Car experts agree: December is the best month to buy. Since most dealerships are making room for new models by offering screaming deals on their older ones, you can generally get a great price toward the end of the year. But before you make your way to your local lot, make sure you’re prepared with these simple tips for how to save money at the car dealership.
First, know what you’re looking for. Is it fuel economy or an impressive 0-60? Do you want a year-end model or something just off the assembly line? Keep in mind that year-end models will cost significantly less, but might not come with all the upgrades of a new design. Then again, some new models might be the exact replicas of old ones, so make sure you do your research to weigh the cost/benefits of new versus old.
Once you know what you want, it’s time to research price. Never — we repeat, never — pay the sticker price (aka MSRP). Instead, see how much others are paying in your area for the vehicle you want. The Internet can help: Edmund.com’s True Market Value® calculator lets you know just how much you should pay for that hot new coupe or family sedan.
Next, get quotes from several dealerships. Keep this information handy; you’ll be able to use it during negotiations.
Then, look up incentives and rebates to see what deals (if any) are offered for your car of choice.
Finally, research your financing options. Dealers generally make most of their profit from financing loans, so it’s best to go into the dealership with your financing locked and ready to go. Call several banks and credit unions to see which one offers the best rate.
Of course, while you’re researching the cost of a new car, be sure to factor in insurance costs as well. You can always get quick comparison quotes to see how your new ride will impact your insurance premium.
If you buy in December, when dealerships are trying to get rid of old inventory, you can generally get around 6.5% off the sticker price.
December, however, isn’t the only magic month of savings. You can also save significantly if you buy at the end of the month, on a Saturday, or on a holiday — Labor Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve are 3 of the best days to buy.
So you’ve done everything right. You’ve researched the model, cost, and rebates, taken the car for a few test drives, and expertly timed your purchase. Now comes the hard part: negotiation.
While there are no set strategies for getting the best deal, there are certain things you can do to leverage a bargaining advantage.
- Don’t let the official sticker price bully you. Instead, come to the dealership armed with your price quotes and True Market Value estimates — ready to bargain.
- Go low. Don’t be afraid to offer the lowest price possible. A good rule of thumb is to look at the invoice price — the price the dealer supposedly paid for the vehicle — and then offer $500 below that amount. By starting very low, you’ll force the dealer to come back with a counteroffer that’s within your targeted price range.
- Be confident and firm. Negotiations can be tricky and time-consuming, and dealers will employ many different tactics to get you to budge. Stand firm on your price and have confidence in the fairness of your offer.
- Don’t forget financing. If you weren’t able to secure it before heading to the showroom, make sure you negotiate your financing with the dealership. Know your credit worthiness (i.e. your credit score) beforehand, and keep in mind that the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate will be.
Most important — and maybe this is really the only thing you need to know — never walk into the negotiating room unprepared. If you’ve done your research, you’ll have all the information you need to drive away with that sweet new car smell and a sweet deal.