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Any car sales people (or former ones) that can illuminate the poor rest of us as to the tricks of the auto sales trade? Smile Any experienced car buyers that can offer some tidbits to help the rest of us?

I'm buying a car now and have always been frustrated by the process - all the apparent games that go on. For example, why can't the car negotiating process be smoother/quicker etc.? Why do we always have to wait forever for the salesperson to come back with information? He knows darned well what he can get from the manager! Roll Eyes And even with internet information (like at Edmunds), how can we really be sure that we're getting a good deal?


Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.


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OK - I tried to wait on some replies, but since none were forthcoming I went ahead and bought my new ride anyway. As I look at car buying as a sport, I thought I'd leave you my tips. BTW - I've bought 11 new cars in the last 18 years and I still periodically go into dealerships and "negotiate" with no intentions other than to "stay sharp" and have fun! Since I know someone will ask, I've bought one car each of the following brands: BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Mazda, and Volvo; and two each of the following: Honda, Mercedes Benz, and Toyota.

Here are my tips on getting the very best deal you can:

  • Really think about what your criteria are in buying your next car. Be sure you can write them down and rank their importance. To be really precise, you can create a spreadsheet ranking cars against your criteria using a weighted average. I've attached an example of the one I used recently below. There's nothing magic about this, it just helps to clarify why certain cars make sense for you and why others don't based upon your own criteria. For me, some of the critieria that I used were price, room, "fun factor", "fit & finish" etc. You should shoot to create a list of about 10 or so cars for comparative purposes.

  • In whatever manner that makes sense for you, come up with a "finals" list of the top three or four cars that you could pretty much equally be happy with. You should go actually see these cars to make sure that you really like them. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO DRIVE ANY CARS AT THIS POINT THOUGH. Just sit in them, listen to the radio, try to get a feel for the car WITHOUT driving it. Does it feel like you? Will you be happy with it for the next few years? These are important questions that are much less logical and much more emotional. If you choose to use one, your spreadsheet will tell you which cars have the features and functionality that you need. Your gut will tell you whether you'll really like the car or not.

    BTW - any questions from the dealer about numbers, deals, trade-ins, etc. should not be answered at this point. Say you're just starting out and trying to see which cars you like - which is true. Don't fall for the salesperson's pressuring you, there will be another "once in a lifetime deal" next week or next month too! Smile (BTW - it really does make sense to wait to the end of the month or the end of the season to get the best deals. If you look on the sticker you can often find out when the car was delivered to the dealer. Cars that have been there awhile are ripe to be aggressively sold.)

    Why not drive it yet? The salesperson's greatest tool in selling you a car (with the worst deal possible for you) is to get you as emotionally attached to the car as possible. They sense what your hot buttons are and try to hit them as hard as possible throughout the sales process. Driving the car can often seal the deal by getting you excited and attached to it. At the very least the salesperson can get a better sense of how much you like the car and how much they have to bend to get you to buy. If the salesperson senses that you really like the car - forget it, you're done! They know that price is not your primary motivator and it will be very difficult to get a good deal.

  • At this point you've come up with an initial list of cars. You've whittled it down to a final few - which you've seen. Now you're ready to go get your car! Smile

    First, when you start talking about numbers be non-commital about everything - trade-ins, whether you want to buy or lease, or really about anything. You've got to get the dealership to give you the lowest price possible without consideration of any other factors - including trade-ins, special factory deals, rebates, etc. Those are things they use to "rob Peter to pay Paul" in structuring a deal. For example, you may get what seems like a great deal on the purchase price of the new car, but get killed on the trade-in on your vehicle and then not make out particularly well after all. First you should go to some online sites like where you can get the actual invoice price, the cost of individual options, as well as a good "value" price that tells you what to shoot for on the new car. You can also get trade-in values for your old car as well. These sites are invaluable because information is power! Period. Smile

    When you start talking about numbers you'll already have a guideline price based upon your online research. THE KEY TO GETTING THE BEST DEAL YOU CAN IS TO BE AS EMOTIONALLY UNATTACHED TO THE OUTCOME AS POSSIBLE. You have three or four cars that you can equally live with from your list. Your approach should be to go in and negotiate as hard as you can with each dealer and you'll take the best deal of each of the four. It obviously doesn't have to be the cheapest deal, but just the best deal. You can even tell the salesperson about your strategy. Make sure they know that you have done your homework online and that whether you buy what they're selling, or what the dealership across the street is selling - you couldn't care less. It's all about the deal. This strategy is really effecitve, but not always the easiest to execute. You've got to remain as dispassionate about this as possible though. Focus on the numbers, NOT the car at this point. Remember - this is not an exploding deal. You can always come up and accept his final offer. In that way - you've got the leverage. Your objective is to get the best/lowest price possible. Period. Also, don't be afraid to walk away during the negotiation. If the salesperson is not being responsive enough or you're just getting tired of the antics, just leave. The salesperson will always be happy to see you! Smile

