Help Buying A Car from a Dealer (73 Cheat Sheet Tips)

Know What You Can Afford First


You should have a budget, be aware of your credit score, and conduct some research before heading to the dealership and putting your sights on your dream car. This manual provides instructions on how to purchase a automobile from a dealer. Should you need assistance purchasing a car, use our 70-step cheat sheet.

1. Know your credit score.

Use a website like CreditKarma to get a free credit report. Prior to your visit, you must finance a automobile using your credit score.

2. Review your credit score. 

If you have bad credit, then wait and improve your score ahead of buying yourself a new vehicle.  Your credit score is a significant factor in the auto loan rates you will receive from auto dealerships, banks, credit unions, and other lenders.  Visit a member of the if you need credit and debt advice.

Paying your bills twice a month to avoid compound interest and raising your credit limit are two ways to boost your score quickly.,

which reduces your credit utilization percentage.

3. Go to a Credit Union to pre-qualify for an auto loan. 

Unlike a traditional bank, a credit unions car buying services will offer much better rates, especially on used or pre-owned vehicles.  Credit union loan requirements are generally more flexible and have lower credit score thresholds when offering auto loan rates.  Visit the National Credit Union Administration website for a .

In a credit union rather than a typical bank, you have a higher chance of purchasing a car with a credit score of 500 or 600. Obtain a written pre-approval for a car loan.

4. Check the Friday or Sunday auto section of your local newspaper for promotions.

The promotions move around from car to car. If you have to choose between two cars, you might want to think about the one with low to no financing.

5. Get a CarMax vehicle appraisal. 

The appraisal is good for seven days and gives you more leverage when negotiating a trade-in when buying a new car.  You can either schedule an appointment to visit your local CarMax for an appraisal or get an offer from home.  Depending on your location, you can get an .

6. Get an insurance quote. 

Many factors go into auto insurance premiums.  Sports cars cost more than conventional vehicles.  Expensive new car insurance is more costly than older, cheaper used cars.  Insuring a 1997 Honda Accord or a 1998 Honda Civic will cost a bit more since they were some of the top stolen vehicles in 2016, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  To transfer insurance to a new car or adding a new car is easy, but can be costly.  A high insurance quote may make you shop for a different car.  Many people forget to account for insurance premiums in their monthly auto budget.

7. Don’t buy a hot car. 

With a sports automobile, a trendy new model, or a well-liked car, your negotiating power is reduced. When the Prius and Tesla first came out, people were paying more than the advertised price.

8. Visit the dealership when they’re closed. 

Considering purchasing a new or used car on Sunday from a dealer? It won’t take place. For you, that’s a positive thing.

Pictures on the Internet make it difficult to get a sense of someone. When the dealership is closed, it can be nice to stop by to look at the cars and examine the stickers at your own pace. No hard-sell sales tactics. As auto showrooms are closed on Sundays, this day is ideal for travel.

9. Using a rental car for the driving test.

After a 10- to 15-minute test drive during which the salesperson sat in the passenger seat and chatted the entire time, it can be challenging to determine whether you like the new car. Rental car companies provide some fantastic weekend discounts. Drive the rental automobile you are interested in for a few days to determine if you truly like it.

You might discover that you don’t like the horsepower, that it has a bothersome blind spot, that your teenagers can’t sit comfortably in the back, that the technology is difficult to use, that the cupholder is odd, that the trunk is too tiny, that the car is too low to the ground, that it is a noisy car on the road, or that your spouse doesn’t like it.

Call the Dealership First

What do you want out of a dealer experience when buying a used car?

Before visiting a certain dealership, do some research. By doing these simple steps, you’ll probably have a better experience and save time and money. Learn the key inquiries to make before purchasing a new or used car.

10. Confirm your car is still available. 

It’s possible that the webpage hasn’t been updated by the online seller. To get more leads, some dealerships choose to leave expired listings online. They particularly want to keep the list of sexy automobiles up.

11. Car test drive offers. 

Ask if there are any promotions for test driving the car.  Sometimes you will get paid to test drive vehicles from the manufacturers during slow months or the month of the regional auto show. The reward could consist of free money on a debit card or cash toward the down payment of a new vehicle.

12. Don’t transfer a car between dealerships. 

I do not advise purchasing a car from a distant dealer. Dealerships can obtain a vehicle from a dealership several hours away, but you will have to pay for transportation. Sending a flatbed truck or a salesperson to pick up your car costs money. The cost of the car exchange will be incorporated into the price of the purchase if it is not expressly stated as a fee.

