Car shopping can be a grueling and intimidating task, however here are some simple tips you can follow to make the experience more pleasant and help you drive out of the dealership with your best deal.
Set a budget: Before going to the dealership, decide how much you are willing to spend and stick to it. Do not, however, reveal that top dollar to the salesman. They do not need to know how much you are willing to spend because they will use that knowledge in negotiations. If they know you can spend $18,000, then they will do their best to make sure you spend $18,000.
Be prepared: Do your research on the types of vehicles you are interested in and take your research to the dealership with you. This information can include current market values, rebates being offered, trade-in estimates and articles from Consumer Reports. If you educate yourself and establish your credibility with the salesman from the start, it will give your more negotiating power and they will know you are not a push over.
Dress for the occasion: It is best to appear causal yet professional. If you dress too sloppy the salesman may feel they are wasting their time and be less helpful. If you show up in a Mercedes, dress in your most expensive suit and wear flashy jewelry, they may see dollar signs as soon as you arrive.
Don't go alone: Take a spouse, friend or family member with you. Not only are more eyes and ears better, they can help deflect some of the sales pitches, which will ease the amount of pressure the salesman can put on you. You can also assign your shopping buddy the role of the "bad cop" to ask the tough questions and help you play hardball, while you play the role of the approachable and reasonable buyer.
Be a little tight-lipped: Even if you know you will be trading in a vehicle, you do not have to tell them that until you have settled on a bottom line price for the car you are purchasing. When asked if you have a trade, just simply tell them you might consider it but would only like to discuss that after you have settled on a vehicle and price. If they know too soon that you have a trade, they may try to work that into the deal and confuse you about how much you are actually paying for the vehicle, which will cost you more money.
Get pre-qualified for financing before you shop: Even if there is a chance you may use the dealer financing, always get yourself pre-qualified before going into the business office. It will give you more leverage in making sure you got the best overall deal. Dealerships make most of their income on the financing and products such as warranties and maintenance packages rather than the actual sale of the vehicle. Most often, they will be very aggressive in pressuring you to finance in their office, so if you already know you want to finance elsewhere, just tell them no. You already have financing in place. If they try to entice you with a lower interest rate there is no harm in contacting your loan officer to see if they can match or compare the difference in cost. Also keep in mind that your financial institution will often times have the same products the business manager tries to sell you.
Take it slow: Even if you need a car the same day, do not disclose that to the salesman. They will use that information to rush you into a decision. It is very important that you think about everything they are offering you before you sign on the dotted line. You can always walk away if the terms are not acceptable--before you sign.