How to Find The Best Car Deals

by Craig Berman ; Updated July 27, 2017
Go online to find out what others are paying for the car you want.

The more flexibility and time you have, the better the chance you’ll find a great car deal. You’ll have a tougher time negotiating for the hot new luxury car model than you would going for a less popular model that dealers are desperate to move off the lot. Regardless of your vehicle preference, you can find the best car deal by following a few basic tactics.

Give Yourself Options

To find the best deal on a car, it helps to expand your pool of options. When shopping for a new car, compare prices at any dealership within driving distance. Area dealers should all be working from the same invoice, incentives and holdback, so play them off against each other to get the best price. Holdback refers to a payment the manufacturer sends to dealers on a periodic basis once the car is sold -- until then, it's held back. While this isn't well-publicized and varies between companies, it's typically between 2 percent and 3 percent of the dealer invoice or manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Used Car Shopping

Every used car may be slightly different, but many will likely be similar enough to meet your needs. Compare similar makes and models from area dealers in terms of mileage, condition and cost, and use them when you start your negotiations. A dealer might be more willing to negotiate the price on a used Honda Accord if you can cite other options available elsewhere. Regardless of whether you’re buying new or used, going online and shopping around can show you where the best deals are.

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Find the Right Price

Nobody likes to pay too much for a car, but the Internet can help you avoid paying more than others in your area. TrueCar.com provides no-haggle prices for new cars from participating dealers that you can use as an upper limit. It also tells you the range of prices being paid for the vehicle you’re looking at in your area. Kelley Blue Book offers information on the dealer invoice price, factory-to-dealer incentives and other new car data, and also provides values for used cars. Knowing what others are paying gives you a stronger negotiating position.

Go at the Right Time

You’ll have an easier time finding the best car deal if you hit the showroom at the right time. Shopping early in the week when the dealership isn’t as crowded gets you the staff’s undivided attention. Making a purchase at the end of the month or quarter can weaken the resolve of a sales manager trying to reach his target sales numbers. Buying a car at the end of the model year can leave you negotiating with someone looking to move out the old stock to make room for the new, which leads to good deals. End-of-the-year savings can be considerable as everyone in the dealership looks to earn their holiday bonuses.

Ask for Discounts

Before you sign on the dotted line, ask the dealer what discounts you might be eligible for. Some dealerships offer extra savings to military personnel or veterans. Others provide loyalty discounts if you’re buying another car of the same brand you currently drive. Mention these after you’ve agreed on the price, if possible, to make sure you get that discount taken off the final figure.

Avoid the Bait and Switch

When you agree to buy a particular car, make sure the sales rep acknowledges what you’re buying. Some will try to give you a car with options you don’t need or want and get you to pay for the extras. Don’t take add-ons such as paint protection or extended warranties, which rarely are worth the money and can be found cheaper elsewhere if you need them. This keeps you from squandering the gains that your earlier negotiations made possible.

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