Buying a car isn’t as hard as you may have been told. But it’s not as easy as you might think, either, so before you buy your first car, you should take a few steps to make it easier to negotiate the best deal.
Figure Out What You Need
It starts with what you’re looking for. Do you need lots of seats for friends or family members? Do you need a car for work? Do you need to haul cargo? This helps keep you focused on what car you need, and keeps the sales team focused on what you want.
Next, work out your budget and what you can afford. Decide what you can afford as a monthly payment, and aim for somewhere below that highest point. Having a hard limit will help you negotiate and give you a point where you know you have to walk away.
Do Your Homework
Once you know what you can afford and what you need, look up the models that fit your needs from each of the dealerships you’re looking at. Most dealerships will have their entire inventory online, whether used or new, so it will be easy for you to browse. Make a note of what you’re looking for from each before you visit, and take a moment to look up the reputation of each dealership. If you see a litany of bad reviews, or you turn up news articles showing the dealership has something of a poor reputation, consider going somewhere else.
This will also help you find the average price of each car you’re considering. Keeping that in mind will help you negotiate with the salesperson. While you’re researching prices, take a moment to look up the excise taxes and other fees in your state. This will ensure you’re not surprised by any costs that come up as you’re making the deal.
Time Your Visit Well
It’s a subtle point, but it’s one that gives you an edge: When you show up matters. For example, if you step onto the lot at the end of the month, you may find a salesperson that is looking to meet their sales quota. Or if you arrive right after next year’s models arrive on the lot, you might be able to get a great deal on a 2015 car. That said, though, you shouldn’t count on the timing to get you the best deal. For that, you should secure your financing before you buy any car.
Get Preapproved Financing
It’s easy to forget that you’re buying a car loan by paying interest on it, and a car is essentially a separate transaction entirely. By getting preapproved financing, it puts you on a more even footing with a dealership; since they don’t have to secure you financing, they just have to meet your needs to get your money. Yet the most important tool you have at your disposal is your feet.
Be Ready To Walk Away
Finally, hold firm and trust your gut. You shouldn’t accept the first number quoted to you, and if anything feels wrong to you, whether you see a red flag on the car or just don’t trust the salesman, get up and walk away. Being able to leave is your best tool, and it’s one you should use if you’re not comfortable.