Buying a car can feel like having to make 2000 decisions in the space of a week. Reader and commenter xdeliriumx suggests a methodical process and a spreadsheet template for finding your perfect car at a very nice price.
Photo by emilio labrador.
The spreadsheet is very basic and could probably be improved by some other Lifehacker readers, but I think it may help some people who just don't know where to start.
Ed. note: We've embedded xdeliriumx's spreadsheet template below for reference, but you can view (and copy) the whole widescreen spreadsheet at Google Docs.
The way I got the deal of a lifetime on my car was by first going to each brand's website and picking out the model car I liked best. From there, I customised the car the way I would want it, keeping my target price in mind - don't forget taxes, registration, title, etc. At the end of the web hunt, you call up or visit local dealers to request quotes.
Input all the information you can into the spreadsheet. From there you can easily contact your reps from the dealerships and get them to price match competitors, and then you can continuing doing that until the dealerships have nothing else to give you. The chart also makes it easy to track incentives offered by each car company, different option pricing and more. The spreadsheet was super helpful when purchasing my car and I hope it will be useful to others as well. Using this method, I was able to "upgrade" to the next model above what I originally thought I could afford, just because I did my research. Make sure you print your spreadsheet out and take it with you. It really made one dealer I was visiting sweat. He even remarked "I am going to tear that paper up!" because I kept referring to it.
A few additional tips:
- If they ask you if you are ready to buy the car that day, tell them "Yes, if the price is right." It's not lying. If they told you that you could get the car for $1/month, I am sure you would take it.
- Make sure you go to the dealership with the attitude that you do not need to leave with a car. Tell them later in negotiation that you aren't sure you can make that sort of commitment for that price.
- Have a target amount you are willing to spend in your head in the WORST case scenario. Don't reveal this to the dealer. Yes the price of the car overall is important, but you need to be able to take care of your monthly payment. Make sure it includes EVERYTHING. Don't let them tack on taxes, registration, title, etc, after the fact.
- Make sure you are only taxed on the price of the car.
- Go near the end of the month because car salesmen need to meet their monthly quotas.
- I went at the end of the day, around 4pm. By the time we test drove and talked a bit, it was closing time. He was worried about closing the sale and getting out of there for the day, so he really cut the price several times. Not sure this will always help, but it did for me.
- Use the old dealership trick of "talking to a manager" against them. During my sit down with the dealer, I told him, "I am going to go make a phone call to my dad to see what he think." I then went outside and called my dad and told him I was using the call to negotiate a car deal. When I came back in, I told him that my dad wanted to take me to a few more dealerships the next day so I wasn't sure I could make a commitment. By the end of my time talking with the dealer, he quoted me at a price and said it was good till the end of the month. That is the guy I bought my car from.
I ended up with a brand new Nissan using the numbers from other cars I was looking at as the leverage I needed to get a great deal. No regrets.