If you’re a first-time car buyer, the process can be overwhelming and a little terrifying. The idea of going up against a tough car salesperson can feel like a losing proposition. However, there’s a way that even the shyest people can negotiate and get a great deal. Even better, you’ll be in an out of the dealership in under an hour.
Here’s what to do for your next car purchase.
Research the Car You Want
Before ever contacting a dealer or walking onto the lot, you need to know what kind of car you want. If you don’t know where to start, think about factors like fuel efficiency, the average cost of repairs, seating and how much you have to spend. Sites like Cars.com and Kelley Blue Book can help you narrow down your search to just one specific make and model.
From there, you can use Kelley Blue Book to find out what you should expect to pay, and what people in your area are actually paying.
For example, if you were looking to buy a new 2017 Hyundai Elantra with an automatic transmission, Kelley Blue Book lists a fair purchase price as $17,544. That’s what you should expect to pay, though you can push for the lower end of the scale.
To give yourself the most negotiating power, find financing for your car purchase ahead of time. If you are paying for the car in full, you can complete the deal quickly and easily.
If you don’t have the cash saved up, you can apply for an auto loan with an online lender. You can often get approved for a loan in just a few minutes. You can use this calculator to find out what your payments will be for your loan.
If your credit score is on the low side, another option is to get a loan from a credit union. They often have higher approval rates, and lower interest rates, than other financial institutions.
Identify 5 to 10 Dealers
Once you have a model and price in mind, make a list of five to 10 dealers that sell that car. If you don’t know of any offhand, Edmunds.com can be a great way to find reputable dealers.
You’re not going to visit a dealer just yet. Instead, you’re going to handle all of the negotiating via email. It can take a chunk of time, but it will make things faster at the dealership later on and save you money.
The Email Process
Send all of the dealers on your list an email. If you have no idea what to say, below is a script you can use:
I’m looking to purchase a 2017 Hyundai Elantra with an automatic transmission. I’d like to buy it and take it home on Saturday, but I’m looking around to find the best deal. I’ll be paying in cash and do not have a trade-in.
Can you tell me what the total out-the-door price is, inclusive of all fees and taxes?”
Most dealers will get back to you quickly. Many will try to insist on talking to you on the phone or having you come in. Others will tell you they can only discuss it if you come into the dealership. Reply to those dealers that you are only willing to talk via email.
Some dealers will drop out at that point, but most lenders will be willing to negotiate over email to secure a sale. Those lenders will start sending you their prices. Double-check their offers to ensure the car model is correct and that it includes taxes, title and any other fees.
Once you have a few offers, select the best one as your starting point. Next, send another email to the other dealers:
“County Hyundai said their best price is $17,500. Can you beat their price?”
The dealers will then scramble to come up with a better price. If they send you a better offer, send another email that says what the new best price is. Continue this process until the dealers refuse to change their prices any further. At that point, you should be in the lower range of the Kelley Blue Book prices.
Go Get Your Car
Once you have the lowest price, let the selected dealer know when you’ll pick it up. Before heading to the dealership, make sure you print off the emails or have them ready on your smartphone. If the salesperson tries to boost the price or says it didn’t include extra features you didn’t ask for, you can show him the best offer in writing that you agreed to.
If they refuse to honor the price, walk out and go to the next best dealer. That usually won’t happen; reputable dealers typically honor their agreements. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst.
When it’s time to complete the paperwork, make sure the price matches the price you negotiated and does not tack on extra warranties or services. If it does, ask the dealer to take them off before you sign.
Buying Your Car
From the time you get to the dealership to when you drive off the lot should take between 45 minutes to an hour, at the maximum. Even better, you’ll have successfully purchased a new car at a great price with minimal stress. Enjoy your new vehicle!
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