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Tips for Getting a Great Deal at a Car Dealership

Posted By Crystal Stemberger On 07/18/2011 @ 2:09 pm In Cars | 10 Comments

I have been working with a car dealership software company for 6 years.  In that time, I have seen thousands of deals from a dealership’s point of view.  The only difference between making a good deal and a bad deal is what you know before you step onto a car lot.  Here are a few tricks I have figured out to get a great deal on a car [3] if you will be buying from a dealership.

Research

The key to getting the best possible deal is doing the proper research up front.  I’d highly suggest looking into the value of the cars you are interested in, your credit score or report, and what interest rates you can get pre-approved. It sounds obvious but this up front work will help you be prepared whenever you get to the dealership, which can sometimes be an overwhelming experience.

Vehicle Value

If you go to a dealership without knowing what the car you want is actually worth, you have handed the pricing power over to the sales team.  Remember to look up the true values of every kind of car you may be looking at.  I personally use Kelley Blue Book and then search Craigslist to figure out what I’d be willing to pay.  Make sure to bring this price list with you when looking since it is very easy to forget one big number when you are surrounded by a ton of others too.

Credit

No one should be surprised by a negative credit report at a dealership.  You can use Annual Credit Report to check your overall reports and even check your Transunion credit score for free at Credit Karma.  If you know about your credit, it can’t be used as a bad surprise during negotiations.

Loan Pre-Approval

Once you know about your credit, you can go to a local credit union or bank to get pre-approved for a car loan if you will need funding.  Getting pre-approved doesn’t lock you into anything but gives you a place to negotiate from at the dealership.  Dealership usually have access to ten or more lienholders when they work deals, but they will only go out of their way to get you the absolute best deals if they know that you have other options.

The Deal Itself

Once you are in a dealership and have found the car [4] that you want to buy, the trick from that point on is to hold firm with the salesman and the finance and insurance department.  Since you will hopefully know what the car is worth, simply make sure the deal is for that price or less.  Don’t fall for lower payments over longer terms – stick with overall sales total numbers. 

Once that is worked out, you will be handed over to the finance and insurance department to discuss loans and final details.  With the loan rates, explain what you have already been pre-approved for so that the dealership can try to beat that rate.  With the extras, make sure not to buy any extended warranties or dealer add-ons unless you researched them in advance and know you can’t get a better deal elsewhere. 

One thing to keep in mind is that absolutely everything is negotiable.  Extended warranties, interest rates, and add-ons all have a built-in profit margin that you can eat into if you explain what you are willing to pay.  If they can’t beat the rates you found elsewhere, then simply close the deal without any of the extras and buy them cheaper after the fact.

Overall, getting a fair deal on a car isn’t about luck.  Knowledge truly is power and with the internet, you have all the knowledge you need right at your fingertips.  Good luck!

What other tips can you think of for getting a great car deal from a dealership?

(Photo: dhilowitz [5])


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