Next to buying a house, buying a car is one of the most expensive purchase we ever make. However, it is also one of the most confusing and bewildering transaction. It is one time in your life when you will be pitted against professionals who are focused on separating you from as much of your money as they possibly can.
The good news is that if you go into this process prepared with the correct strategy, you have a good chance of coming out of with a good deal. For example – when I went with my son Matt went in to get Ford Escape, we ended up saving him $3,000. How do we know that? We found an invoice in the glove box from the previous owner. A girl had bought the car 2 months earlier and had to return it because she couldn’t make the payments. Her price tag – exactly $3,000 more than we paid.
Here is one tip that will help you get a deal – go in at the END of the month. That is when the the window is closing for the big sales prizes and your salesman will be at maximum motivation to make a sale. A rainy day is a good choice too – fewer customers equals a more attentive salesman
Step 1 – Do your research first.
This is at least 50% of the job and with all the resources available on the Internet, there is no excuse for not being fully prepared.
First, you need to look at your situation and determine what model of car your family needs. Think about what is most important to you. Is it price, seating, style, safety? Usually a combination of all these things.
Some sites you can use to do your research are – Bluebook.com, autotrader.com, consumer reports. Try to focus on “meaty” options like airbags, durability, and reliability rather than “soft” options like color, type of seats (although I do LOVE a seat heater), and fancy trims. I will drive the ugliest color in the world if it’s a good deal and a reliable car, but that’s not the priority for everyone else. I am SO not kidding – I drive a bright orange Kia because it was a great deal. It’s not a popular color, but it’s unique and very “me” so I get a ton of compliments on it.
Ideally, before you ever set foot on a dealer lot, you should have the following information in your back pocket:
The model and features you want
- The range of prices for the vehicle – look at both dealers and private parties. You may even do some private party test drives just to see what models may suit you. Do not set foot on any dealer lot until you have finished your research. That is where most people go wrong. Take the time to do your research. You may be generating hundreds of dollars per hour in savings for this time, so it could be very valuable.
- Roughly how many of this model are available in your area. This is very useful information. If 3 other dealers in the same block have this model and you know how much they are charging for it, this helps a lot.
- If you require a car that is very specific or unusual, understand that it limits your bargaining power. Alternatively, if you are going for something very common you are in the “sweet spot” for bargaining. There’s never going to be a shortage of blue or white minivans, for example.
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