Time for a new car? Exciting! But the buying process can be daunting. As with most big-ticket items, it pays to do your research. That way you can walk into the dealership an informed, savvy buyer ready to negotiate and withstand high-pressure sales tactics.
Read on to learn ways you can score a great deal on a new or new-to-you car.
Figure Out Your Budget
Before you get misty-eyed over the hottest new showroom model, consider how much you can realistically afford. Take into consideration the additional costs involved in car ownership: insurance premiums, registration costs, and the fees you’ll be charged if you do use financing.
If you know your financial threshold, you’ll be better able to resist an impulse buy and the salesperson’s upselling maneuvers.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve narrowed down the makes and models you’re interested in, it’s time to research costs. Luckily, the internet is full of sites like Cars.com or Edmunds.com that will show you comparative prices. Keep in mind that year-end models will cost less than those shiny new models rolling off the line (although they may not have all the latest features).
If you plan to finance, don’t forget to research options for that as well. Dealership financing typically costs more, so check out multiple banks or credit unions for the most favorable rates.
Time It Right
The experts say shop late in the year and late in the month. By October, November, and December, dealers are focused on making their quotas for the year. Does it matter what day of the week you go? Mondays tend to be slower so you may benefit from a salesperson’s need to boost his weekly sales numbers.
Find Your (Optimal) Financing
For most of us, buying a car means getting financing. And getting financing means paying interest (unless you secure a no-interest loan from a family member or friend). To avoid paying more than you need to in fees, ask the lender for the best rate they can give you. Don’t worry so much about the length of the loan, just focus on getting the lowest rate possible.
Typically, lower interest rates are attached to longer term loans (ensuring the lender makes money on the deal) but you can always pay off the loan faster than the prescribed number of months. This way the money you’re saving on fees can go toward paying down the principal faster instead.
This option isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can swing it, you’ll save a ton. Unlike a house, a car is not an investment. Your shiny new ride starts to depreciate the moment you drive it off the lot. So if you pay for the car with a loan, you get dinged twice as you’re paying interest at the same time the car’s losing value.
Other benefits of paying cash: you’ll be less likely to get carried away in the moment and buy a model that’s beyond your financial scope. And some dealers may give you a cash discount.
Resist the “New” New Car
It’s no secret that a brand-new car’s value drops significantly as soon as you drive it away from the dealership. According to Edmunds.com, a new car can lose a whopping 20% to 30% the first year of its life. So it makes sense to consider a previously owned model.
To ensure you don’t end up with a “lemon,” use sites like Carfax to research a vehicle’s background. You’ll be able to access important information like the number of previous owners, any accident or damage reports, and service history records.
Use Your Negotiation Skills
Admittedly, some people are more comfortable haggling than others. But car dealers don’t expect you to accept the sticker price right off the bat. This is where the previous research you did on prices will pay off. You’ll be in a much stronger position when you sit down to talk cost if you’ve visited several showrooms first and have an idea of what’s out there.
If you know the value of the car you’ve got your eye on and are prepared to walk away—and this part’s key—you’ll usually be able to get the price lowered by a few hundred dollars. The dealer may come down even more if you can point out any minor flaws on a previously owned vehicle.
Buying a new car doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. If you do your research, stand firm in your preferences, and have your financials organized, you’ll be all set to drive off the lot in the right car at the right price.