I spent 6 years of my early twenties, 2005-2011, working as a forms programmer for a car dealership software company. I got to see hundreds if not thousands of car deals from the inside, so I was able to see exactly how much people were generally over-spending.
Car Dealership Lessons Learned
Rule #1 – Do your research before even looking at cars to buy. It’s absolutely stupid to start a deal without knowing what to expect. It gives the upper hand to the other person right off the bat. You should narrow down what cars you are interested in, research the comparable prices of those cars as new and as used, and determine your drive-out price ceiling before you ever go on a test drive.
Rule #2 – Everything is negotiable. Everything. This includes the actual price of the car, the price of the upgrades, the price of the add-ons, the price of the extended warranty, and the finance rates. If it’s a cost of buying a car, it’s negotiable. You can ask about each part individually with the finance manager when you are doing the paper work…point to a thing like “interest rate” and ask how they can do better.
Or concentrate on the overall numbers. Your drive out number, the interest rate, and the overall cost with interest. I know what I want those numbers to be and just blow off the rest unless it’s huge. I don’t care if the finance manager wants to mark down the price of the car $100 to then charge me for the $100 tinting that is already on the car because he makes more on that. I care about the final number being what I agreed to…I refuse to pay for stuff I won’t use, but in general, I let them have their way with the contract as long as the drive-out number, the interest rate, and the overall total are less than what I set my ceiling to be.
Rule #3 – Don’t be afraid to walk away. If a specific car dealership is just not working with you or you know they are trying to charge you way more than the going rate, walk away. There are other dealerships, individuals selling cars on Craigslist, and other options. You are talking about thousands of dollars…no reason to rush yourself into a bad deal.
Oh, and just a fair warning, make sure to really look at everything before signing on the dotted line. It’s amazing how many “mistakes” are on the final contract. You could save a couple of hundred dollars by just getting some nonsense removed like tire warranties you didn’t agree to.