Whether buying a new or used car is your only option to receive the exact car you desire, make sure you complete your own pre-delivery inspection checklist. Prior to performing a pre-purchase vehicle examination, wait to sign the final paperwork.

13. Know your needs from wants. 

The dealership may try selling you a higher-end vehicle with unnecessary accessories you don’t need.  They are also likely to try selling you tire repair and an extended warranty.  Do your research first!  In my experience, these All pricing is negotiable.

14. Consider a slightly used car.

According to Carfax, new vehicle values can drop by more than 20% within the first 12 months.  You will then lose an additional 10% per year for each of the following four years.  Essentially, your new car can be worth only 40% of its original purchase price five years later.  Buying a new car tends to only make sense for people who .

15. Shop when the new model years arrive on the lot. 

To create room on the lot for the new model year vehicles, dealerships and manufacturers will provide incentives to customers who purchase the previous year’s model. This usually takes place in the late summer and early fall. Warning: if you wait until the winter months, you might already be too late.

16. Select a reputable dealership within your surrounding area. 

Within a one- to two-hour journey, there are probably multiple dealerships from which to pick. Talk to friends and family and search online for reviews. I avoided the city for an hour and ended up saving approximately $7,000 in the process.

17. Prescreen your salesperson.

When you first enter a dealership, the next person in line approaches you, leaving you stranded. You can occasionally get a great salesperson or a terrible one. You can prescreen a salesperson if you give them a call in advance and probe. Ask for him when you walk in if you like him.

Come to the Dealership Prepared

What research materials ought to I bring when I acquire a secondhand car?

If you’re prepared to make a bargain, you should get ready for combat before entering the fray. Be mentally prepared and ready to spend a lot of time at the dealership.

18. Research your vehicle. 

Visit and Consumer Reports to know you’re buying a reliable car.  Visit your local library to find the most recent issue of Consumer Reports car edition.  U.S. News regularly updates its new and used car rankings.  Also, check out their .

19. Know the invoice price. 

The MSRP is negligible in comparison to what the dealership paid. In terms of price, the accessories are overpriced. In order to determine what the dealership paid the manufacturer, you need to know the invoice price.

20. Know the Kelly Blue Book value of your trade-in. 

For used cars, know the Kelly Blue Book ( of your purchasing vehicle and before arriving at the dealership, the price of the car you’re selling. The dealership will consistently focus on the “fair” valuation vs. the “good” or “excellent” estimate provided by KBB.

21. Clean your trade-in. 

Spend $15 to $20 at a carwash to have the inside and outside of your vehicle cleaned. You want the dealership to properly value your car based on how well you’ve taken care of it. For your trade-in, you will receive far more money than a $20 carwash.

22. Search for monthly automaker promotions. 

Look for financing deals in your neighborhood paper, and look for auto incentives and rebates on manufacturer and neighborhood dealership websites.

23. Proof of automotive insurance coverage. 

For evidence of insurance, bring your insurance card or download the app from your motor insurance provider.

24. Bring check or credit card for the down payment. 

You can typically purchase a car with no down payment. Nonetheless, your monthly payment will be reduced the more money you put down. If you plan to use a credit card to pay the down payment for the car, make sure you have enough money in your bank account or a high enough credit limit.

25. Trade-In docs and keys. 

The sale won’t be delayed, but it’s best to have your car title, loan paperwork (if you still owe money on your car), and extra keys.

26. Don’t go on an empty stomach. 

Negotiating the purchase of a new or used car always takes at least two hours longer than anticipated.

Visiting the Auto Dealership

The instant you enter the lot, a salesperson will likely approach you. Be ready for this. The dealer will provide you with more than enough assistance as soon as you arrive to purchase a vehicle.

27. Ask for your salesperson. 

Ask for the salesperson if you liked them on the phone when you called ahead.

28. State the exact vehicle and options you rare interest in buying

This shows the seller that you are not a dunce and that you want to push the buy.

29. Do not initially provide your social security number

Some car lots will ask you to fill out a new buyer form or sign up for a drawing to win a brand-new vehicle. Several forms will want your social security number so they may check your credit history.

30. Don’t talk about financing or payment plans. 

What is the most effective method for paying cash for a car at a dealer? Tell them you want to finance the purchase even if you are paying with cash. If you finance your purchase through the dealership, they make extra money. Also, avoid telling them how much you can afford to pay each month because they will go straight to the upper limit and slightly beyond.

31. State you’re buying a second car

Instead of your trade-in, you want people to pay attention to the new car you’re buying. You wish to haggle with a dealer without including a car trade-in in the initial pricing structure. To get them to stop bringing up your trade-in, let them know you are purchasing a second vehicle for the family. Although your 15-year-old is unable to test drive with a learners permit, you are allowed to claim that it is for them. To test drive, most dealerships ask that you be at least 18 years old.

