I hate buying cars, primarily because I don’t like to be lied to. But I know their games. I’ll be buying another car this summer and have been getting psyched up for the experience.
Unless your current car is costing too much in terms of repairs, seriously consider holding onto it. It is the least expensive car you’ll ever own.
Don’t just buy a new car to get better gas mileage. Do a little math and you’ll find out that it will take years to pay back your investment.
Buy low maintenance cars and hold them a long time.
Don’t buy high-tech extras like DVDs and GPS systems. They cost 4-5 times what portable versions do and will be outdated quickly. They cost a lot to fix if they break. You also can’t transfer them to other vehicles.
Don’t look too eager when talking to a salesman. You must be ready to walk away. They get serious about negotiations when you are walking out.
Make your best deal on the price, then tell them you don’t like surprises and you’re sure that they won’t add in any charges such as “advertising fees” when they do the final paperwork. Those should be part of the negotiated price, but they often sneak them in later. A guy did that to me and I told him the deal was off unless he removed the $250 charge. He did.
Don’t let them tell you they are “only” making $25 (or whatever) on the car. That is a silly partial truth they use to describe the intercompany profit when one division of Honda, for example, sells to another division. It is meaningless, especially when they try it on a CPA.
Go through the fleet dealer at the dealership if you can. Most dealerships have a sub-group that sells to businesses who buy multiple cars. Those buyers don’t have time for the gamesmanship of spending a whole day negotiating over each car. The prices tend to be lower and non-negotiable. Individuals obviously don’t buy a whole fleet of cars but sometimes a group like a credit union will combine the purchasing power to get fleet deals. You can submit what you want on the web and within an hour you’ll have lots of quotes.
Save up and pay cash. When you tell them you’re ready to write a check when they agree to your price it gives you negotiating leverage.
Do your homework at a site like Edmund’s.