How to Negotiate with a Dealership


buying a car
negotiate in car dealership

Does the idea of having to negotiate with a savvy car dealer fill you with dread? If it does, don’t be surprised. It’s the case already for the vast majority of the increasingly dominant sector of the car-buying population, the millennials (born 1981-1994). In today’s blog, however, we want to furnish you with some tips and tools for negotiating with a dealership to get the best-possible deal on your next car purchase or lease.

Background: Millennials and Negotiation

Even if you go back as far as 2016, the signs were already clear that the millennial generation was very turned off by the idea of negotiating for a new car. Data published on shows that 56 percent of respondents said they’d prefer to clean their homes than negotiate with a car deal, with 34 percent adding they’d rather wait in line at the DMV, and 26 percent saying they’d rather do their taxes. That doesn’t say much for the experience of negotiating for a new car.

And even though millennials have been the spearhead behind drives to change completely the way we buy cars, there remain some who either have to or wish to stick with the more traditional routes of heading to the dealership and navigating a negotiation. Hopefully, the tips below will offer some assistance.

car dealership negotiation

Tips for Negotiating with Car Dealerships

1. Do Your Homework (also explore market)

We know, it sounds a bit of a cliché to say “do your homework,” or “be prepared,” but it remains the single most valuable piece of advice that anyone going into a car negotiation can have. You need to know very clearly about the car you’re interested in, the trim level, its features and everything else that matters. If you know what you want, or at least know what there is, then you won’t have to feel blindsided with sudden surprise additions.

You should also research your target dealerships and see what kind of offers they publicly display. Ask in your friend and family circle, as well as on social media, about anyone who has bought from there before and what their experience was like. This will give you insight into their typical approach and customer service style. It always helps you position if you know for a fact that there’s another dealership offering a rival car at a better rate.

The more you know, the stronger your negotiating position.

2. Do as Much as Possible Over the Phone

One of the tricks that many car dealerships use is to try and evoke emotional responses. They’ll do this by creating an atmosphere in which you feel more compelled to spend more on things you don’t need, or just agree to whatever terms they say. It could be something very small like the look of the paint up close, or the smell of the car when you get inside. For these reasons, it’s best to try and start the negotiations and get as much as you can done over the phone. This removes the bulk of the emotional response problem.

One thing that still works over the phone, however, is the sense of urgency that the dealership might create by telling you that there have been other people looking at the same car, or that the model you’re interested is likely to run out of stock soon and you’ll have to wait a long time for more. Don’t be taken in by these tactics.

3. Don’t Mention a Trade-in

If you have a vehicle that you are going to trade in, there’s no need to share it with the dealership. The main reason for this is that when the dealer knows from the start that you have a vehicle to trade in, both the deal you get on your trade-in and the price of your new car get blurred together and the final deal is invariably worse than if you keep them separated.

The best thing to do is agree the initial terms on the new car and then reveal that you have a trade-in and calculate that as a separate entity. In this way, you will maximize the chances of getting the best-possible deal on both.

4. Arrange Finance in Advance

Another good strategy for negotiation is to talk to banks and credit unions to arrange your car loan in advance. Once you have a ceiling on the finance, then it actually gives you some more reassuring bounds within which to conduct your negotiating. When the boundaries are set, then it becomes impossible to even be led by the nose to a place that you can’t afford to pay back. This acts as a kind of safety net when negotiating.

car dealership

Conclusion: As an Alternative, Consider CarBevy

Finally, if you’re in southern California, then using a service like CarBevy takes the sting out of negotiating altogether by removing the need for much of it. You simply share your best price for the mode you want and the CarBevy dealership network will see if they agree. If you get a bite, then that’s a big portion of your car buying journey completed in advance.

On the other hand, if negotiation is still on the cards, then follow the tips above for a better experience. The first piece of advice remains the most important: be prepared. If you have done your homework, understand the options and how the dealership is likely to proceed, then you are unlikely to go wrong.

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