CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

New car purchase strategy. Tips?

OK, so I’m starting to look for a new car, been a while. Any former or present car salesmen or folks with car buying smarts out there who would like to offer any tips? End of month? End of year? Finance through dealer or my own bank? Thanks! Rocketman

I generally have a specific car in mind when I go to a dealer. I tell him what I want and I make it clear from the first that I am not limited to buying from that specific dealer, and that I intend to shop at several dealers in the area. Tell the dealer that you will contact several dealers and will buy the best offer.

 Don't mix in anything other than the car you are buying.  Don't think  about trade-ins or such.  Put a time limit on it and follow through.  Don't play games. The dealer knows most all the games and will try and use them against you. 

 I have bought several cars that way and it has proven to be easy and saves me money. 

 I have ended up buying a local car, but I have driven the to the next county or two to get their bid.  

 Don't ever give you key to the dealer.  If they want to test drive, you only allow them to test drive with you in the car.

I have been waiting for this or that and heard many of the lies they use.  

The funny thing, at closing the total amount due, was $500 less  than the last car I bought (a 2002 diesel beetle) than I had agreed to.  They also have provided very good service when I did not want to do it myself.

In any case, just remember, you can go to another dealer any time you want.  They must sell cars or they will go out of business.

Use the Internet!

I bought a new car earlier this year and I did all of my shopping from home. First, select the make/models of interest and download their respective brochures. Read reviews online. Then make your choice, including color and trim.

Check the websites of the dealership(s) nearest you, those whom you would deal with. See if anyone has what you want. If you want to actually look at your potential purchase in person, visit the lot on Sunday morning when it is closed. No one will be there to hassle you.

Find the dealer’s lowball price by requesting a quote online. It should be a couple of thousand below MSRP. Either contact the dealership directly or (better) use a quote service such as :

http://www.edmunds.com/partners/affiliates/index4.html?kw=freepricequote&PID=709937&AID=10364150&mktid=cj50922496&mktcat=affiliates

That’s how I got my price. I phoned the salesman to confirm the price and the additional costs, and then drove in to complete the deal. The competent salesman even phoned my insurance company for me to get the car signed up for coverage. He even let the business manager know I was not the type to fall for the extended warranty or the paint protection scams. Two hours later I was driving home in my new car.

I paid cash for the car. If you finance, always go through your bank or credit union, never the dealer’s finance system. Good luck, my friend.

I usually have a specific car in mind when I start the buying process so I find a few dealers that deal in that specific brand car, then I go back and forth from dealer to dealer letting each one know what the other one offered to sell me the car for. By doing this I can get them down to their rock bottom best price. In 2004 I was able to get the price of $25,300 Mercury Grand Marquis GS down to $15,300. before no dealer would go any lower. Depending on how much time you have to devote to going to the dealers as to how long it will take to get to the rock bottom price.

Just the usual stuff

  1. If they get out the 4-square, either ignore it or just tell the salesman to put it away.

  2. Negotiate the price of the car first, don’t even address questions about monthly payments

  3. If you have a trade in, don’t even mention it until you’ve agreed on the price of the new car

  4. Never mention the price you’re willing to pay to the salesman. They’ll do their best to stay above that.

  5. Generally speaking, after the 3rd trip to the tower (where the GM’s are) you’re not going to get a much better deal than the 3rd offer.

Post christmas is a bleek time for automotive sales. It is to a degree pre-christmas.

Good luck. Take your time.

If buying new, go to the dealerships and test drive all candidates. When you have decided what you want to buy, then the rest is done on the internet as mentioned above.
Check on truecar.com and bunch of other sites to get a ballpark on invoice prices. Then send e-mails to the dealers nearby and get quotes. When you decided which one you are gonna buy from, call and make it clear that any extra tricks will result in cancellation of sale.
This technique worked fine for me last year.

Research, research, research. And NEVER fall in love with a car (or a deal). Stay unemotional and use the information from your research to get the best deal. Buy at the end of the month. The dealer is hungriest to sell additional units to make their incentive bonuses. I practically stole a Mazda 3 at the end of July. I got them down to dealer invoice price. I knew they were keeping a “holdback” and making a $900 incentive by selling me the car and getting one more sale that day. They made plenty of money and I saved a TON of money.

All the above, with emphasis on research and obtaining your financing before you go car shopping. One dirty trick that car lots use when you finance with them is to fax a different deal to the bank than they are showing to you. They will add something like an extended warrantee so the bank is financing a higher priced vehicle, but the salesman is pocketing the difference.

For example, lets say you put $5k down on a $24k vehicle, you expect to finance $20k ($19 + tax and registration). The sales guy faxes in the deal at $21k. All you see on your version of the contract is $20, x years @ $xx/mo with an APR of x%. Unless you have a financial calculator with you, it is nearly impossible to figure out if all those numbers are accurate. If you don’t catch it, the salesman just made a bundle for himself or the dealership. This practice is a lot more common than you would think.

Last thing, time is not on your side and the salesman knows this. Few people are willing to spend days or weeks in the negotiating process. They get bored with the process after a few hours, so the salesman will start to stall the process. They want to keep you waiting until you get impatient. The best thing to combat this is to tell the salesman when he says he has to go get approval is to tell him that you might not be there when he gets back, then after 60 seconds, head for the door.

Know the fair market value for the car and competing models (incentives included). Know the features on this car and the competition better than the salesman. Also, your strategy should depend on how long you plan to keep the car. If it is 150,000+ miles, then I wouldn’t worry about resale value.

Never talk money first. Talk about the car and what you like, but also talk about competing models and what you like. You are trying to push the sense of urgency onto the salesman. If you know more than he does, all he can counter with is price. Direct the conversation, know when a good deal is offered, and be willing to leave a little money on the table for the dealership and salesman to make a little on the sale.

I always win when I buy a car because I am always well prepared for the process and have realistic expectations. No one ever beats me at this game. They may also win, and that’s OK. But I have to win, too, or I walk out.

“or I walk out.”

This can be your MOST IMPORTANT tool. Feel free to walk out any time you feel uncomfortable or pressured, feel free to make it known that you will not wait 10 minutes doing nothing, feel free to walk out if they start pushing garbage at closing (they will).

They will call you back, guaranteed.