Top 10 Negotiating Tips

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Burdge Law Top Ten Negotiating Tips for Buying a New Car

  1. Research the car you want and then research the dealerships that have that particular car in their inventory. Sites like www.cars.com will allow you to search for new cars by price, mileage, distance from your home, etc. Ideally, you want to have at least three very similar cars in mind when you finally visit a car lot. If you don’t like the deal at one dealership, just drive down to the next dealer.
  2. If you want the best price, do not let the dealer know how much you like the car.
    Instead of pointing out all the things you like about the car, point out all the things you do NOT like about the car. Don’t forget to ask about service and whether you will be provided with a loaner vehicle for free when you vehicle is in for service. Service could be the deal breaker if there is little cost difference between one dealer or another. Make sure you question everything.
  3. Don’t pay MSRP (window sticker) on a new car because dealers are always willing to come off their price. You should expect to pay no more than 5% above the dealer invoice price. The fact is, they may go below the dealer invoice amount but people just usually don’t try it. Dealers get incentives from the manufacturers that allow them to get money back after they sell the car. But even if they sell the car at the invoice price, they will still make at least 10% on the car. Let the salesperson know that you are going to shop around until you find the best deal, and if he or she lets you walk out the door, continue to shop around.
  4. Negotiate the price, not the payments. If you focus on the payments, you could end up with a more expensive car than you want, longer payment terms than you want, a higher interest rate than you want or unnecessary Add-Ons that you don’t need or want.
  5. Don’t buy “add-on features or products” that dealers add on themselves, such as window etching, rust proofing, personal assistant, key care, fabric protection, pro-pack, theft guard, environmental package, etc. Avoid them because they are unnecessary. The dealer may be willing to negotiate the price only to sell you high profit - low cost items that they use to make money on and these unnecessary features or products can add thousands of dollars to the purchase price and ultimately the amount of money you finance. If the vehicle you want already has them, don’t buy the vehicle or refuse to pay for features and products you don’t want or need or negotiate their cost down as much as possible. Don’t allow yourself to be “up-sold” to models with features you don’t need or want.
  6. Dealer arranged financing may not be your best rate. If you know the car you want and the approximate cost, call your local bank or credit union to check rates. (There is no danger to your credit score if you go rate shopping.) If you think the dealer has offered you a competitive rate ask them what the “buy rate” is. The buy rate is the lowest interest rate the buyer qualifies for. If the dealer won’t show or tell you what it is, then you are probably paying a higher interest rate than you have to. Keep in mind that if you negotiated a rock-bottom price on your car, you can expect that the dealership will try to get some of that money back in the financing process so outside financing may be better.
  7. Don’t sign an arbitration agreement. An arbitration clause kills your right to go to Court no matter what the car dealer does to you. If the car dealer is afraid to let you go to court, then you should be afraid of the car dealer. Refuse to sign it! Odds are they won’t give up the sale of the vehicle if you won’t sign and start to walk out the door.
  8. Stay in control. NEVER, EVER sign a blank contract or piece of paper, and NEVER, EVER take your new car and leave your trade-in until every aspect of the financing process is complete. If they still have a few details to work out, the dealer may be setting you up for a “spot delivery gone bad” and the only person who will lose in that process is you. Run, don’t walk, when a car dealer asks you to sign multiple versions of your sales paperwork. Ask to see and have explained every piece of paper you are asked to sign and get a copy of it when you sign it. Keep your car keys with you at all times so you can walk out at any time.
  9. Get every dealer promise in writing. Nothing counts if it is not in writing and make sure it is signed by the sales person or car dealer. If they say they will put new tires on the car or fix a check engine light, make them write it down, and then sign and date it. If they give you a “we owe” slip, make them sign and date it. If they say you’ll get a 6 month warranty, then get it in writing. 
  10. Remember, there is NO three-day right to cancel unless the dealer writes it down on the sales contract. Before you sign anything, ask about the dealer’s return policy and get it in writing so you don’t waste your money.

If you have a problem with the new car or truck that you purchased OR if you feel you were taken advantage of in the sales process, we have the solution.


Additional Resources

There are lots of sources for advice about buying and leasing motor vehicles on the internet. Here's a few things to watch out for so you don't waste your time or your money.


The negative equity car dealer scam explained.
The problem with arbitration 
The window etching theft protection ripoff 
Laundered lemon cars - it can happen to you
A car dealer's dictionary of slang terms and their meanings 
Are you a victim of fraud? 
List of manufacturer phone numbers and web site links 
50 state lemon laws explained 
How to write your own lemon law complaint letter
Is buying better than leasing? 

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