You’ve Got A Deal

By Kristen Castillo

April 3, 2017 5 min read

Ready to buy a new or used car? Talk your way into a good deal.

"One of the biggest challenges for most buyers when negotiating is that they are simply too nervous to do it in the first place," says Richard Reina, product training director at, one of the largest online retailers of aftermarket auto parts.

Start off by researching the vehicle you want. Know all of your options and you'll be ready to be competitive with a dealer or a private seller. Check out these expert negotiation tips to help you snag the best deal.

*Get Multiple Quotes

Be competitive to make dealers earn your business. "After test driving and once you decide on the make, model, and style of vehicle you want, get quotes by phone from the dealers, as opposed to in person, where dealers can read your body language and size you up," says Mike Rabkin, owner of From Car to Finish, a national new car negotiating service and information provider.

Rabkin suggests getting at least three or four quotes to help you get a feel for a good price and to let dealers know there's competition for your business.

*Don't Negotiate Hungry

Eat before going to the dealership and pack a snack too. "If you're hungry and tired, you're less likely to make a good deal," says negotiation expert James Goodnow, who while in law school, attended the Harvard Program on Negotiation, one of the world's leading programs on negotiation.

"Don't give in just because you want to have lunch," he says. "If you do, that lunch could end up costing you thousands of dollars."

*Get An Offer

Rabkin recommends getting an actual offer for your trade-in ahead of time using Autotrader's free tool at The deal is subject to a visual inspection by the dealer.

"It's anonymous, good for three days and gives you leverage in case the dealer or someone else offer less," he says.

*Request Maintenance Records

Buying a used car or truck? "Make sure to ask the seller for all maintenance and repair records to prove the quality of the vehicle," says Reina, who suggests asking for the most recent oil change, mileage service and brake work records.

*Make the First Move

"In general it's best for you to 'anchor' the parameters of the negotiation by making the first offer," says Goodnow, explaining dealers don't want to bid against their own prices. "Don't be afraid to put in an offer at or below the dealer invoice price."

*Create Value

Sweeten the deal by negotiating in extras like window tinting, free oil changes and extended warranties.

*Don't Fall Into the Manager Trap

Avoid game-playing with the sales rep. "Some salespeople will still play the classic game where they sit you down and say they need to speak with their manger to get authority," says Goodnow, who says the tactic keeps buyers waiting too long.

"If the manger's help is needed, then ask to have the manger involved. If they refuse, then you don't have to buy."

Rabkin, who has negotiated over 8,000 new vehicles in the past 23 years, suggests dealing directly with managers since, "they're the ones who can decide price on the spot, and aren't on commission."

*Do Your Own Inspection

Physically check the car your buying, whether it's new or used. Reina says you should inspect the condition of the paint, making sure it's clean and shiny without chips; look at the metal for dents, dings and rust; look at the glass to see whether it's cracked or chipped; and check the condition of the tires.

*Check for Rebates

Find out whether you qualify for any manufacturer rebates on the vehicle. Dealers may not tell you about rebates, so it's the consumer's job to ask about them.

*Best Time to Buy

"Managers have quotas to hit each month, so the end of the month is a good time to negotiate," says Rabkin, noting managers may get a bonus for hitting quotas and may even get you a better deal if you're the customer that gets them over the top.

*Be Ready to Walk Away

Don't feel pressured to make the purchase. Only get it if it's what you want and the price is right.

"Know your alternatives and never feel like you have to stay and purchase this car," says Goodnow. "There will always be other vehicles."

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