WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Keeping an open mind with respect to colors and options may mean a lower price.
Be patient and wait for incentives and end-of-year bargains.
Try shopping around far and wide for the best deals in your surrounding area.
While penny auction sites insist you can bid on and win any new car you like for the equivalent of a few months’ payments, purchasing through an authorized brick-and-mortar (or click-and-mortar) dealership is a safer and smarter bet. Not that they’ll let you drive off the lot for a thousand bucks. Like it or not, car dealers are for-profit organizations, with overhead and quotas to meet.
That said, you still need to know how to get a discount on a new car. In your father’s day, that meant a marathon of arguing over a couple hundred bucks for pinstripes and rustproofing. The art of the deal has thankfully evolved. Through education, technology and a little self-discipline, you can still negotiate a realistic deal while saving thousands up front and over the life of your loan.
Be Flexible But Persistent
When you’ve settled on the car you want to buy, it’s good to not only know its features and specs, but also its price points. Most models have multiple trim levels with graduated pricing for standard and optional equipment. It’s tempting to load a car with everything available, but you can literally double the sticker price in the process. So keep an open mind with options and paint. If you can live with a less popular option package and/or color, a dealer might part with it more willingly than the loaded, neutral-toned example more people are buying. As long as you know when to draw the line and avoid being steered into a “deal” that’s actually more expensive, you can still get the car you want without overspending on stuff you don’t need.
Factor Your Trade-In Or -Out
Depending on what you’re ditching and what you’re buying, trading in may or may not work in your favor. Be prepared to go either way. See what cars like your old one are fetching in the local classifieds (or the classifieds local to your dealer if substantial distance is involved). While you’re at it, have your potential salesperson give you a ballpark trade-in quote. If you have a high-demand sports car and suddenly learn you’ll need something modest with room for a baby, an infant seat and the half ton of requisite paraphernalia, you could be in a very favorable position. If your outgoing ride is more environmentally hazardous than Charlie Sheen, chances are you’ll come out better selling it on your own or donating it to charity and cashing in at tax time.
When you love cars and are prone to instant gratification, it’s tough to stick with the same car more than a year. We get that, because we’ve been there. But we also hate wasting big bucks on an impulse purchase instead of waiting a few months to get a generous discount on a new car. In general, it’s wise to buy during early or late months of the year, when most folks’ monetary focus is elsewhere despite the traditionally great car deals that can be had. Some of those incentives, like rebates, sales events and low-rate financing, are now appearing in the middle months, so don’t let your awareness down the rest of the year.
While you’re at it, drop by the dealer and see your would-be salesperson periodically to stay on his radar, showing you’re serious about a new car, but not desperate. Just don’t wait too long, like until your old car dies and you absolutely need a new car immediately.
How New Does It Have To Be?
Be honest with yourself, and decide if you really must take delivery of an absolutely new car fresh off the truck. If you can live with a few numbers on the odometer, you can save big numbers on the bottom line while still being the first guy to register it. To get a discount on a new car this way, look at dealer demos or unsold cars from the last model year. It’s even more to your advantage when a model is redesigned. That’s when dealers become especially eager to clear any remaining inventory they have before the next-generation models arrive.
Get A Referral
For all the online reviews of any given dealer, you still can’t drop a username and expect to get a discount on a new car (“Um, bigdaddy69 told me to see you about a deal on a minivan…”). Instead, this is one time when old-school tactics still have relevance today. For this, you’ll need a longtime customer referring you directly to his longtime salesperson. Even if it means prolonged digression into grandkids, sports and weather amid a commingled fog of Brut and English Leather in a too-small office with no ventilation, hang in there. Your resolve could have you inhaling New Car Smell in no time.
Shop Around… Really Around
There’s a lot to be said for keeping your dollars local to your own community, but we caution against doing that at all costs without at least considering alternatives. We are talking about one of the largest transactions you make, after all. So by all means, see what a smaller dealer is willing to do for your business; just don’t stop there. Get quotes from competing dealers around the area and region. Jump online and browse high-volume dealers, even if they’re out of state. Many can and do ship cars on a regular basis while still offering substantial discounts. Sites like AutoTrader, Vehix or even eBay and Craigslist let you compare multiple dealer inventories at a time.
What’s It Going To Take To Get You In This Car Today?
The safest and most cost-effective way to get a new car is through an authorized and licensed dealer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck paying sticker price, nor does it mean you have to roll up your sleeves and go into extended haggling. Knowing how to get a discount on a new car is as much about education as it is mediation.
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