Originally Posted by JMRouse
Rambo's advice here is the advice sites like Edmunds, Carbuyingtips.com, etc give you and it's usually good to follow. I helped my younger sister buy a new Accord about 6 years ago, did this, and got her a fantastic deal. So it can work.
Having said that, I recently found this does not always work. When I first started shopping for my car, I was toying with the idea of buying new. Wanted to compare my monthly payments and overall cost versus buying something slightly used (like I ended up doing). Basically, I found some dealerships simply started sending me automated emails trying to get me into the dealership. A few of the ones that did write me back, expressed confusion over what model I was looking for even after I gave them detailed responses with the specific options. It became obvious they were trying to jerk me around to get me to visit the dealership. Out of the few that were up front and gave me pricing, only two were within range of what a "best quote" should actually be based on the holdbacks, customer cash and other incentives. One actually had the balls to email me a photo he took of the window sticker that had the MSRP on it!
So why was my experience this time so drastically different then the past? I'm not sure, other then I wonder if dealerships are wise to these strategies now. Everyone has access to the internet and are likely reading the same tips, from the same sources. Maybe they have their own strategies in place, developed over years, to counter them. Now I will admit I didn't press it beyond an initial round of emails or two because I had switched gears back to shopping used, but it was a shaky start to something I expected to be a much more smooth process.
Some other thoughts, based on what I have researched and/or experienced, I want to share.
1. Don't take for granted that the person writing you is the "internet sales manager" or that the dealership even has that. It's a common tactic for sales people to intercept initial emails and pretend they are this, to make you believe you are communicating with the person who can give you the best possible pricing. The same goes for "fleet managers" and your best bet there is to call first and try and get the name from the receptionist who answers the phone.
2. By all means get pre-approved for a loan if you can. It's great bargaining power. Just understand that it may be challenging to get a large, new car, loan from a credit union or bank unless you have A+ credit. Otherwise, it is often easier to score a loan from the dealership because they will fight to secure you one as it makes them money.
3. Know your credit score BEFORE you start the shopping process. Pay they small fee and get a report, with score, from all three companies. That way you don't have any surprises.
4. Keep in mind that the advice Rambo really only works on new car buying. If you are shopping used, you will find pricing all over the place. At best, Edmunds and KBB can give you ranges to base your negotiation on. Even then, be prepared to be surprised at some of the pricing you see while shopping.
5. Common wisdom says don't negotiate based on your payment and only talk the final price of the vehicle. This is almost always good advice. The one exception I have found? If you have already been approved for a loan and know the exact APR you will get. That's how I scored the deal I did on my Mustang. Walked into the dealership having already been approved with Ford Motor Credit for a CPO loan. When the sales guy threw out his "rock bottom price," I countered with my monthly payment ceiling. Using an online payment calculator, I already knew what I would be paying for the vehicle based on that monthly payment and my APR. They met my monthly as requested, and I ended up paying two grand less then the guy was trying to get me to agree to.
6. Don't let them fool you by acting like an extra $5 to $15 per month on your payment is not that big of a deal. It adds up! You could end up giving them hundreds or even thousands more over the life of the car.
7. Don't sign anything until you have read every single number on the contract. Dealerships love to sneak in added fees and or extras that amount to little more then bullshit ways to line their pockets. Mine did this and then pleaded ignorance when I called them out on it.
8. If buying new, the speadsheet here
can be your best friend.
9. Finally, don't be afraid to get up and walk on the deal. I did that twice over the course of shopping for my car when they tried to fuck around with me at the last minute. The car your are looking at, new or used? There will be other ones. You can always make another deal on a different vehicle another day.