Car dealerships. For some parents, they’re a mild form of torture, with intimidating salesmen trying every tactic up their sleeve. For others, they’re epically entertaining and provide an opportunity to flex your negotiation skills to score a killer bargain when buying a new car. Unfortunately, more people fall into the first camp than the latter. If you’re the type of guru whose friends or family members beg you to come along to any negotiation table, we applaud you. For everyone else, we have some advice.
- Local is (Almost) Always Better
While you can technically buy cars online, it’s usually not your best bet. The reason is that many local dealerships offer promotions that you can see advertised as you drive by, watch on TV, or hear about on the radio. Plus, going in-person gives you the opportunity to negotiate, which you’ll be a pro at by the end of this read.
Shopping locally also gives you the opportunity to glean insight about the dealership that you might not have if you were shopping out of the area. For example, if you were going to a used car dealership in Las Vegas, you’d probably know that people can be a bit seedy in the City of Sin, which means it’s all the most important to verify the reputation of the dealer ahead of time.
Alternatively, let’s say you’re heading to the Audi Bellevue dealership near Kirkland, and you know that the location sponsored the local high school football team that your son plays on. Mentioning your gratitude for the community support mid negotiation could build familiarity, which in turn could knock a few dollars off – if not protect you against common car salesman scams.
- Come Prepared
The person who walks out the door with the best deal is the one who’s most prepared. If you show up with all the right documents, you’re saying that this isn’t your first rodeo and they’ll be less likely to try to pull one over on you. Some information you should prepare beforehand includes:
- Credit Report – If you’re going to finance your car purchase rather than buy it outright, your interest rate will depend on how strong your credit history is. Those with poor credit are highly encouraged to take the time to rebuild their score before applying for a car loan; you can save yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars over the loan’s lifespan. Once your score is strong, bring a copy of your credit report with you to the dealership. That way, they can’t try to pull a fast one by charging high interest due to a “weak score”.
- Vehicle Confirmation – Sometimes, it’s wise to browse the dealer’s online inventory before heading over to the lot. This allows you to browse without feeling the pressure of someone breathing down your neck, pointing you in one direction or another, tricking you into buying a compact car when you wanted an SUV.
When you’ve narrowed down your selection and are ready for a test drive, contact the dealer to confirm that the car(s) is indeed available for sale and request that they email or fax you the confirmation. Bring the confirmation they provide with you, and if a salesman tries to tell you that the vehicle is no longer available, call their bluff. Many times, shoppers will be upsold on a newer, more expensive car than what they came for because a greedy salesman wants a bigger commission.
- Vehicle History Report – Depending on where you shop, there’s a good chance that the vehicle you spotted while browsing online has a VIN number displayed; if not, you should call and ask for it. The VIN number is what you need to pull a vehicle history report that displays whether the car has been involved in any serious accidents, incurred major damage, received routine maintenance, and a number of insightful facts that should guide your purchasing decision.
Note: An accident that’s occurred within the car’s history isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker – especially if you’re looking for a beater car for a cheap price. However, you can definitely use it in your bargaining toolkit; just be sure to take it for a test drive before signing on the dotted line driving off with a lemon.
Get your wits about you and don’t be afraid to walk away from the table if you can’t get your number – in that case, follow up at the end of the month or on a Sunday evening because they’ll be incentivized to close one last deal!