Car Buying – Driving The Deal


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When it comes to negotiating your best deal on the car you’ve got your eye on, first and foremost you have to do your research and homework on all the various parts of putting a car deal together.

At a high level, this is all the pricing, rebate, and dealer incentive numbers you can find on your perspective car. You’ve lined up your financing so you know what you qualify for, how much you qualify for, how long you can finance, and what your monthly payments will be based on a few different financing scenarios. And (if applicable) you know the actual cash value, and retail value of your trade-in.

If you don’t have a firm grasp on the aforementioned, proceed no further (don’t show up at a dealership) until you do.

But if you have, and you feel confident, let’s talk a bit further about negotiating.

Rule number one when it comes to negotiating and car deals.

NEVER – negotiate from the MSRP down… You’ll NEVER get to the price you want.

Always negotiate from invoice price or dealer cost up.

Since you’ve done your homework, go to the dealership with your opening offer in mind. Be confident in yourself and the fact that although you certainly aren’t going to offer sticker price, your number will be fair and not ridiculous. If you offer up something totally ridiculous for the selling price from the dealer, you’ve wasted your time and haven’t really opened the negotiating process because your offer won’t even be viewed as serious. Keep your offer within the ‘win-win’ window.

When you know your numbers and you come across as confident (because you are) the sales people and the others at the dealership will be aware of this and will spend less time trying to ‘work’ you.

Give yourself room to eventually feel good. By this I mean, don’t table your first offer with the price you have in mind that you are willing to pay. Think about it for a moment; by definition there is going to be some negotiating going on here, so you certainly don’t want to begin at the price you want to be and simply hold firm. This may sound easy but this is truly a point where many miss the mark. Many people feel uncomfortable about starting below their target price, but it is an absolute must when it comes to successfully coming close to or hitting your pricing goal.

If the salesperson or the dealership is the first to offer up a number to get things going, rather than you countering with an actual dollar amount simply let the salesperson know that his number simple not within your budget and they need to come back with a better offer. By doing this, your goal is to get an even better opening price without tipping your hand.

Remember, a dealership is always going to take a couple shots at maximizing the deal for their side first.

Keep in mind that negotiating is just that… negotiating. It isn’t a one-way street where you get everything you want and the dealership simply acquiesces. There is plenty of give and take and it may not (actually hardly ever is) limited to just the price of the car. In other words, if you feel like you have to come up a bit off your offer or counter offer, see if you can get some return value for your effort such as some complimentary maintenance, even floor mats or something.

When you do this it keeps the negotiation alive and lets the dealer know that you are serious about putting together that ‘win-win’ deal that works for both parties.

Stay open minded during the process and treat the entire car buying process as a negotiation package. There are numerous avenues that you can probe for negotiation during the car buying process. It’s not just the price. However, don’t agree on the price and then start trying to negotiate other items. Once you’ve said yes to the price, you lose your leverage. Remember it’s the entire package.

Finally, always keep in mind that without you… there is no deal for the dealer. If you reach an impasse… if you have to… walk. Don’t rationalize giving in against your better judgment because you really want the car, or that you’ve spent the better part of your day at the dealership. Remember the dealer and the salesperson have their time invested as well and don’t want the deal to fall through either. Be patient, keep the negotiation communication lines open and chances are you’ll be rewarded with a new car at a price you feel good about paying.

Jeff Neilan's car dealer experience offers insightful car buying tips that save you time and money. Be sure to visit for car financing tips, ownership costs, & more.


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