Car Buying Guide: Shop Around To Save Money

June 20, 2010

Readers are encouraged to send in their questions about the car buying process. Get answers from an industry insider!

We’ve been looking at how to get the best price on new cars from your local dealer. This is what we have learned so far:

  • Walking in the front door of your local car dealer is not the most cost effective way to begin your vehicle search.
  • Begin by contacting your local dealer by email. This can mean the difference between being quoted MSRP versus invoice.
  • Email is better than calling by telephone (or using IM or chat) when trying to get a price quote.
  • Go to the dealer’s website and click on Instant Quote or Contact Us. Be specific about the make and model.

Shop Around

Getting just one price quote is usually not a guarantee that you’re getting the lowest price available. Buying a new vehicle is a big purchase so you’ll want to comparison shop. The Internet has made this process easy.

To find other dealers go to In the top search box, type the manufacturer, along with your locale (city and state). For example, if you are looking for a Ford Mustang and live in Houston, TX, type “Ford Houston, TX” and click “Search Maps.” The next screen provides a visual map of all Honda dealers in your area. You can contact as many individually as you want.

The good news is that specialty automotive websites allow you to ask for a price quote from multiple dealers with just one click:

  • At the top of the homepage click on New Cars, then Free Price Quotes. Follow the steps to submit your request to multiple area dealers.
  • At the top of the homepage click on New Cars, then Search by Make & Model. Follow the steps to view the MSRP and invoice prices, and to submit your request to multiple dealers in your area.
  • Go to the manufacturer’s site. Most vehicle manufacturers help you get quotes, find local dealers, and so on.

Stay In Control

When I was Internet Manager for a major car dealer, my job was to get customers into the showroom no matter what. The sooner I got them in the better the chance of making a sale.

Timing is everything. For many customers, the longer you stay out of the dealership and pre-negotiate all aspects of the deal, the better your chance of keeping more of your hard earned money in your pocket. Pre-negotiating the selling price of the vehicle is just the first step. What about accessories, an extended warranty, even the interest rate, and so on? Can you negotiate these before you visit your dealer in person? More on that in tomorrow’s post.

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