Car shopping can be an extremely stressful time and it can cost you a lot of money, which is why it’s important to know how to score the best deal. It’s not smart to walk into a car dealership without doing the necessary research because it’s easy to get sidetracked by all the shiny new cars that they’re so eagerly offering you; and let’s face it, there’s a real chance you could get swindled into something you can’t afford. However, there are some easy steps you can take in order ensure that you’re fully prepared to take on anything the sales person throws at you.

Most people have frustrating stories about their car shopping experiences or at the very least know someone with one to tell, so why not take a couple minutes to read a short list that will help you avoid having the same experience. Car shopping should be a fun and exciting process that doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, and it’s not as hard as it seems to get the right option for you–it’s just up to you.

It may surprise you how easy it is to get free accessories from your car dealership, but what’s really important is how much money you can save long term by following the next fifteen tips. Some of the tips on this list will be slightly hard to follow in some circumstances (number 6), but as long as you give it your best shot you won’t be disappointed with the results.

 15. Pay With Cash


Purchasing a car can be a difficult thing to grapple with because of how they depreciate in value rather quickly, but for many of us, they’re necessary for transit. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to avoid interest on a loan by waiting to purchase a car until you have enough cash. When you pay a car off in full with cash, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in interest by avoiding a loan altogether; plus if you use cash, dealers are more inclined to give you a deal because you’re ready to close the sale day-of and there is no question about further payment.

This option isn’t easy for some, as it can call for a lot of cash depending on the type of car you’re buying. However, this is a good reminder to pick for something within your price range so you don’t live outside of your means. It will take some time to save up so keep the end goal in mind and make sure to pick the right car that’s good for you long-term. This may seem like hard advice to follow, but the truth is it’s easy to get sucked into buying a brand-new, fancy car because of how exciting it is; so, if you pay with cash, you can avoid making an irresponsible decision. 

14. Do Your Homework and Don’t Rush


A car is supposed to last you at least ten years, preferably and hopefully longer–which is why it’s essential to do your homework when it’s time to get a new car. Don’t buy something just because it’s aesthetically pleasing; instead, buy something that is an all around smart decision, and that won’t cost you a fortune down the road. Go in with an open mind so that you’re not pushed into a bad deal; don’t get stuck on a single make or model, but stick to what you know you need so that the experience is efficient and rewarding. You want to make sure to do ample research into consumer-based ratings so you’ll always know what you’re getting yourself into. When you’ve narrowed it down to a few options, look into what other shoppers are paying in areas near you so you come prepared with a firm and fair price.

13. Timing is Everything


Just as many other things in life, timing is essential when buying a car. At the end of the year, car dealers will try to meet end-of-the-year sales quotas so they’ll most likely be willing to give you a deal. With the new year comes newer models so they try to make room on their lots by getting rid of older inventory–a perfect time for you to snag a deal. Not to mention that the weather will be on your side as not many people shop around in cold weather; the car lots will be empty, and the salesman’s attention will be on you. Just like the end of the year is a good time to get a deal, so is the end of every month because of those same sales quotas many dealers will have. 

12. Avoid Add-Ons


When it’s time to actually purchase a car and you’ve chosen a make and model, don’t let the dealer talk you in to add-ons, as they’re just not worth it. Usually, the technology updates that come with luxury models don’t actually hold their value for very long because of how fast it gets innovated and changes; if you’re deciding to add some fancy updates, it’s probably not worth it. If you do decide you want some changes, you can most likely find additional parts online or at other retail stores at a better price.

11. Look For Older Inventory

West Auto Depot

As I was saying above, the longer inventory sits on the lot the more inclined the dealer is to make a deal on it. The goal of a car dealership is to turn and burn so they’re going to want you to leave with something, and there are a couple tips and tricks you can do to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. Look around the edges where a car wash would miss to spot any accumulation of dust, which will give you the indication that it’s been there awhile. Another thing to look for is the sticker inside the driver’s side door which will tell you the manufacture date, giving you all the knowledge you need to leverage a good deal.

10. Choose A Stick


One of the smartest things to know about a car is how to drive a stick shift. With mostly newer models being automatic transmission, you can find better deals on the stick shifts they have in stock because they’ll be eager to get them off the lot. According to the book “The Cheapskate Next Door,” driving a stick shift is actually more dependable and will save you up to $30,000 less in repairs over the lifetime of the vehicle. Stick shifts are less complex which is why the repairs will happen less often and when they do, it’ll cost less than the automatic counterpart. Not to mention, they usually get better gas mileage.

