Negotiating over the price of a car is a long-held auto buying tradition. To ensure you get the absolute best price possible, do some research and be prepared to walk away if the figures don't add up. You can do a majority of the needed legwork online before stepping foot in the dealership, including researching costs and shopping for loans.
Plan to pay in cash or have funding already in place. If you're able to write a check for the full amount of the vehicle, or if you have private or non-dealer funding in place before you go into the negotiation process, you have more leverage in making your deal.
Comparison shop in advance. If you go into a dealership armed with rates or offers on similar vehicles at other dealerships, it gives you room for negotiation. You can get some of these facts and figures online by searching local dealer websites or by using data from the Kelley Bluebook or Edmunds.com. Both of these sites provide detailed information about average cost of both new and used vehicles based on age, mileage and features.
Decide in advance of negotiations how much you want to pay for the car. A dealer negotiation trick is to focus on the cost of your monthly payments rather than the total cost of the car. A dealer may adjust down payment figures, interest rate and loan terms to get to that magic number for you without actually lowering the price of the car you want. Keep that final car price as your focus.
Ask to see the dealer’s invoice. This will show you how much the dealer is being charged for the car and also lets you know how long the car has been on the lot. If it has been there for more than a month, the dealer likely will be more willing to negotiate than if the vehicle arrived just days before.
Ask about cash-back incentives and rebates. These can add up and lower the price of the vehicle.
Walk away if you don't get the deal you want the first time. One of the most successful negotiating techniques is to tell the dealer the price remains too high, out of your range or is something you need more time to think about. Many dealers will stop you before you're off the lot or call you shortly after you leave. For this technique to be effective, you have to be willing to walk away and mean it.
Know what your credit report says in advance of the dealer pulling it. Reading your own credit report before car shopping gives you an opportunity to fix errors on your report and be aware of anything the dealer might use to try and haggle on price, terms or interest rate.
If you’re negotiating a new car price, look at the invoice for items you don’t want or need that are after-sale extras, like winterizing or car alarm systems. Removing these extras can lower your price.
- Barry Austin Photography/Photodisc/Getty Images