Dealerships are intimidating places. It can get unsettling when you’re crammed into a tight room with a sales person who’s pitching a laundry list of options for your car, and before you know it you’re shelling out more money than you originally planned, just to get some nice floor mats. The same can happen when trading in your car as well.
Don’t despair, as there’s a way to make sure your dealership experience goes exactly as you planned, whether you’re buying new or trading in. Be prepared, and you will instantly gain leverage which is what the negotiation is all about.
Whether you’re trading in a car or buying one new, know how much it’s worth. You can check out the car’s value on websites like KBB or NADA. If you’re trading in, be sure to check the used car trade-in value , which will give you a good idea of what the dealership will give you for your car. Also, check the market value on CarGurus, which will give you a good estimate of what your car is going for on the market.
If the dealer offers you a low amount at first, tell them you think it’s worth more, around 15-percent more and tell them the reasons why, i.e. one owner (if applicable), repairs, new parts or especially the interior quality (if it’s been well maintained). From there, the dealer may say your price is too high, so try to reach an understanding with them and find out what they think is reasonable.
Visit several dealerships and compare the offers you get for trading in your used car, and use those offers to negotiate. Try to get each of those dealerships to beat your best offer.
When trading in your car, the time of year or other external environmental factors matter. Using motorcycles as an example, most sellers wouldn’t sell their bikes during the winter because that’s not as big of a riding season as summer or spring. Potential motorcycle buyers aren’t willing to spend as much money on a bike because the winter is cold and wet. The same goes for cars. When gas is expensive, sell your Prius. When the sun is out, sell your convertible.
This can play a big part in negotiating for more money as it shows you have cared for your car and kept it in good condition. Car owners tend to abuse their cars in a number of ways and unfortunately, there’s no real way of knowing how bad the damage is. Having service records mitigates the discomfort for potential buyers who don’t know the car’s history.
The goal of some dealerships is to get you to forget about the price of the car, so they will funnel your attention to monthly payments. They can reduce your monthly payments, but tack on more money to the overall cost of the car, so you end up paying more for the car even though you pay less per month. Don't negotiate based on monthly payments.
Keep your wits about you when this crops up. Your price should not be compromised, but be realistic. Unfortunately, dealerships don’t normally reveal how much they buy a car for, but you can bet that it’s a lot less than the sticker price. A good way of estimating this value is to look at the trade-in value on KBB.
Tell the salesman your fixed price for the car you want. If they counter your offer, just say no, give them your phone number and leave. They should call back if your offer is realistic. Be sure to emphasize that if they agree to your price, you will sign the paperwork as soon as possible, as it will show you are a serious buyer. Try and find a different dealer offering the car you want for a lower price, but make sure both cars are as close as possible in terms of options and overall condition. Bring a printout of the competing dealer’s car, and it should propel the negotiation further in your favor.
This process is about improving your odds. If you call to follow up an hour before closing time, the salesman may just want to make a sale no matter what it is, and on days with bad weather when the dealership may not have gotten a lot of business you might catch a desperate salesman. Also check back at the end of the month, as dealerships have monthly quotas.
Be respectful of the salesperson’s time. Some salespeople don’t make anything unless they sell a car, and if you go through the process without buying the car you’ve wasted their time.
Being confident in your offer is key, so make sure it’s a realistic offer and say no to the extras that the dealership will try and sell you on, like an extended warranty or rust proofing. Don’t forget to be respectful, and find a sales person you get along with. The salesperson is more likely to pull some strings if you treat them like a human being, and if you two get along they are more likely to be relaxed with you and be more transparent. Keep in mind that the salesperson doesn’t have control over the price of the car, but they can speak to their general manager who does, and if the salesperson likes you they will negotiate with the manager on your behalf.
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