When buying a car, it turns out you can skip the negotiating and still avoid overpaying, according to ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports.
These tips will help you get in and out relatively stress-free:
1. Pick a model. The first step is to decide which car you’re really interested in buying, down to the model, trim line and color. Visit dealers to test-drive and do a walk-around of any you’re seriously considering. But make it clear to sales reps that you won’t be buying that day. That will help ease any sales pressure.
2. Get preapproved. Shop around for a loan with the best interest rate and terms before going to the dealership to buy. Check local and online banks or your credit union.
Getting preapproved lets you avoid having to make pressure-packed decisions in the showroom. And if the dealer can offer you better financing, you can still go for it.
Websites such as LendingTree and E-Loan take your info, send it out to lenders and come back with offers. Once you’re approved, the lender sends you a blank check that’s good for any amount up to the loan limit and valid for some limited period, such as 45 days.
3. Check for incentives. Go to automaker websites to see whether they are offering sales incentives such as cash rebates or low-interest financing on any models you’re considering. ShopSmart notes that those can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
4. Make dealers compete. Call or email multiple dealers in your area, or request a quote through their websites. Tell them the exact car you want and ask for their lowest out-the-door price, including sales tax and any fees. Be sure to let them know that you are shopping around and you will buy from the dealer with the lowest price.
Double-check that the quotes are apples to apples and that they include any available incentives. But don’t succumb to a sales rep’s request that you rush down there in person to get their lowest price.
You can also get online quotes through automaker websites or at sites such as AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, CarsDirect, TrueCar and others. Consumer Reports subscribers can use the website’s Build & Buy car-buying service to get dealer pricing and guaranteed savings in most states from local dealers who are dedicated to high customer satisfaction.
The more quotes you get, the better. And you can always use a lower quote as leverage to negotiate with other dealers by recontacting them and asking whether they can meet or beat it.
5. Cash in on your trade-in. If you’re trading in your current car, be aware that you won’t get as much for it as you would if you sold it yourself. But trade-ins are much quicker and less of a hassle. You can get a good idea of your car’s trade-in value on Edmunds (edmunds.com), Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) or the National Automobile Dealers Association (nada.org).
6. Prepare for pickup. You’ll need to go to the dealer to close the deal, but don’t leave home without a guaranteed written quote for the new car, a preapproved loan and an estimate of your trade-in’s value. And don’t let the sales rep try to roll everything into one monthly payment. That leaves room for manipulation of the numbers. Also be sure to finalize the new car transaction before discussing the trade-in.
The dealer’s staff will probably try to sell you extras, such as undercoating, fabric and paint sealants and VIN etching, in which the vehicle’s ID number is etched into the windows to deter theft. Don’t take the bait! Dealers may also try to sell you a service contract or an extended warranty. But if you’ve picked a reliable car, you’re likely to spend more for the warranty than you’ll save in repair costs.