How to Negotiate Car Price with a Dealership

DealerDeciding to buy a car can be a stressful and daunting experience, especially when stepping foot in a dealership for the first time. The overbearing, sweet-talking salesmen will try to push you into making the purchase on their terms, but here’s a few tips on keeping the ball in your court when it comes to negotiating on the price of a new or used car.

Decide what you want before you talk numbers.

Do a lot of research about the car you want before you even leave the house. Online research is best; you can read reviews by various car owners and discover flaws or perks that the salespeople might not mention. Does this particular model have faulty air conditioning that breaks down easily? Are you going to need expensive repairs every 50,000 miles? Does the engine hum in an annoying way? These are important things you might not necessarily notice when you’re on the lot, under the pressure of the salespeople. Narrow down the types of cars you want before heading out to the dealership.

Look for scratches and scrapes

Once you get to the lot, try to browse without the assistance of a salesperson. Seeing the car in person can make an important impact on your decision, and doing that unbadgered can help take the stress off. When you’re ready, make sure you take a good test drive. Take note of every hum, bump, or rattle you notice — especially in used cars. If you do decide to go with this car, you can use these flaws as bargaining power.

Once you know what you want, negotiate car price by email.

Oftentimes the prices advertised online are better than what the dealer has on the lot, because it’s easy to go back and forth between competitors’ websites. The best way to negotiate is through email — send every dealer within a 100 mile radius an email saying you are looking for whatever car you’ve decided on, and want to know their best price. Make sure you tell them how many dealers you’re sending this email to, because it will put the pressure on them to make the sale. Take the best quote you get and send the email again, asking if any of the dealers will beat it. You may find that their best prices have suddenly gotten a lot better!

By negotiating over email, you save yourself the back and forth of visiting several different lots or calling up multiple dealerships. You also have the benefit of having their price in writing — if they try to nickle and dime you when you get to the finance office, you have proof that this is the price you’ve agreed upon.

Once you get your price, don’t settle for dealer financing.

If using financing, before you head out to the dealership try to secure financing at your own bank or credit union. When you’re negotiating rates in the finance office, this gives you some leverage with your interest rate. Oftentimes dealerships will mark up interest rates because it is pure profit for them; but if you have your own financing, they might be willing to match or even lower the interest rate. Take whichever one is a better deal for you, but be wary of 0% interest rates — with new cars, taking the promotional interest will often disqualify you for a much better rebate. Make sure you do the math to figure out what makes the most sense.

Don’t be afraid to walk out the door.

If the deal is going sour, don’t be afraid to walk away. It is better to wait and find a better deal than to settle for one that is mediocre or makes you uncomfortable. Remember, this is a huge purchase, so make the decision that is best for you. Never settle for shifty terms or for a car you don’t really like, because in the long run, you’re the one who has to deal with it. If you think things are salvageable with that particular lot, try talking with the sales manager in order to negotiate an agreement. If not, walk away.