How to Find the Best Car Deal

Negotiating is a learned life skill that requires some practice to feel comfortable and confident. In some cases, it can mean a difference of thousands of dollars. One of the best ways to practice negotiating is during the car buying process. Equally valuable to the exercise is a quality search process. Whether you’ve been excitedly waiting to purchase a particular make and model or are needing something to get you from A to B, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

Broaden your search.

Many people don’t know that a significant number of car dealerships are independently owned and not franchised through the manufacturer. The dealership owners run them as their own small business, and as a result, there can be some drastic swings in what one dealer is willing to offer vs. another for the same car. And, some are more reputable than others. We recommend throughout this process, especially if you’re engaging multiple or independent dealers, that you check online reviews for customer insights on their buying experience and the dealerships’ business practices. 

Before you sign the bottom line, broaden your search regionally, and even nation-wide if need be. I’ve heard of people saving thousands going out-of-state. You may need to pay for an economy-level rental car for a period or to have it delivered if it’s far away. But even then, it’s well worth the cost if you’re seeing a big gap in offerings.

This approach does have a caveat though. If it’s within driving distance, it’s worth making a trip to see the car in person. If not, you’ll need to develop a close and trusting relationship with the salesperson you’re speaking with. Ask for as many photos, videos, specs and details as possible before agreeing to anything. You’ll likely be asked to put some money down to hold the car, and you’ll complete the purchase before delivery is arranged. You will be asked to pay for the delivery charge, but the dealer may have an existing relationship with carriers and can potentially lower this cost on your behalf.

Research the true cost of add-ons.

Many people are interested in add-on packages, and for good reason. Especially if you’re buying a newer vehicle, you’re likely doing so because you love the add-ons featured. Just be aware that add-on packages may be offered at a higher cost than the individual worth of the products within. Make sure you individually price out those items to ensure what you’re offered is worth the extra cost. For example, if you are interested in a package because you really want the tires included but you don’t necessarily care about the other stuff, it may be cheaper to get the tires separately or after purchase if they’re more affordable elsewhere. If a dealer is reluctant to budge on the price of the car, they may be willing to negotiate the add-ons if you like what you see.

Know the value of an extended warranty.

Extended warranties are always offered but are certainly not created equal. Warranty packages are another area where you may find a big difference in cost, as manufacture and third-party offerings can vary greatly. Some manufacturers are known for having valuable warranty packages that cover a vast array of potential needs that could bubble up after you drive off the lot. Others are a bit infamous for being pricey and not offering much beyond the very basics. There are many comparison articles and videos available online that are worth a watch/read. Like anything, lean toward non-biased content that fairly compares the options. Remember, this exercise isn’t meant to sway your choice in make and model, but rather to help you determine if the warranty package is worth it. If you decide it’s important, like anything, it can be negotiated. There may be a high mark-up, and therefore some wiggle room.

Take the time to conduct a few Google searches to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible on your next car. Even if a more in-depth search isn’t very fruitful, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you paid for what you got!

When it comes time to consider financing options for your new ride, CommunityAmerica has options to suit your needs.

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Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.

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