all the items I really want.

Then I explain that I am going to other dealers and telling them the same thing.  I let then know I will allow X weeks for them to find the car I want and the dealer with the best price in X weeks will sell me a car.  I do allow for some slight variations, for example having the deluxe ash tray does not bother me one way or the other.  I might make some allowance for price differences for slightly different models, but the car must fit all of my original list.

That has works well for me several times.  A few refused to play, but that just means I don't want to deal with them anyway.

I will most likely be doing something similar to this method when I go out again in a month or two. I know that when they can build from the factory(yeah yeah, argue all you want about depreciation and whatnot) ANY dealership can do it. While I would prefer to buy locally, but if I can save a few grand out of town, I’ll do it. The local salesman said they offer free loaner cars and a couple other things through the service department if I buy from them, but again, cost is key.
My wording will be the best out the door price, as I won’t be trading in, and will bring my own(bank’s) money with me. I remember one website suggesting you get dealerships to bid against each other(call them up and say “dealer X offered $xxxx, can you come down a couple hundred off that?”). I feel this is a waste of everyone’s time to dawdle over a couple hundred bucks.

Story relating to a Chevy dealership owned by the same people who own the local Toyota place. One person was telling me they went to the local place looking for a truck. The salesman wouldn’t budge on their price, so they left. They went to a place in Mechanicsburg, Ohio(2 hour trip from Marion) and found the exact same truck, and got it for $4000 LESS than what the local place wanted. Guess where she goes to buy her vehicles from now on…

What I can add (never having bought a new car) after working (and drinking) with new car salesmen is they hate people that come prepared with facts and figures.

For every one of us, there’s probably atleast 10 more who come through the door who will pay sticker price and buy the warranties and protectants.

If you believe one thing, be sure to believe that they could sell you the car at your best guess price, and often do. The best way to keep them interested is to let them know (when they ask) that you will pay for it by writing them a check when they agree to sell. People who have never bought a new car but are good with money will do this and get a great price. Me? I’m a give-away artist but I swear I will change next time.