Buying a car can (and should) be a fun, informative experience. Unfortunately, buying a car is also often a needlessly stressful and overly expensive one. However, after getting passed on the California driving test, it is needless to say you should own a car. Use these tips to protect yourself and get the best deal possible when buying a car.
What’s the best way to keep yourself from being taken advantage of when buying a car?
The number one way to keep yourself from being taken advantage of when buying a car is to do your research before you go to the car dealership. Things you should do include:
- Learn everything you can about the car/cars you’re interested in. Not only do you want to learn everything about the particular car that you think you want to buy, but you also want to have some “back pocket info” for other cars, particularly competitors in the same class. This information can come in handy when car salespeople try to convince you that a particular feature is exclusive to that car and it’s really not. Reviews and consumer reports are great for learning about cars.
- Check online for invoice prices, lowest prices and factory rebates. When it comes to getting a fair price on a car, knowledge is definitely power. Before going to the dealerships, make sure you’ve researched local prices, know invoice prices (so that you can know what’s a fair price for a car and what’s inflated), and know what factory rebates are available. This will give you a better idea of how much “wiggle room” is available when it comes to negotiations.
- Call multiple dealerships and ask about current rebates. If a dealership is particularly desperate to move cars, they’ll often tack on extra incentives and rebates beyond those offered by the factory, especially at the end of the year.
When is the best time to buy a car?
There are certain times of the day, week and month when you’re more likely to get a good deal. The best times to buy a car are:
- Near the end of the year. Factories often offer substantial year-end model discounts starting in the fall. And because dealers are eager to move last year’s cars off the lot and make room for the newest models (where there’s a higher profit margin), they’ll often sweeten the deal with additional dealer discounts.
- The last (or second to last) day of month. Dealers are always looking to make deals at the end of the month, when they’re about to post their numbers. You’ll often get a better deal at the end of the month than you will at the beginning, when the dealership and sales consultants are less desperate for a sale.
- Middle of the day during the week. When demand is high, it’s hard to get a deal. That’s why midday weekday shopping is best. Most dealerships are ghost towns at these times and sales people are eager to make every walk-in count.
What is the best way to negotiate when buying a car?
When it comes to negotiations while buying a car, there are three things you want to remember:
- If you’re paying in cash, don’t let them know that until you’ve settled on a price.
- If you’re using a trade-in, try not to let them know that until you’ve settled on a price.
- Don’t negotiate on monthly payments, no matter how often the car dealership tries to steer the negotiation that way. Negotiate on final price and interest rate so that the dealership can’t cloak a high final cost in a low monthly payment. And remember, the sooner you can pay off your loan, the less the car will cost you.
Questions to ask when buying a car
Ask lots of questions when buying a car. If you’ve done your research, you should know the car you want inside and out, so you should have plenty of material to work with. Most sales consultants don’t know nearly as much about their cars as they want you to believe, so you want to use that to your advantage. By asking lots of detailed questions, you’re building value in yourself and arming yourself with potential objections for when negotiation time comes.
What is the Road to the Sale?
Just about every car dealer on the planet is taught to sell using a sales technique called “the Road to the Sale.” Car dealers use the Road to the Sale relentlessly when you’re buying a car. In addition to being a tool for building value in the dealership and quickly moving a sale to close, the Road to the Sale is a psychological tool meant to discover and counter your objections before you voice them.
By uncovering what your needs, price range and likes are, the sales consultant is not only finding a car you’ll want to buy, they’re also creating a situation that makes it harder for you to say no (because you’ve already, at some point, voiced a need that the car fulfills and you’ll feel emotionally obligated to stick to what you’ve said). There’s really nothing inherently unethical about the Road to the Sale but it’s still important to know that you’re on it so that you don’t confuse sales pitch with friendship.
5 Tips to Get the Best Deal on a Car
In summary, the best five things you can do to get a good deal on a car are:
- Do your research.
- Time it right.
- Negotiate the right way.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Know the Road to the Sale.