Heading to the auto dealership to buy a new car is a daunting prospect. For many of us, it represents the second most expensive purchase we’ll make in our lives, behind buying a home. With so much money on the line, buyers should be armed with as much information as possible. We spoke to buyer advocate Jerry Robbin to learn his top 15 tips for the best deal on a car. For a fee, Robbin will negotiate with a dealer for you, so he has plenty of experience with this process. Heed his advice and you could save thousands on your next new car purchase.
It seems simplistic, but you need to know what car you want. Base your information on needs for fuel economy, capability, space, passenger capacity and price range. Also consider your desires for performance, looks, amenities and reliability. Focus on a few vehicles and narrow the list by reading reviews and using guidance tools on the Internet. Once you have a short list, test drive or rent the vehicles. If you take your test drive at a dealership, don’t get caught up in the buying experience. You are only researching at this point. The test drive should narrow your choice down to one vehicle. Then you need to go deeper.
Once you’ve picked the vehicle you want, choose the trim level based on the features and options you can’t live without. Go to the brand’s website and navigate to the “build and price” area. Build the car to the specifications you want. This will give you the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, plus the destination charge. Visit third-party websites such as MSN Autos to find the vehicle’s invoice price (more on this later). When the time comes to buy, don’t deviate from the trim level you chose — why pay for features you don’t want? Note that you might have to special order a vehicle to get exactly what you want.
Once you’ve chosen the model and options, email a few local dealers and ask for a quote on that exact vehicle. Add a timeline for your buying process to show them that you aren’t just a tire-kicker. You can also use Internet services for this step, such as the “get a quote” links on websites such as MSN Autos and pricing sites such as TrueCar.com. To get your business, one of those dealers might quote you a good price right up front.
Take documented evidence of your best price quote to your preferred dealer and start the negotiations. The dealer will be compelled to meet or beat your best price to earn your business. If this dealer is close to your home or workplace, it’s best to buy from them for your convenience and because they will be more willing to work with you on service issues if you’re a customer. Also use timing to your advantage. Buy when you want to — not when you need to — and go to the dealer at the end of the month when the staff is trying to meet sales goals.