It was time to replace our 10 year old Honda Pilot this year and my husband jumped at the chance to make this buying experience into a project he could really get involved in. As an extrovert with a lifetime of being an insurance adjuster, he loves to talk to people and negotiation is his particular gift. So he was enthusiastic about talking to me about his car buying experience and pleased to offer some suggestions to our readers!
First, research the new cars that are available this year. Know what car you want to buy and specifically what options you want your new car to have on it. Find out how popular your potential new car is – dealers are much less likely to negotiate a low price for a car they can’t keep on the lot! Cars.com was a great resource for my husband to find availability, pricing, the latest reviews, and so much more.
Have your financing pre-approved but be ready to take advantage of better offers that might come along at the dealership.
Know the MSRP and dealer invoice price for the car you want to buy. MSRP is a suggestion but the pricing goal is to pay less than the dealer’s invoice, which is close to but not actually the dealer’s true cost. Remember that dealerships make the bulk of their money on add-ons and repair, not by selling cars.
Car buying services provide hot leads to dealers and are not necessarily a good deal but they can be, especially if using one provides you with a lower interest rate on your car loan. Start your new car shopping by contacting a few dealers that you don’t necessarily plan to buy from (too far away, too small, etc.) and negotiate with them via email for their best price. This will hone your skills and give you a feel for how negotiable your car pick is. And they might surprise you – you might end up finding the perfect dealership this way!
Print out the best price quote and take that quote into several dealerships to negotiate with them for their best price. My husband carried “The Folder” containing all of his print-outs along with him to every meeting. He says that you will need to get up and leave at least once per dealership otherwise they will figure they can wear you down – and they will. Do this until you get the very best price – at least at dealer invoice price. Large dealerships have better volume and can generally take less per car. Drop the dealerships who won’t cooperate. You will find one who will give you the best price of the bunch.
Once you have reached the final deal and are ready to agree, it’s time to ask for add-ons. Floor mats, extra keys, roof rack – all of these are really expensive if you have to pay full cost for them but they cost the dealership next to nothing. So this is a win-win – you feel good about your deal and they have made a sale!
At the end of our car buying experience, we ended up with the exact car we wanted at the best price my husband could find anywhere. Plus he found a wonderful car dealership and excellent salesperson, probably where we will purchase our next car – which I hope won’t be for another 10 years!