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How to Understand a New Car's Window Sticker

Updated on March 14, 2010

 All new and used cars sold at dealerships are required to have a window sticker posted on the car listing the MSRP, engine and tranny, standard equipment, warranty, optional equipment, gas economy, crash test ratings.

When you walk into a dealer, most salespersons know they will have to wheel and deal to a certain extent and anything beyond the range must be approved. When you look at the window sticker, keep in mind of the following:

Dealers always want to finance the sale because  they get a healthy profit for it. If you do not like the interest rate for the car loan, try your own bank or credit union. If you can pay cash or check, do it.

The ADM/ADPis the additional dealer markup or profit fee is to increase the dealer profits by starting the negotiation at the higher than expected price. To find these out, go to the kelley blue book web site or Sales dislikes smart buyers.

Beware of Dealer Prep Charges which translates into the dealer getting more money and is pure profit. Dealers have already been paid by the manufacturer for the prep costs. Ask the what the specific costs are, they know. Tell them, you are not going to pay them and walk away.

Another item is the Dealer Fee on the sticker. It is a fee you pay for them to process your paperwork to buy the damn car! Insane. Refuse to pay it and if they insist, walk away. why should you pay them???

Delivery Charges indicate the cost to ship the car from the plant to dealer, usually between $500-1000. If it is more, refuse to pay the excess. A car shipped from the East will cost around $800-1000 max.

The MSRP is the base amount before options of the cost of the car.

Market Adjustment is a dealer profit based upon supply and demand and charged on cars that are scarce. If you are buying a hot selling car, you cannot negotiate this down by much.

Total Price is what the salesperson hopes to sell the car for. Negotiate the price up from the dealer's true cost instead of down from the total price. 



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