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Save Money Buying Your New Car

Updated on December 12, 2012
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With the end of the year approaching, there are some great car deals being advertised. If the time is right for you, this can be one of the best times to get a new car. How do you know if you are getting a good deal?

1. Be open minded and flexible. The best way to get a great deal on a car is buying something that is being heavily promoted or waiting until the car you want is on sale. My husband was really interested in the Ford Focus Hybrid but ended up getting the Ford Edge because the deal was so much better. The amount of money he saved on the monthly payment more than made up for the money he would save on gas having a hybrid.

2. Do your homework before you step foot on a car lot. Check the Sunday paper and the manufacturer deals online. This is where you get ideas on what cars are on sale. Keep in mind that Toyota may be promoting a bunch of cars but the Prius you want may not be on sale. Be aware of which deals apply to which cars. Look at all of the ads and compare them for the type of deal you want. For instance, if you want to lease a car, compare the drive off costs, the annual mileage allowance and monthly payment. Don’t get tricked by the big type in the ad without reading the small print details. Part of your homework is building the car you want online so you understand the options that are offered with the car, like leather seats, colors, special packages, etc… You can check US News for monthly car deals and Kelly Blue Book for car values.

3. Test-drive all cars you are interested in on a different day than the day you buy. Many people test drive a car and buy on the same day. You won’t get your best deal that way because you haven’t had time to do your homework. Make sure you test drive cars beforehand. This also lets you find a salesperson you’d like to work with. As an example, walk into a dealership and say, “I don’t have a lot of time but I’d really like to test-drive the Jetta. I’m planning on getting a car in the next month.” At the end of the test drive, ask for a brochure, ask if there are any specials and if you like the person who helped you, get their card and try to work with them when you are ready.

4. Make sure there is a manufacturer incentive on the make and model of the new car you want. A dealer can only offer so much. The best deals happen when the manufacturer is kicking in financial incentives and the dealer throws in something extra. If there is no manufacturer incentive, it is highly unlikely you are getting the best deal possible. The easiest way to figure out if there is a manufacturer incentive is to go on the manufacturer website and click on Incentives or Specials.

5. Get prices from multiple dealerships if possible. Personally, I like to call ahead to try to strike a deal over the phone. Salespeople hate that because they want you to make an emotional decision on the car lot. I have found that even though they hesitate to give me pricing over the phone, they will if I can be very specific like “I am looking for the 2013 Nissan Altima Sedan 2.5 SL in pearl white with charcoal leather interior. I plan to buy the car, put $5,000 down and finance for 60 months.” I also have better luck doing this when I ask for the fleet manager or manager. If you call a few dealers, you can use their quotes against each other to drive down the price. I make the deal and have them start the paperwork over the phone so that I don’t waste their time and they don’t waste mine. On the last car we got, we were able to be in and out of the dealership in one hour and drove out with a freshly cleaned, brand new car.

6. If you are planning on trading in a car, try to sell it yourself first. My brother had a car lease that was coming due. He got the payoff price from the lender and was able to sell it at $2,000 above the payoff. How cool is that! My husband’s 6-year-old Honda truck was valued at $6,500 by a dealer so he tried listing it on Craigslist for $10,000, got multiple calls and sold it within 24 hours. When you list your car, price it between the retail and wholesale price that can be found on Kelly Blue Book and make sure the car is in good shape.

7. The best car deals typically happen towards the end of the month and the end of the year. Dealerships will be trying to sell as many cars as possible before year end so there will be a lot of great deals coming up.

8. Be aware of potential pitfalls. Don’t make any last minute decisions. They are usually to your disadvantage. You may be tempted to buy the service plan or tire insurance they are trying to work into your lease. Don’t. Beware of a 39-month lease (or any lease that includes part of a year). This is a dealer’s way of getting you to pay the car registration for a full year and only having the car for 3 months of that year. Watch out for an attempt to change the deal at the last minute (this actually happened to me and they tried to add $40 per month into my price saying that I misunderstood what they offered). If this happens, be ready to walk out and start over with another dealership. I held out for what was promised to me and got it even though the manager was hemming and hawing about how he was losing money. It was very uncomfortable and would have been so easy for me to say okay. One of the oldest tricks in sales is to get a person to agree to one aspect of the deal at a time. For instance, they come down on the price, they get you to accept a car with the sunroof you didn’t want because they have it on the lot, they get you to meet with the manager, they get you into financing, etc… At that point, you have gone so far down the path of car buying, it’s the perfect time for them to get you to agree to one last thing that sweetens the deal for them. The chance you will walk away without a car after you have spent 2-4 hours at a dealership is low. Make sure you know exactly what you want and be prepared to walk away if you don’t get it.

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