Buying a new car can be stressful—especially when it comes to getting the best deal possible. By following these tips, you can put yourself in the driver’s seat when negotiating a price with the car dealer.
1. Research and know the value of the car
If you want to negotiate like a pro, you’ve got to think like one. Knowledge is power, and it could end up saving you hundreds of dollars on the final sale price. There are plenty of online resources like Edmunds.com and Kelly Blue Book that will help you determine the true market value of a specific new car in your area and provide you with estimates on what the dealer paid, the vehicle's listed price and what you should expect to pay. If you get stuck with the sticker price, you paid too much.
It’s also beneficial to research the different options and packages on the vehicle you’re looking to buy. Visit the manufacturer’s website and determine what comes standard and what’s extra. When you get to the dealership, ask if they have a model that fits your specifications and don’t pay more for a sunroof or backup camera if those features aren’t important to you.
2. Get pre-approved financing
Once you know which car you want to buy and have researched how much you expect to pay, apply for preapproved financing through a trusted financial institution in your area. By getting preapproved, you know exactly how much you can spend, what your interest rate will be, and estimated monthly payments before you ever talk with a salesperson. Preapproval also means you won’t have to make an important financial decision at the car dealership. Instead, you can ask financing questions, such as the ‘what if they offer me an 84-month loan’, at the credit union or bank without the “pressure to purchase” looming over your head.
Discussing monthly payment amounts is a classic strategy for a salesperson. Refocus their attention on the final sale price and let them know you are preapproved for the amount you wish to pay. This way you don’t get stuck with a longer loan term and pay more in interest over the life of the loan.
3. Set the ground rules
Consumer Reports suggests that new car buyers politely explain the following to the salesperson before getting too deep into the conversation:
- You have carefully researched the vehicle you want and have already taken a test drive.
- You know exactly which trim level and options you want, have researched the price for that configuration, and know what the dealership paid for it.
- You have already calculated what you are prepared to pay. Reassure him or her that your offer will include a fair profit.
- If he or she can meet your target price you’ll be ready to buy immediately; if not, you intend to visit other dealerships.
Consumer Reports also suggests that you start by showing the salesperson your rock-bottom offering price, but don’t disclose your competitive bids, which are the upper range of what’s acceptable. Otherwise, he or she will focus on undercutting that higher figure by a token amount instead of working off the lower figure. You will want to come across as friendly and confident, well-informed but not argumentative. If the salesperson turns you over to a more senior colleague, simply repeat the same ground rules to the next salesperson or manager you meet. But no matter who ends up sitting across the desk from you, your clear explanation of what you’re looking for will help counteract the diversionary tactics that salespeople often count on to give them the all-important bargaining edge. You’re in command.
4. Don’t get distracted away from sale price
So what’s considered a diversionary tactic? If the salesperson asks about a trade-in, manufacturer rebates and discounts, or monthly payment amounts, steer them back to the final sale price. Trade-in value should only be discussed once the final price is agreed upon; simply state that you have considered a variety of options for selling your old car and that a trade-in could happen, but only after the new car deal is finalized.
Investopedia.com also warns about additional services getting slipped through. When you finalize the sale of a new car, you'll work with the dealership's finance officer to sign all your paperwork. This offer will try to sell you a number of additional services like an extended warranty, paint protection, and more. You likely don't need any of these services, and it’s best to turn them all down and purchase the car like you originally intended.
5. Know when to walk away and when to say yes
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the negotiation will hit a snag.
You should consider walking away if:
- The salesperson quotes the dealership’s “lowest possible price”, but it’s still higher than what you want to pay.
- You feel uncomfortable or feel as though the salesperson is being dishonest.
- The salesperson offers a “today only, take-it-or-leave-it” price – an offer should be just as valid today as it is tomorrow.
HOW YOU KNOW THAT IT'S A GOOD DEAL
Be prepared to sign the dotted line if:
- The final offer is close to your target price range for a vehicle that has the features you want.
- You’ve been given a reasonable amount of time to compare offers at other dealerships and have reviewed the deals at home in peace and quiet.
- You are satisfied with the level of customer service provided by the dealership.
Negotiating the price of a new car can be stressful, but it’s important that you remain polite. In most cases, the salesperson is simply doing what they get paid to do —trying to get the best price for the dealership on each sale. U.S. News advises that if you’re polite and professional, a salesperson is far more likely to negotiate rather than if you’re being argumentative and rude.
If, however, you feel pressured and uncomfortable while negotiating, remember you always have the power to walk away and find a dealership that is more in line with your vision of customer service. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you find a vehicle that is right for you and that meets your price point. You’re the one with the loan — make sure it’s at a cost you’ll be happy with several months later.
United Vehicle Financing Calculator
Use United Federal Credit Union’s free vehicle financing calculator to estimate payments, terms and loan amounts for your next car.