  • In negotiating always remember that if the salesperson has offered to come down some - there's ALWAYS more on the table that the price can come down. They'll never give you their bottom line. You'll have to negotiate down to it. Particularly early on. For example, if the car's MSRP is $25,000 and s/he says that you can have it for $24,500 - know that there is at least another $1,000 or so that s/he can come down. Maybe more. NEVER ACCEPT A SALESPERSON'S OFFER. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE DOWN FROM THERE.

  • If you get asked the famous question "What's it going to take to get you in this car?" - BE BOLD IN YOUR ANSWER!!! This is the time to set the context for the negotiation. You've got to show the salesperson that you know your stuff and have the "backbone" to go for the best deal you can! If you think a good deal is at $23,500 - ask for $22,000. If you're emotionally attached to the car, this can be an extremely difficult thing to do. This can be particularly so when the salesperson is whining about how he doesn't think the manger will go for it. Roll Eyes That's why this has to be about the numbers and not the car. Go back and forth with the salesperson, just have a clear goal that you are shooting for. The actual negotiation is pretty simple. Just always double the cut that you actual want. (i.e. if you want to go down $500, ask $1,000). Remember, you've got nothing to lose. You can always come up to the dealer's lowest offer. When you get it, you're done.

  • The waiting game seems to be a key part of the sales process. My sense of this is that when the salespersn goes away for extended periods of time s/he wants you to get worried that you're not going to get the car. They're supposedly fighting with the sales manager trying to make deal work for you. Baloney. It's just designed to make you nervous and you'll have none of it. Bring a magazine or a book and just sit back and relax! Smile Let them play their games. They'll only get your business if the numbers are right. Period.

  • Do this for each of the cars in your final list. Shoot for the best price on each car, work each dealer hard, and take the best deal. Again, you can be happy with each of these cars. It's all about the deal now.

    After you've decided on a deal - congratulations - follwing the above strategy you've probably gotten a good one. Now is NOT the time to let your guard down though. The finance manager wants to sell you all sorts of warranties, clear coat finishes, security systems, etc., etc. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING FROM THE FINANCE MANAGER. This is where a lot of the dealer's profit comes in - after the sale on "junk". If there's something that you want to buy, get it yourself directly from the source yourself and you'll probably save at least 50% off the dealer's mark-up. If you're buying the car and you want to consider buying extra warranty coverage, you can even do this after the fact as well. Sometimes the car companies have "sales" on warranty coverage too. If you do feel like you have to buy something from the finance manger, please know that EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE. They try to present it otherwise, but these are truly incremental dollars and they will take whatever they can get sometimes.

    So - the biggest things to remember are to remain as emotionally unattached as possible and to do your homework online. Sometimes it even helps to bring someone with you to help you not fall for the "hype". Follow the above and you'll be a wise and happy buyer! Smile

    Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.

    [This message was edited by MBM on December 30, 2002 at 07:32 PM.]
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    I didn't give any advice b/c I have very little, but I am glad to see your tips. Smile I will be in the market for a car soon so I will use some of your tips when I go to make that deal.
    I do have a question, how do you feel about buying new vs. used (ie demo models)? That is a debate we have a work often on why buying new is a rip off and I just want to get a feel for what others think. Also do you factor the cost of insurance when you are looking at the type of car to buy?


    I have some more looking to do then. I was settled on a Lexus IS 300. I do have a black salesperson that is willing to only charge me $300 over invoice when I am ready. He gets a $5k bonus for the number of cars sold, so making money from me is not the big thing. Does this sound right?

    I am going to go get some alternatives now... though I am in love with that Lexus.. I've recently seen some cars on the road that made me look twice.

    Thanks so much for this information. I'm sure I'm going to need step by step support when the time comes.... Big Grin

    La Femme Nkechi
    Be the change in the world you want to see
    Originally posted by ocatchings:

    I do have a question, how do you feel about buying new vs. used (ie demo models)?

    Demo models are great. You're getting an essentially brand new car, but with a bit of the depreciation already lopped off. Plus, of course, you get full warranties etc.

    Also do you factor the cost of insurance when you are looking at the type of car to buy?

    You should, although honestly I don't.

    Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy.

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