Go for a Test Drive

A used or previously owned vehicle must unquestionably undergo a road test. Whenever you buy a new automobile, you should test it out to determine if you like it, how it drives, and what features it has.

32. Test drive alone 

I can persuade the salesperson to let me operate the car by myself about half the time. Occasionally I’ll tell the salesperson that I’m only test driving and not buying today, which saves them the time of following me. It’s perfect so you can focus on the ride, any noises, and the car’s handling. Ensure that you are at ease with the blind areas.

33. Test drive checklist 

You should accelerate, brake hard, take tight corners, and drive on different pavements.  using the penny test.

34. Check useable space

To check whether there is enough room for passengers, sit in the backseat while the driver’s seat is in your position. Do you ever drive with your head brushing the roof of the car? Is there room in the trunk for a stroller? Does the trunk have room for a large, tall cooler?

35. Hire a mechanic if buying a used car. 

Depending on the age of the automobile, your familiarity with cars, and the reliability of the car, you might want to insist on taking it to a mechanic. You never know what a car salesperson or dealership will withhold regarding the vehicle’s past.

A certified local mechanic often costs between $100 and $200, which is less expensive than purchasing a lemon. The mechanic will provide you with an estimate for the repairs and required maintenance after the inspection.

36. Get a free full Carfax report without paying 

The dealership should easily provide you the automobiles report on history. The complete Carfax report need to tell you prior owners, accident history about structural and collision, mileage, odometer readings, potentially service maintenance, passed emissions status, fire damage, open recalls, stolen vehicle record, and more. 

37. Don’t show excitement. 

You can display satisfaction, but you should also demonstrate your objectivity. Make sure your spouse and family remain composed and refrain from expressing their admiration for the car to the salesperson. If you can’t reach an agreement, you should enter the dealership with the knowledge that you may always visit another nearby dealership.

Negotiating the Best Deal

For most people, haggling over the purchase price was the most difficult part of the process.

38. Be polite to the salesman. 

If you are polite and respectful, your chances of getting them to cooperate with you increase. Dealerships all want to close deals, but if you treat them badly, they won’t feel the need to do so.

39. Ready to buy today. 

Inform them that if you can reach to an agreed price, you could buy today. The knowledge that they have a live buyer motivates them to strike a deal.

40. Have the dealership make the first offer. 

The first rule of any negotiation is to let the other party make the initial proposal. Ask them to start by naming the first price. During the negotiating, you should take extended breaks and hesitate.

41. Know the Kelly Blue Book or invoice price of your vehicle. 

The dealership will be informed that you are prepared with pricing information and won’t overpay. They are less inclined to make an initial offer that is very high.

42. Offer 5%-10% below the Kelly Blue Book price. 

Make a lower offer than the going rate to keep the conversation continuing. Offering 5–10% off the sticker price for a new car and up to 20% off the sticker price for a secondhand car is reasonable.

43. Find comparable cars within 200 miles. 

Find comparable automobiles by using the app. Next, order the prices lowest to highest. Consider placing your first offer at or below the price of the least expensive comparable vehicle available within 200 miles.

44. Make incremental increases. 

Make incremental increases of $100–$250. incrementally smaller advancements made along the route.

45. Financing specials for new vs used vehicles. 

Occasionally, it makes more sense to purchase a new car than a used one. To move new models that aren’t selling, manufacturers will offer special vehicle finance. Ask them to provide you a monthly payment estimate for both a comparably priced new and used car if you plan to finance the vehicle.

46. Help them help you. 

They want to sell you a car, and you want to buy one. The dealership may be able to apply unannounced rebates to your purchase. Inquire about special first-time buyer incentives or discounts for recent college graduates. Military personnel frequently receive discounts from auto manufacturers.

Car Sales Strategies – Pro Tips

In many circumstances, the salesperson negotiations start to drag on and become annoying. It all comes down to who becomes fatigued first. To expedite the procedure and obtain a better deal, you must prepare some car sales strategies. Dealer franchises receive training on automobile sales strategies to maximize profits from each transaction.

47. You have limited time 

Inform the salesperson of your time constraints and impending appointment. comparable to picking up your kids. Before going for your appointment, they best conclude their negotiations quickly.

48. Ask to speak to the sales manager directly 

After a while, it becomes grating to have your direct salesman leave the room after each counteroffer to inform his sales manager. Ask to speak with the sales manager immediately to go right to the point. It ought to speed up the procedure and ease frustration.

