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Get the Best Deal on a Used Vehicle

Updated on March 14, 2019
The truck we bought whole sale using the tips outlined in this article.
The truck we bought whole sale using the tips outlined in this article.

How to Save Big on that Car

Buying a new or used car can be an intimidating prospect. As soon as you pull into the dealership, you’ve got salesmen attaching themselves to your legs telling you everything you want to hear (or maybe even things you don’t) and putting the pressure on you to buy now. If you don’t already know what you’re looking for or what your price range is, it can be more than a little overwhelming. Add to that the fact that if you don’t do your homework before making that trip to the dealer, you more than likely will end up overpaying by hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars.

Homework? You ask. Unfortunately that doesn’t stop with your school years. If you want to get your money’s worth out of anything, you have to do research. The good thing about this is that it saves you money, and I’ll save you time by telling you where to go for your research.

What Kind of Car Are You Looking For?

 First, you need to have an idea of what kind of vehicle you’re looking for. Do you want a small-on-space, but great-on-gas economy car? Looking for more room for your family and gear with an SUV or minivan? Or maybe you’re looking for something to pull your boat or trailer with, or to go on those rugged trails in the mountains?

Think about what will best fit your needs, then start looking in the classifieds to see what people are selling theirs for. Why the classifieds? Because that will give you an idea of what people, including some dealers, are selling the type of vehicle you’re interested in for. Add to that the benefit of many online classified sites offering you pictures of what you’re thinking about buying, without the pressure of a salesman breathing down your neck, and you’ve just bought yourself a no-pressure browsing experience. One of the best in my area is KSL. You can do a search of online classifieds in your area by typing something like: online classifieds for (your county, your state) in your search engine.

How Much Is What You Want Worth?

There are three types of pricing that will tell you what a vehicle is worth: Private party sales (which is buying “as is” from an individual), dealer price (which includes the added cost of cleaning and, we assume, any reconditioning needed to make it ready to pass inspection. It also may include a warranty of some kind, make sure you get the details) and trade-in value (which is pretty much the auction price, or the price the dealer gets from their black book). You have to know about how this pricing works to be able to get the most out of it.

There are several websites available to tell you what a vehicle is worth. Some of the most popular are Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and NADA. It’s a good idea to visit these sites to get a better idea of what pricing you should expect to find according to the vehicle’s condition and features

What is Your Price Range and How Are Paying for It?

Are you buying your vehicle with cash? Do you need a loan? Are you trading in another vehicle? These are all important questions to ask before you go any further. If you’re low on cash and needing an auto loan to finance your purchase then you’re likely to get the best deal on a used auto loan by going to your own bank or credit union. One of the benefits of getting your own financing before going to a dealer is that it makes it easier to shop around without getting your credit pulled multiple times at each place. It also puts you less at the dealer’s mercy.

Where Are You Planning to Buy?

Once you know what the price range is on a vehicle you’re looking for, it’s time to starting thinking of where you want to buy it. You can choose one from those classifieds you’ve already been perusing. If you find a vehicle you want in this way, but the price isn’t what you want, ask if they’ll take a lower amount. Often you’ll find that they set their price higher in anticipation of a potential buyer talking them down. Understand though, that if you’re considering buying from an individual (which can often get you a great deal when that person is looking to sell quickly); you are buying that car with no guarantees or warranty.

If you have a mechanic, it would be a good idea to have them look over the vehicle before making your final decision—and actually you should even do this when buying from a dealer (because as much as we’d like to believe that they’re honest people selling a reputable product, the fact is that this is not always the case). Many auto shops offer a small fee to look over a vehicle you’re considering buying, if you don’t know a mechanic who can do it for free.

Know How to Handle a Dealer

If you decide to buy from a dealer, have a set price in mind. The dealer’s price on used vehicles is more often than not, over-inflated. It would even be beneficial to go in with a printout of the book values you found in your research to prove your point when trying to get a lower price. Do not tell them if you’re planning on trading another vehicle in (ideally you should try to sell your vehicle on your own before-hand). Negotiate a price on the vehicle you want first. You’ll get the best price this way.

If you want to trade your older vehicle in towards the purchase of the new one, make sure you know what it’s worth so that you don’t get cheated. Often you’ll hear a dealer say that they’ll pay off your trade no matter what you owe. Well, of course they will. But they aren’t really going to pay for it in the end, you are. Whatever the amount you owe, over the value of your trade, will be rolled into the loan of your new car. This can put negative equity on your new purchase before you even drive it off the lot. Not only that, but keep in mind that they’re then going to sell that trade for much more than they paid you for it.

If you’re paying cash at the dealer, consider asking them what vehicles they have just got in on trade. If there’s one that interests you, it’s an option to offer them whole-sale price to take it off their hands. This can often save you thousands of dollars. The only drawback in this is that you are getting that vehicle “as is” and with no guarantee of it being inspection and road-ready.

If you’re not getting the price you want, be prepared to walk away. A lot of times the seller will come after you if the price you’re offering isn’t too unrealistic. Don’t fall in love with any vehicle until you’ve finished the negotiations and it’s yours.

A Few Final Notes

Make sure you have patience and plenty of time to get this done. Don’t do this when you’re tired or hungry. You’re more likely to rush through and end up dissatisfied with the transaction in that case. Be willing to walk away and look for a better deal if you’re not getting what you want from the seller. Sometimes they’ll ask you back and give you what you want. If they don’t, there’s always a deal to be had somewhere else.

Sometimes you can get end up paying less at the end of the month with a dealer. The reason for this is because the salesmen are trying to reach a quota for car sales and are more likely to give in when the deadline of the last day of the month is looming.

Don’t be intimidated by any of the salesman’s tactics. Remember, they’re working off of commission. The more money they make off of you, the more they go home with at the end of the day. If you’ve done your homework and are offering a fair price, there’s no reason for you to be pushed into a deal you don’t want.

Being informed, having patience and taking the time to go through this process will make the purchase of your vehicle all the better. If you follow these steps, you’re likely to come out with the sweeter end of the deal.


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