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Car Shopping Advice: Lower Your Stress At The Dealership (And Save Money)


We’ve discovered that shopping for a car at a dealership is stressful. In fact, a recent study by AutoTrader.com found that shopping for your next vehicle is more stressful for women than men. One of the biggest stresses for most car buyers is negotiating the selling price. You don’t have to feel victimized by the process. There are things you can do to make sure that you are in control of the buying process and not the car salesperson, the managers, or the dealership.

Stay Away from the Dealership
The biggest piece of advice I can give new or used car buyers is to stay away from the dealership for as long as possible. My years as Internet Manager for a major car dealer taught me one thing: you’ll save stress and aggravation--along with lots of money--if you pre-negotiate as much of the deal as possible prior to setting foot on the showroom floor.

This advice may sound strange the first time you hear it. After all, don’t you have to go to the dealer to find out which car you want and test drive? Yes, but too many car buyers walk onto a car dealer’s sales lot and announce, “Help, I need a car now!” When you do that, you are giving up all control over the buying process. Here’s a quick example:

- If you walk into a dealer's showroom looking for a new car and ask about price, chances are you’ll be quoted on the high end: the Manufacturer’s Suggest Retail Price (MSRP) or even higher. But if you contact the same dealer’s Internet sales department by email and ask about price, you’ll receive a much lower figure. It could be the invoice cost or less.

Do you think your stress level will be higher or lower if you begin negotiating price from MSRP or invoice cost? Will that affect the amount of money you’ll pay for the car? It’s common for the difference between MSRP and invoice cost to be one to three thousand dollars, depending on the make and model. It can be more, or less. It’s also common for frustrated buyers to simply give up partway through the negotiating process. Doing so can leave hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on the table. Bad for you; good for the dealer.

Avoid Face-to-face Negotiations
Stay in control of the buying process. Deal with price online. Contact as many dealers in your area as possible. Negotiate via email with multiple dealers. You don’t have to play games or leave your ethical comfort zone. Be upfront and honest: tell the salespeople you are working with via email what your actual situation is. For example:

- You’re buying a car within a week, you’ll need a loan, and you’re talking to three other dealers. You want to know if they have the car in stock and what’s the best price they’ll give you.

Negotiating price is a fluid, changeable experience. More on how to make your best deal tomorrow.

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