How to score the best deal on your next set of wheels.
Whether you’re planning to buy a new or used car, you can usually get a better deal by negotiating with the car salesperson. A little preparation beforehand can help up your bargaining power when you hit the dealership — or let you know when it’s time to walk away.
1. Follow the three-dealership rule
The three-dealership rule can help you find the most competitive offer on whatever car you’re interested in buying.
Simply do a quick Google search and find the closest three dealerships to your house. Pick a weekend that works best for you and make the time to go to all three of them.
Once you’ve gone to all three dealerships, you’ll have a good idea of which one has the best deal on the car you’ve already researched online.
2. Shop near the end of the month
Salespeople have monthly targets, and they’re sometimes willing to play ball and lower the price to hit those targets near the end of the month.
But don’t wait until the very last day of the month. Some dealerships have fiscal months that end a few days before the calendar month, and salespeople might hit their targets a few days early. Instead, aim for shopping a few days to a week before the month ends for the best chance at a killer deal.
And for the absolute best deal, shop near the end of December, when salespeople are trying to get rid of old models and hit both yearly and monthly goals at the same time.
3. Get preapproved for a car loan before visiting the dealership
Dealership financing is convenient, but it’s not always the best deal. Before you drive away with the car of your dreams, take the time to compare your options and see if you can get a better deal from a bank, credit union or online lender.
Not only can a third-party lender offer a better deal in many cases, but getting preapproved with a few lenders before you visit the dealership also puts you in a better position to negotiate both your car’s price and your interest rate.
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4. Don’t be afraid to walk away
It can be tough to walk away when the dealership closest to you is offering a free window tint or stereo upgrade. But if the salesperson is offering you a car above your budget and isn’t budging, it might be time to go elsewhere.
If you think there’s a better deal out there, there probably is. And sometimes, walking away might even make the salesperson lower their offer price.
5. Be polite to the person who’s trying to sell you something
While it’s important to be confident when negotiating, people are usually more likely to do something nice for someone who’s been nice to them. Keep this in mind when shopping around and you might just find a salesperson who’ll sell you the car for lower than the advertised price.
And while walking away is sometimes the right decision, it’s not a good idea to repeatedly threaten to walk away when you don’t mean it. Walk away when you think you can find a better deal elsewhere — not when you’re trying to play hardball to get a better price.
Car prices aren’t set in stone, and good negotiating tactics can help you save a pretty penny. If you’re ready to start shopping, compare car loans to increase your bargaining power when you hit the dealership.
Frequently asked questions