9. Aim Below or At Invoice Price


 The invoice, or dealer cost, is the price that the dealer paid the manufacturer for the car. The reason you want to aim at that or below that price is because some dealers will try to profit enormously by upping the sale price. Do a little research into the average dealer cost for the car you’re looking into and ask the dealer to see the number they give you so you won’t get fooled into overpaying. Lastly, don’t always believe what the dealer says the cost was because they’re not always the most honest; the best thing to do is check with the manufacturer for rebates. 

8. Negotiate Via Email


It may seem weird to negotiate for a car via email, but it might actually end up saving you a lot of money. Often, car dealerships will offer cars online at lower prices so it’s always wise to check their online inventory and secure the lowest price. This way you get to avoid the awkward face to face interactions that come with negotiating a price tag. Negotiating this way may not always work because they like to get you in person; but if you try doing it this way first, you can compare different dealerships at the same time effectively and efficiently without the intimidation tactics.

7. Avoid Trade In


Although a trade in might sound like a good option because it takes the price down on your new ride, chances are they’re going to low ball you with the price in order to make a higher profit. Most of the time the offer is so low it’s offending, and you can probably get a better deal selling it independently. If you sell it independently prior to going shopping, you can have the cash ready in hand to help you get a deal.

6. Be Nice


This may seem like a simple thing to ask, but it makes all the difference. Obviously, you should try to be nice to everyone you encounter, but keeping a nice attitude towards the sales guy at the car dealership can help you score a good deal. Yes, it’s their job to be nice and try and make you feel good enough to make the decision, but it’s also beneficial to the both of you for you to return the kindness. It also helps to let them know you’re wanting to walk out with a new vehicle that day (even if you’re not ready) so they can work with their bosses and get the best discounts to make it happen.

5. Walk Away If Necessary


If you’re feeling uncomfortable at any point in the negotiation process, walk away; Don’t just threaten to do so, actually do it. Dealers hear that threat more than you think so chances are if you’re already feeling uncomfortable, it’s probably going to continue. I’m not saying all car dealers are out to make you feel uncomfortable, but an appointment can go sour for many reasons; so just make sure to listen to your gut and only stay if you know you’re getting the right deal. More often than not, if you actually walk away, you’ll receive news shortly that they’re willing to make you the deal. Car dealers are notorious for doing anything to maintain the highest sale price so don’t be surprised if you have to go the dramatic route to get what you want.

4. Keep Your Smart Phone Handy


Keeping your smartphone handy while you’re negotiating a new car might seem a bit rude because of the general rule not to be on your phone while you’re conversing with someone, but in this instance, it’s crucial. Your phone will allow you to have fast access to websites like Kelly Blue Book or Edmund that provide you with fool proof information about the actual cars you’re looking at. It’s always smart to have a way to fact-check things the sales person is saying in order to guarantee you’re making the best decision possible.

3. Refuse To Pay For Unwanted Features


Unless you’re designing the car you intend on purchasing (which will cost you an arm and a leg) you’re going to be looking at all kinds of options on the lot; this means most of the cars will have some features you don’t want. Make a case for yourself and your budget and let them know you’re unwilling to pay for features you just don’t need–it’s not economical or affordable to force yourself into a car that’s too expensive simply because it’s the only one they have and it happens to be fully loaded. Best case scenario you’ll get some extra luxuries at a discount.

2. Ask For The Freebies


Right before you sign the papers, ask for the little things like free floor mats, extra keys, and a free tank of gas. According to USA Today, these things should be free with every car purchase and can save you quite a bit of money down the road. Replacement keys can cost you up to $500 and can take awhile to receive and who doesn’t love a free tank of gas–it’s the least they can do. If you’re lucky, some dealers offer service vouchers to use at later dates and some even offer complimentary window tinting.

1. Find Out The True Cost of A Car


The purchase price isn’t the only question you need to be asking when thinking about buying a new car. To truly pick the best option for you, it’s important to do a little research into the average cost of maintenance on the type of car you’re looking into as well as the average life-span and common problems. For example, it’s going to cost you almost twice as much to fix a Mercedes than a Chevy simply because of the brand and manufacturing processes.