Although searching for the perfect car can be challenging, landing a deal could be easier if you’re prepared. We’ve highlighted some key tips at different stages of the car-buying process — planning, negotiation, and closing — to help you negotiate a deal for the car you want.
First, it’s important to know what you’re looking for, how much you’re willing to pay, and what options are available. Look at Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, or the Long-Term Quality Index to check the quality of specific car models. Also, speak to your local mechanic who could provide insights about what details to look for in a car and how you can spot a reliable vehicle.
To establish your budget, track the costs for your current car, including monthly payments, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and registration. This will help you know how much you can afford when buying a new car. The government provides a simple and free spreadsheet to help you make a budget from Consumer.gov. Knowing what you can afford with a pre-approved loan can also help you narrow down your options.
After deciding on a car and budget, you can then research available offers. It’s a good idea to research prices online and even request price quotes from different dealers to get a baseline of what is available in the marketplace.
Now that you have a plan in place, the next step is negotiation. Before walking into a dealership, write down your targeted down payment and monthly payment expense. Then, write down the absolute highest amount you can afford. Keep these numbers in mind and do not share them (especially your absolute highest amount) with the salesperson. These numbers will be your anchors during the negotiation and will allow you to stay confident and make clear decisions under pressure.
Your research from planning could help control the conversation regarding the pricing of a car. It could also give you a better understanding of the different price points for various options or add-ons, which can aid in your negotiation. Additionally, the quotes you may have received from other sellers could let the dealership know there is competition for your business.
As you negotiate, try to keep your emotions in check and be ready to leave if you feel pressured or if the pricing doesn’t line up with your research and budget. You may also be able to increase your leverage if you already have financing in place. This could remove the opportunity for the dealership to “play around” with the numbers and squeeze more money out of the deal by offering a lower monthly payment over a longer-term. The dealership won’t have as much wiggle room to take advantage of you.
Closing the Deal
At the end of the day, both you and the seller are trying to get a deal done. The seller is trying to not lose money on the car, and you’re trying to pay as little as possible. Going into the dealership with a plan, and having your financing in place are great steps toward helping you negotiate and ultimately close a deal for the car you want.
Once an agreement has been reached on price, paperwork needs to be completed so the deal can be finalized. Before signing anything, it’s imperative that you read each document, paying close attention to ensure all of the numbers and terms match the deal you agreed upon.