5 car-buying tricks for the savvy consumer

October 9, 2015

Don't let a fast-talking car salesmen trick you into overpaying. Get the best deal with these five tips.

5 car-buying tricks for the savvy consumer

1. Ignore the multiple-rebate ploy

Those car ads in your newspaper are there for one reason and one reason only — to get you into the showroom. And while there are many laws concerning truth in advertising, car dealers get around them by not telling the whole truth in advertising.

  • For instance, one car dealer confesses that many of its ads list all the rebates you're eligible for — but what the ads don't tell you is that you're only going to be allowed to cash in on one of them. Misleading? Certainly. Illegal? Hardly.

2. Go car shopping at the end of the month

It sounds like one of those urban legends, but it's not — car dealers will be more aggressive on the last day of the month, and this can work in your favour.

  • Virtually all car dealerships have monthly quotas, and if quotas aren't being met, the last business day of the month — and the few days preceding — are the days when the car salesmen are really looking to move their cars off the lot.
  • So how do you know if the salesmen are eager to fill sales quotas? Glance around the showroom. If they're nervously scrambling around the room, chances are they are scrambling for sales. While you're not going to get a car for free, just knowing there's a little pressure on the sales force should allow you more room to negotiate.

3. Don’t mention your trade-in

New-car dealers love hearing that you want to trade your old car in when you purchase the new model. Why? Because the more variables that they can work into the equation, the easier it is for them to play the smoke-and-mirrors game with the price of that new car.

  • It's a much better idea to negotiate the price on the new car and then, at the last moment, tell them you're interested in trading in your old car. Make it two separate transactions so they can't use "fuzzy math" to confuse you.
  • Of course, no dealer is going to give you more than wholesale value for your trade-in, so unless you've got a real junker, it's almost always better to sell your old car yourself.

4. Pick apart that trade-in deal

Sometimes a car dealer will promise you a generous trade-in allowance on your old car, and then neglect to mention that he is jacking up the cost of the new one.

  • The cost of your new car should be the same whether or not you're trading in an old one; to be as prepared as possible, find out how much other dealers are asking for the new car.
  • You should also ask the dealer whether his advertised generous trade-in offer applies to all used cars, no matter how much wear and tear they have.
  • Also, ask whether his special offers apply exclusively to in-stock vehicles, or to those with the most expensive options packages.

5. Order up a discount

Car dealers will never tell you this, but they'd much prefer to sell you a car off their lots (thus clearing out inventory) rather than special-ordering one for you. You can use this fact to your benefit.

  • Tell salespeople that you want to order a base-model car that doesn't have all of the expensive options of the showroom vehicles. They'll likely be more willing to roll back the price of a luxury-packaged car if you agree to take current stock off their hands.

Keep these tips in mind and you can get the car you want at a price you can afford.

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