Over the years I’ve learned many car buying tips and tricks from various friends and relatives as well as from my own online and offline research. I have been buying vehicles for about 18 years and these tips can and do work very well. Some are easier to use then others, but if it means saving a few hundred or thousands of dollars, it’s worth it!
Buying a new car isn’t like buying a pair of jeans; you’re spending a huge amount of money. Of course if you’re buying a $500 used car that looks like “The Old Jalopy” from the Archie comics, then you won’t have much to negotiate on.
Keep in mind, I have only used these car buying tips at actual dealerships. Buying privately is different and you don’t have as many techniques to work with, and cars sold privately are always sold as is. I personally have never bought a vehicle privately.
11 Car Buying Tips You Can Use At Any Dealership:
- Shop at the end of the month - the very last day, or even the last hour of the last day. That’s when the car salesmen want to make their quota for rebates, bonuses, etc. At the start of the month, they don't worry since they have the entire remainder of the month to sell cars. Just make sure you have done your research beforehand, test drove the car, and are 100% ready to buy a new car. That way you can just go in, give your price and be done with it.
- Shop when no one has any money - especially after the Christmas holidays. That is when car dealership sales are at their lowest. Between the start of December and end of February is best. Even car shopping on March 1st instead of February 28th will make a difference because that’s when “spring fever” hits and people are in the mood to buy new cars.
- Make sure your car is trade-in ready - If you are trading in your old car, make sure it is going in “as is”, not, "Well it comes with everything except the stereo and the subs", or "I’m keeping the rims and putting on my olds one". Dealerships don't want that hassle and it saves you from explaining it every time.
- Clean your car - make sure the carpets are clean, the outside is washed, and all trim/tire are Armor-Alled or dressed up so they look nice and dark. Nothing looks worse than McDonald's wrappers all over the place or encrusted mud and grime on a car you are trying to sell. Show them you are serious when selling.
- Touch up your vehicle - Touch up small paint chips and scratches; make sure the rubber is within reasonable wear all around. If not, go to a car wrecker and buy tires with tread. Torn seats, buy some seat covers. Replace any burnt out bulbs and headlights.
- Don’t flaunt your income or status - When they ask what you do for a living, it is best to down play your job so it doesn’t look like you have oodles of cash. Salesmen will set their attitude and price on your employment status and position.
- Go in prepared - Take in a notebook and a pen, print outs of the similar vehicle from other dealerships in the area, even prices of insurance and registration. Take in price quotes from websites. Show that they can’t pull anything over on you.
- Remember who’s in charge - I’ve seen it plenty of times where a salesman thinks they are in charge and they start either pushing things or denying a legitimate offer you are making to them. I’ve actually walked out on a salesman because they wouldn’t throw in free moulded mud flaps. Surprising thing was he stopped me before I got to my car and had magically worked it all out. I got my free mud flaps and a bug deflector thrown in as well. Never let them think that you owe them anything, they owe you. You are the one with the money, and you can find another car somewhere else. Until that contract is signed you owe them nothing. And make sure everything is 100% clear before you sign and it’s too late.
- Start a price bidding war - This one is my personal favourite, and has worked for the last 3 cars I have purchased with great results. It works even better if you have dealt with different salesmen at different dealerships. Both salesmen must know who you are beforehand to get the desired results. This it how it works: I call up a dealership that I was browsing at recently and leave a message for the salesman who knows me. I tell him I was just driving by another dealership and saw another vehicle that I was interested in. Be sure not to talk to the salesman in person, just leave a message. When it works, I’ve actually had the salesman call me on either my cell phone or the other dealership’s number and try to get me out of there to buy his car instead. The guy you are with wants to keep you there and the other salesman want you to leave. I’ve had a pricing battle happen in front of me without even lifting a finger. The one salesmen says one price, I repeat it to the guy I am with, he counters and it goes back and forth like that. On my last new car purchase, I saved almost $2000 doing this. The really funny part was, the salesman I did end up buying the car from said, “I’ve never had a salesman call a customer like that before.”
- Salesmen aren’t your friends - they work on commission and they will try and get every penny from you. Don’t fall into that, because once you do its harder to say no to them.
- Know the car’s invoice price - Find out what the invoice price is, or what the cheapest price is in the local area on a certain vehicle model. Go in and offer $100 over invoice. No questions asked - just $100. Easy on the salesmen, no haggling or bargaining. Most major dealerships have their stock, prices and technical information online. Printouts are good to take in, they then know you have done your research. A great place to get this information cheaply is through Car Cost Canada.
So, I hope you found these car buying tips informative. I have used all of them in the past and they have worked well for me. It all depends on your attitude. If you go in with a “don’t mess with me I’ve done my research” attitude they wont even try their usual tricks.
One final thing to watch for is the “cough”; I’ve gone to many dealerships and they use the cough technique as a cue to whether you’re just looking or serious about buying. I’ve caught them doing it and brought them up on it. I was nice enough to say, “You should take care of that cold, every time I’m here you’re coughing”
This is a guest post by Ken Wallin, a deal enthusiast with loads of experience saving money on consumer goods. After reading many of his helpful forum contributions over the years, I invited him to guest post here at HowToSaveMoney.ca and he graciously accepted. I’m hoping this will be the first of several posts that he will contribute to the site.