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8 Tips to Make the Best Deal When Buying Your Dream Car

Updated on March 22, 2021
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Courtlney Davis is an MBA grad, and an avid reader, writer and podcaster. Here are her tips on how to make your best deal when buying a car.

It's a happy day when you receive keys to your  dream car
It's a happy day when you receive keys to your dream car


This article is not about vehicle choices, whether you prefer to drive a sports, economy, luxury, foreign, convertible, truck, SUV, etc. Instead, I will share with you eight tips on how to make the best deal when you buy your new vehicle, regardless of type.

Make Your Best Deal on Your Dream Car

There are some dealerships that claim no haggling is involved when you purchase a car or vehicle from them. Therefore, you should be able to walk in the car dealership, select your car and pay the price that is quoted to you -- no questions asked. If you believe the "no haggle policy" then you are setting yourself up to be misled and probably taken advantage of by the car salesman.

If there is a deal to be made, it will be in the car dealer's favor -- unless you speak up for yourself. So haggle for a fair price when you buy your vehicle, whether it is a new or used car. Here are eight tips to help you make the best deal for your dream car.

1. Know How Much You Can Afford to Pay for Your Dream Car

As with most items you buy, you must be able to afford them without straining your budget. You should have enough funds to cover all the costs of owning a car, including the insurance, maintenance, gas and other expenses. Some states have personal property taxes that you pay annually on cars that you may have to include in the cost of owning a car.

When you buy your car, you are not paying for the vehicle only, but you are paying for all the other costs associated with owning it. Don't forget to have money allotted for car repairs and maintenance which could include replacing tires, getting oil changes, etc.

2. Research Vehicles You Wish to Buy Thoroughly

When you are in the market for a new car, thoroughly research the car you wish to buy. Websites I use extensively when I'm in the process of buying a car are and I recommend that you use these websites also. There is plenty of information on car ratings, pricing and other car-related topics.

On Edmunds,com, there is a car cost calculator to estimate your monthly car payments. Of course, the overall cost of the vehicle should be your biggest concern instead of your monthly payments. Do not fall for the "What do you want your monthly payments to be?" question when you are buying a car. Remember, you are making your decision to purchase the car based on the overall cost of the vehicle -- not just the monthly payments.

One of my favorite features on is the comparison between the asking price at the dealership and exactly what the car is worth. It's a neat little tool. Just list the options on the car you are researching, input the information, and the program gives you the price you should pay for the car. This price will also give you a basis to begin your negotiations when you get ready to purchase your vehicle.

3. Never Pay the Sticker Price for the Vehicle

Sticker price is just that. It is literally the price on the sticker that is usually located on a new vehicle's window, listing all the accessories in the car as well as the suggested manufacturer's retail price for the car. Take the sticker price with a grain of salt. In fact, you may not even want to look at it, unless you want to see the car options listed on the sheet. Based on your research, you should already have a price in mind as to how much you are willing to pay for the vehicle before you arrive at the car dealership.

If you are financing the car, consider the total cost including finance charges -- which can add up. Of course, when financing the purchase of a car, try to get the lowest interest rate available to you. Many times the interest rate charged depends on your credit rating/credit score so manage your credit wisely so you will not have to pay a high interest rate when you are ready to purchase your car.

Take the sticker price with a grain of salt.

4. Do not Trade in Your Car for a New One

The danger you face in trading in your car is you may get taken advantage of twice, once by the car salesman who will give you the absolutely lowest price for your trade in car and twice, by selling the car you want to purchase at an inflated price.

In fact, usually one of the first questions I'm asked when I walk on a car lot is, "Do you have a trade in?" My answer is always a profound, "No." The car salesman's plan is to give you almost nothing for your trade in, and alternatively try to get full asking price or more for the car he or she is trying to sell to you. Bottom line -- Sell the car on your own, instead of trading it in at the car dealership.

