Category Archives: Car

How to Negotiate a New-Car Price Effectively

And they’ll try very hard to find the right one for you. Be prepared for the offers to be far higher than your target price. He may state flatly that there’s no way the sales manager will let the vehicle be sold at your price.

You may be shunted to a more senior sales associate or manager. He may even try to tell you that your numbers are wrong. It might help to state a rationale for your flexibility on price.

If the salesperson asks about a trade-in, for instance, insist on locking down the new-car price first. In my free time I cycle as much as possible, no matter the season. A salesperson’s initial reaction might be dismissive. Do you feel more comfortable working with one dealership over another? Is it worth it to pay a bit more to end up with a car you’ll be happier driving?

Provided you’re satisfied that the more expensive deal is still a fair one, there’s no harm in paying a little extra. Often a salesperson will try to stop you by saying she thinks “something can be worked out to make you happy.” But if you’re simply allowed to go, then the last price offered may be close to the dealer’s limit. It sets a target for what others are paying for the vehicle in your area. But make it clear that you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and wait.

Aim for the low end of the transaction price spectrum, available on the model pages at, knowing that you got a fair deal if you match the average transaction price. You also have some wiggle room. CR focuses on the actual transaction prices, rather than invoice, because we feel it is far more useful.

Armed with this information, there’s no reason a dealership shouldn’t give you at least its wholesale value as a trade-in allowance. Start the negotiations with your precalculated low offer. Otherwise, you’ll have to “think it over.” Don’t take that detour. If you’re offered a price that’s in your target range, you should probably accept it and move on to trade-in and financing arrangements.

Tell the salesperson that you simply want what you know it’s worth. There’s no need for you to waste your time or the salesperson’s time any further. And be prepared to wait several minutes at each step. Instead, insist on negotiating one thing at a time.

There’s more to choosing a car than just finding the lowest possible price. The Corvette jump-started my love of cars, and the Audi led me to automotive journalism, track days, and amateur car repair. By starting with your monthly payment as the focus, the salesperson can lump the whole process together: the price for the new vehicle, the trade-in, and financing, if appropriate. You should base your offer on the average transaction price for the model and trim level(s) you are looking to buy. This could motivate another visit to the sales manager for a lower price.

To lowball you on the trade-in, the salesperson may again try to stall the negotiations and wear you down with frequent visits to the sales manager. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re simply responding to pressure. If your discussion gets stuck and the dealer’s offer is nowhere close to what you can accept, it might be time to throw in the towel. Minimize this by indicating up front that the new-car deal isn’t final unless you get a good allowance on your trade-in. Remind the salesperson that you’re ready to complete the purchase on the spot if your price can be met.

If you’re still in shopping mode rather than buy-it-now mode, it would be a mistake to dismiss what they have to say out of hand. Even if he can’t find fault with your numbers, he may counter your bid with a barrage of objections, pleas, and ploys to get you to raise your offer. If not, you’ll move on. If you use the average transaction price as a starting point you likely will have a quick negotiation process.

Reassure the salesperson that if you can both agree to terms you know to be fair, you can look forward to making a quick sale. The invoice price has become far less meaningful, and it doesn’t reflect the impact of supply/demand—a big consideration in the current market. If so, show a printout of your sources of information. Only after you’ve locked that in should you begin to discuss a trade-in or financing. When you start bargaining, work from your positions of strength: Let the salesperson know she’s not even in the ballpark.

If you shopped it around to other dealerships, you also know what you can easily get for it. But by setting the ground rules early, you can level the playing field. What usually happens after you declare your starting offer is a back and forth while the salesperson submits your bids to the sales manager and returns with counteroffers. Before you chase the last penny of savings, consider your own preferences.

If so, tell him what it is, or better yet, show them a print out.

How to Negotiate a New-Car Price Effectively


p>Negotiating for a new car might feel comical—like pitting an amateur against a team of professionals. From the outset, you want to stay on course and prevent the negotiation from veering off-track. While you can allow your target price to go up in small increments, don’t go above the lowest competing bid you’ve gathered. Because the manager wields the real power to approve deals, you can expect this. Only after you agree on a price for the new car should you turn your attention to the trade-in.

Keep working from your lower figure, raising it a little at a time, rather than taking the dealer’s counteroffer and hammering it down. Provide the figures to back this up, along with printouts from several pricing sources. If you encounter these tactics, head to another dealer: After all, the target price that you calculated allowed for a reasonable dealer profit. As for financing, explain that you are preapproved for a loan and prepared to pay in cash, but that you may be willing to consider financing through the dealership provided the offer is competitive. Try not to be argumentative.

If the negotiations are going nowhere, this is the time to excuse yourself and get up to leave. Rather than be drawn into a discussion on the salesperson’s terms, let her know: The salesperson will probably begin the discussion by focusing on the vehicle’s MSRP (Manufacturer ’s Retail Sales Price) or on your monthly payment. If you start with a lower number, you’ll likely spend more time coming to an agreement. But if you’re dependent on the trade-in to make the down payment, you’ll have to sell your car before you can sign a contract for the new one. You can’t expect a salesperson to send you to the rival across the street, but good ones know a heck of a lot about the cars they’re selling and whom they might suit.

One gambit you can use is to mention that you have competitive bids in hand from other dealers, without disclosing what they are. This defuses any attempt to pull out a used-car pricing book so the salesperson can “prove” that your figures are too high. As an alternative, ask if the salesperson is willing to beat a price you got from a legitimate buying service.

If he starts with price, make sure you negotiate from the bottom-most price and work up, not down from the MSRP. For example, you could say that you value the fact the dealership is conveniently close or that you like the color of a particular car. But if the price really does leave minimal profit for the dealer, it’s not likely to go that much lower somewhere else.

If that happens, simply repeat the same ground rules to that person. This gives him too much latitude to sow confusion. In any case, whether you do your price negotiation by email, using an intermediary buying service, or going one-on-one with a salesperson and, inevitably, her boss, you’re going to wind up at a dealership to sign the papers and get the keys.

If the negotiation has stalled at a higher figure than the competitive prices you’ve gathered elsewhere, say so. I owe my career to two fateful events: my father buying a 1965 Corvette and my purchase of an Audi A4 rather than a Chevy Tahoe. But make it known that coming to terms on the purchase price is the primary focus.

Explain that you are looking for the lowest markup over your bottom price. Your first priority is to settle on the lowest price you can get on the new vehicle. But no matter who ends up sitting across the desk from you, a clear explanation of what you’re looking for will help counteract the common diversionary tactics you may come across.

Remember, if the trade-in discussions become too burdensome but you’re not willing to pull out of the new-car deal, you can always sell the car elsewhere. You might consider saying thanks, taking the offer in writing, and trying to best it at another dealer.