When shopping for a new car, you want to be sure you get the best price. But forget about spending hours negotiating with salespeople; if you use these tips, you can get the best price before you even enter the showroom. (To find out whether a new car is for you, see Car Shopping: New Or Used?)
The Best Way to Shop: On the Internet
If you walk into a dealership and ask for the best price, you won't get it. Salespeople will sit you in an office and negotiate with you for an hour before giving you something resembling a real price. Even if you believe you've been successful in reaching a fair price using this approach, you'll never know for sure without comparison shopping. Going through this negotiation process with several dealers would take hours.
What many buyers don't realize is that every car dealership has a back door that nearly always gives you the no-nonsense price of a car instantly. This back door is the internet sales department or fleet sales department. You can contact a special internet salesperson for each dealership by using the phone numbers or contact forms found on every dealer's website. If you want to get quotes from more than one dealer, go to the manufacturer's website and "build" the vehicle you want (choosing the specs, color and so on), then request quotes from all the dealers in your area. (Find out how to buy a quality car without driving your expenses through the roof. Read Wheels Of A Future Fortune.)
The internet approach is almost always cheaper and easier than shopping in person. Every dealership is actually in direct competition with many other dealerships in the area. When using the internet to obtain price quotes, you're telling the dealership that you're comparison shopping and that the regular pricing games won't work on you. For this reason, an internet salesperson will often give up the best price with no negotiation at all.
When talking on the phone with salespeople, many of them will ask you to come to the dealership, because this gives them more leverage in convincing you to buy. For now, don't agree to go to any dealership, just continue collecting quotes. As you compile your dealer responses, you'll notice that quotes can fluctuate by more than a thousand dollars. Be sure to tell higher-quoting dealerships that you know of a better deal. They might not lower the price, but it's always worth a shot. Using this technique, you can get multiple quotes easily and find the true price of your target car within an hour. (Find out the hidden costs of owning a car, read The True Cost Of Owning A Car.)
Get One Dealership to Beat Another's Price
Many dealerships maintain a policy to beat any other dealership's price. Usually, dealers will only beat a price by a small margin, and will ask you to come to the dealership so they can close the deal. For this reason, you don't normally want to request a dealer to beat a price until you are ready to buy. When you are ready, and if you are confident that you have a rock-bottom quote, you can start asking dealers to beat the lowest quote. Try to get hard figures on a best price over the phone if possible. Ideally, you want to know the "out the door" price with all taxes and fees included. Otherwise, an unscrupulous dealer could try to add additional charges at the last minute.
Most customers don't realize that financing is a profit center for car dealerships. A finance manager is often a commissioned salesperson. Financing a new car purchase through a dealership often involves large initial "financing charges" which are pure dealership profit. A finance manager can also manipulate interest rates and other loan terms to squeeze additional profit out of a deal.
With so many complex terms, it can be very difficult to ensure you're getting a good deal on financing. If you're a monthly payment buyer, dealers can play costly games with you, but if you're a cash buyer, you can set an exact price on a car. If you can't pay cash, finance your loan outside of the dealership, where you can shop for the best rates and terms in a competitive market.
Just when you think you've settled your car deal, you'll likely be hit with another sales proposition for extended warranties and more. Do not buy anything except the car, even if it seems like an incredible deal at the time. Savvy dealerships will try to make money at every stage of a deal. When you are paying a large sum of cash, an extra few hundred dollars doesn't seem like as much money as it actually is. You need to guard against making bad decisions when so much money is on the table. (See Extended Warranties: Should You Take The Bait?)
To avoid spending more than you intended, get an "out the door" price from your salesperson before you come in to close the deal, and bring a certified check for that exact amount. Do not pay with anything but that check. Consider leaving all other forms of payment at home to avoid the temptation of buying extras.
The Bottom Line
Getting the best price on a new car doesn't have to mean hours of stressful negotiating. When you use the internet to compare prices, pay cash for your car and don't fall for the extras the dealership offers, you can shop like a pro and save thousands. (For tips on keeping your car in good condition and maintaining your investment, read Top 10 Ways To Get Top Dollar For Your Car.)