5. Test Drive Your Vehicle But Show No Excitement

Always test drive a car before purchasing it. During the test drive, do not act excited about the vehicle. Only actors in car TV commercials act excited about cars, but remember they are being paid to do so. Your concern is the mechanical soundness of the car, its safety, its resale value just in case you want to sell it later, and other technical details about the car. Even if you are impressed by the car, do not show it -- not even with a smile as you admire all the technological gadgets that come with the car. Remember, you are making probably one of the biggest purchases in your budget, so you need to take buying a car seriously. Now is not the time to be acting elated about the vehicle.

Caution: Be wary of car salesmen who let you take the car home overnight for a test drive. I've never done this; however, I've found out this is another underhanded tactic car salesmen use to get you psychologically attached to the car. Since you've driven the car home and kept it overnight, you may not want to part with it the next day when you return to the car dealership. This is a play on your emotions, so it may be better to decline any overnight test drives.

6. Learn to Deal with the "Manager" Scenario

Anticipate that when you negotiate the price of the car at the dealership, the car salesman will invariably say, "I have to check with my manager." In my experience, the car salesman never fails to say this once the negotiations has started and you are countering his high price with your own lower price. Sometimes I play along with the "manager" scenario." When the salesman returns from talking to his imaginary manager, I asked him, "What did your manager have to say?" Of course he would then start showing me numbers that he probably made up on his own, without the help of his "manager."

Believe it or not, one time the car salesman came back with an actual manager. This happened when I was languishing over a car purchase and the salesman brought out the manager to try to convince me to buy the car. The dealership was closing for the day and we were the only three left in the car showroom. I guess they wanted to make one last sale for the day. Did it work? In a word, "No." I did not cave in and buy the car, even if there was an "actual" manager there.

When you are negotiating a price, do not be the first person to blurt out a price. There is a saying, "He who says the price first loses." Who knows? The salesman may give you a price lower than the one you had in mind, and you can negotiate down even further from that price.

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7. Walk Away if the Car Saleman Does Not Make a Deal

If you are not getting the price you want for the car or vehicle based on your research and negotiating skills -- then just walk away, self-confidently, with your head held high. The salesman more than likely will not let you walk off the lot. The odds are high that he will concede in order to make the sale. This will happen especially toward the end of the month when he or she is trying to make their sales quota.

The lesson here is to take a firm stand on the price you are willing to pay for a car, whether the car is new or used. You will be forking over your hard-earned money to pay for the car -- not the car salesman.

You may start your car negotiations online, before actually going to the car dealership. Even If you cannot come to an agreement on the costs online, simply decline the offer and move on to the next car dealership.

Whether buying a car online or in person, the car salesman wants to sell you a car. Initially, he or she may come off as a stern negotiator, but in the end, he or she will become more lenient with the price -- just as long as you stand your ground.

8. Vehicle Price has Risen since you Signed the Papers.

Has this happened to you? You've negotiated your best deal but when you are handed the paperwork, you notice the numbers have mysteriously changed from what you had agreed upon. If this happens to you, bring this to the salesman's attention and request that the numbers be changed to the price you negotiated.

This happened to me recently. I negotiated my best deal, and when I was told of the final hyped up price, I calmly informed the financial manager the figure stated on the document was not the figure I agreed to and I was not going to sign any papers with incorrect figures.

The key is to stay calm and business-like. Do not rant, rave, and make accusations. Be as business-like as you can under the circumstances, and request that the numbers be changed to what you agreed upon. Tip: It helps to have the numbers in writing. Being this close to a making a car sale, the finance manager at the dealership will more than likely go ahead and make the change in the figures. If not, it's up to you to walk out.

The above being said, it is very likely the price change you requested will be made. In my particular case, the change was made to reflect the original figures I had successfully negotiated. The takeaway here is that once you've made your best deal, it isn't really a deal until you see it on paper. Also do not sign documents that have either numbers or terms that you did not agree to.

Receiving your car keys after negotiating a deal is exhilarating
Receiving your car keys after negotiating a deal is exhilarating

Close the Deal on Your Dream Car

Get your dream car at the price you negotiated and be proud of your accomplishment. Each time you look at your dream car, it will not only remind you of the good taste you have in cars, but also your success in negotiating your best deal.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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