49. Show them the competition 

Get the app and show them nearby vehicles that are similar. Show the salesperson comparable vehicles that are available nearby. Threaten to buy from a competitor if they refuse to budge on price. Local car lots selling the same inventory as mine pose a real risk. They don’t want to hand a sale over to a local rival.

50. Use the odometer as leverage 

If one secondhand car has more miles than another, demand a bigger discount. A vehicle that has more miles on it will need more maintenance and will see greater tire and brake wear.

51. Negotiate repairs and services into the deal

Having the dealer include detailing and minor repairs costs the dealership very little.  Services are a high margin line item to dealerships.  It’s better and Having the dealership handle repairs or incorporate some oil changes with them will save you money. your purchase. 

52. Car sitting too long on a lot

Early on, enquire about how long the vehicle has been on the lot and how frequently the dealership performs markdowns. A few years back, just by chance, I came across a automobile that had been sitting on the lot for 60 days and had been discounted by $5,000 just before I arrived to move it. Long periods of time spent in the dealership parking lot cost money. They can trade in their old car or use the money to purchase a new one.

53. Benefits of customer retention. 

Several dealerships easily neglect to inquire about whether you’ve already bought their brand. As part of their client retention strategy for the automotive industry, manufacturers provide an additional cash refund toward the purchase of a new car. Find out whether the manufacturer offers a loyalty discount.

54. Act impartial. 

Say that while you would enjoy a new car, you do not currently NEED a new car. Instead, you can purchase from another dealership tomorrow or the following week.

55. Start packing up.

Inform them that you are worn out from the negotiations and that it doesn’t appear that a deal will be reached. Begin slowly packing up your belongings and exchanging farewell handshakes. The salesperson and dealership won’t want a genuine automobile buyer to walk away because you might never return and visit a rival.

56. Negotiate the new vehicle and your trade-in separately. 

Once you haggle over the price of your new car, haggle over the value of your trade-in. Bring your Kelly Blue Book and CarMax purchase price quotes with you. Selling your old car to the dealership usually works out better for you in the end. When the prices are netted out, the dealership will charge you less sales tax if they purchase your trade-in. Compared to driving back to CarMax, it is cleaner for you. You’ll need to locate a companion to drive one of the two automobiles if you choose CarMax. Compared to going through a private seller on your own, both choices are simpler.

57. Best time to buy a car. 

Every company has yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals and targets. The same is true for salespeople. When auto franchises sell more automobiles, the manufacturers reward them with higher incentives and better service.

Shop for a car in the evening, especially on weekends and holidays.  Most managers want to leave early and have plans so they will deal quickly.  Also, go shopping when the weather is terrible because no one else is shopping and the dealership feels like you are their only chance for a sale. 

58. Don’t feel bad for them 

Due to difficult negotiations, customers can feel as though they are taking advantage of the dealership and the salesman. Salespeople will claim that they are either losing money or making a profit on the transaction. First of all, a dealership won’t complete a loss-making transaction. They are also aware that they will make money eventually.

The finance, the warranty, the initial purchase of the car, manufacturer rebates and incentives, on-going services and repairs, and other profit-making opportunities are all sources of income for the dealership. The business plan for the auto dealership calls for a loss.

Before Closing the Deal

Before going to the finance office and signing the paperwork, it is imperative to clarify the terms and ask any questions you may have.

59. Ask for a net price

Instruct them to only discuss the whole cost, which includes all charges such as delivery, license plates, document fees, sales tax, luxury tax, and so on. If you don’t agree on a net price in advance, there’s a considerable possibility you’ll discover some additional hidden fees in the finance department.

60. Include a full tank of gas. 

The majority of car lots give you a full tank of gas before you leave the lot. It is worthwhile to request gas and a spotless automobile.

61. Best aftermarket floor mats included. 

I won’t sign a contract until the best aftermarket floor mats are included. Winter mats are required to protect the carpets if you live in the Midwest. Personally, I always ask a licensed dealer to provide the best all-season Weathertech floor mats. These are simple to maintain and will protect my car’s wear and tear when I eventually sell it again.

Final Meeting in Finance Office

The dealership’s final opportunity to upsell and earn extra money is in the financing department. Selling warranties, financing your car, and peddling you supplemental insurance for your car are how the finance manager supports himself or herself. They will make an effort to even make you feel a bit afraid.

62. Confirm the final sales price

Verify that the final sale price is the exact same as the price you agreed upon with the salesman, including any applicable fees. Get the financial manager to go over the contract and all the figures with you.

63. Extended warranties don’t need to be purchased on site. 

The vehicles frequently have warranties and are either new or certified pre-owned. Normally, you can purchase an extended warranty whenever you want. Some manufacturers have restrictions when giving out an extended warranty. If your current warranty has expired or you have more than 60,000 miles on your vehicle, some companies won’t sell you an extended warranty.

If you truly want one, start contacting the finance departments at car dealerships around three months before the current warranty ends or when the vehicle has less than 60,000 miles on it. Based on your car, enquire in advance about restrictions and specifics.

64. Only buy manufacturer extended warranties. 

What kind of warranty should you look for when purchasing a vehicle from a dealer? A third-party warranty is not sufficient, so avoid purchasing one. Raise important queries, such as how you will be compensated for repairs. What repairs are covered by the contract? Your deductible is what? Who performs the maintenance and repairs on your car, and where? Who is the warranty’s backer (you can only receive a contract that is supported by the automaker)?

65. Only consider a service warranty if you keep the vehicle for a long time

A longer service warranty is not necessary if you often trade in and out of vehicles. If you maintain it above 100,000 miles, like I do, an extended service warranty will cover things like brake repairs, oil changes, and windshield wipers. The manufacturer wants you sell the car quickly so they won’t have to foot the bill for the maintenance you already paid for.

66. Extended warranties are negotiable. 

Request that the finance manager give you the best pricing on an extended warranty right away. Then try placing a lower bid. For a better offer, you can always browse around to different finance office dealerships across the US. I once received a referral from a friend to contact the finance manager of a New Jersey dealership that offers discounted service and extended warranties.

67. Tire and wheel insurance isn’t worth it

Avoid tire and rim insurance.  In most cases, it’s so expensive that it’s better to self-insurance yourself.  It tends to run several hundred dollars to over $1,000 depending on the type of vehicle and price markup.  If you happen to get a flat or hit a pothole, you’ll have that rather than paying for the pothole insurance, money.  If you purchase your tires from Discount Tire, if it’s repairable, they will fix your tire for free. 

68. Loan rates are negotiable

Show them your credit union’s pre-approved rate and ask if they will match or beat it. Financed auto dealers will make an additional profit by doing it themselves. If the dealership matches the auto loan rate, financing through them is also more convenient for you.

69. Place down payment on credit card vs. cash

Assuming you have the money for the down payment, ask how much the dealership will let you put on your credit card.  You can earn cash rebates or airline miles.  Most dealerships allow between $2,000-$3,000 on a credit card

70. Checklist of future repairs and services in writing

If the salesperson offers to fix a dent, clean your car, give you free oil changes, install a sunroof, or perform any other service, get it in writing.

71. Sign the documents

After signing, prepare to drive away with two sets of keys, clean car, and a full tank of gas.

72. Items left in your old car

It’s so easy to forget things in your trade-in car.  Common Items remaining in the vehicle you’re selling include: electronic tollway pass on your window, resident or work parking pass on your rearview mirror or window, items in glovebox or armrest, items between or under the driver and passenger seats, hidden items stored in your trunk with the spare tire, hidden magnet key, mounted radar detector, kids items behind driver’s seat, charging adapters, and more.  Search through the car thoroughly and ask someone at the dealership to offer another set of eyes for familiar places to look.  Many dealerships have someone post-sale to offered needed help when buying a new car.

73. Adding a new car to insurance

You have 7 to 30 days to include a new vehicle in your current insurance policy. You must give your insurance agent the following information: your current policy number, the make, model, and year of your new car; the VIN; the reading on the odometer; and the names and driver’s license numbers of any additional drivers you wish to add to the policy.

After you Purchase your Car

Make sure you finish checking off everything on your list after the sale.

After two to three weeks of the sale, you’ll most likely receive a survey from the automaker asking about your experience.

The dealerships will stop at nothing to earn your unqualified praise and ensure that you are completely satisfied with the transaction. Your best weapon to ensure that they keep any post-sale commitments is the customer service experience survey. The automaker is interested in learning whether purchasing a car through a dealer was a positive experience and helped to increase retention. Excellent customer service results in recurring business and favorable word-of-mouth marketing for the company. All depends on your reputation.

Let us know if there are any suggestions that are missing from our guide.

What’s the Worst Experience You’ve had Buying a Car from a Dealer?

It is difficult to find anyone who hasn’t had a bad experience buying a car from a dealer.  According to , the average person will own 9.4 cars in their lifetime.  It’s unlikely that nearly all ten experiences went smooth.  

If you have any experience or further advice that we overlooked, kindly let us know.

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