Help us get a deal on this car!
January 8, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Can you help us get a good price on an awesome car?

We are buying our first adult car! We have seen this beauty

*A base RAV4 brand new, that has everything we need, no more, no less (we love this car), that we've been told could last for up to 12 years. Two wheel drive, cloth seats, simple but to the purpose. MPG: 22/27 for 22500 dollars, plus tax, fees, ETC (about 1500).

Our initial idea was to buy a second hand RAV4, but all the second hand ones with low mileage are actually more expensive than a new basic one, given that they all have "add ons" (leather seats, or GPS, etc,) Until now, we have not seen a used, low mileage one that is also basic, which would be the ideal option.

Appealing to the people who have experience in car dealing, granted there isn't such a thing as a vow of secrecy among car dealers, can you tell us how much we can lower the 22500 they have asked for? do you have experience getting "deals"on new cars? What would be the realistic thing to expect?

Can we haggle? Can we go to another dealership and tell them the price they have offer so as to get a better deal? We really want to spend the least possible!! Please, help us!
posted by Tarumba to Shopping (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I bought a car about 3 weeks ago (a Ford Mustang, so conceptually the same but the particulars are not correct for Toyota). I got about 15% off the sticker price.

I first went to Dealership A, test-drove the car, decided which color, etc., I wanted, and talked with the sales person. Then of course, asked, "What's the very best deal you can give me on this car?" He gave a number, plus a worksheet. The worksheet outlined the different deals they had going at the time. The deals involved 3 factors:
- The best price for the car itself
- The best deal if financing through Ford's bank (these broken down into 3 sub-groups, for length of loan)
- The best deal if financing via the Ford dealership for a loan from another bank (these also broken down into 3 sub-groups, for length of loan)

I'll come back to those deals in a minute.... I took the numbers and worksheet, thanked the sales person, said I was also going to think things over, and that I'd be back later in the day. Then I went to Dealership B.

At Dealership B, I came in with an exact idea of what car I wanted. She did not have the exact car, but could buy/swap with another dealership. She hopped on her computer, and looked it up... lo and behold, the only dealership with the car I wanted was Dealership A (that wasn't planned, but was interesting). She talked to me about the best deal she could offer me. She did not give me a worksheet, so I'm scribbling on the back of her business card, and she did not mention all of the three deals. Basically, I'm not feeling very confident about her, so I thank her, tell her I'm going to think things over, and head back over to Dealership A.

At Dealership A, I don't mention the other dealership (they know, believe me... they know). I talk with the same sales person, and we head back to his office. I say that I will pay X (a round number that is several thousand less than what he mentioned). The haggling has begun!

Now, I said I'd get back to the deals and worksheet. Since I'm not awesome at keeping multiple numbers in my head while doing math to get other numbers, I write it all out on the worksheet. I recommend doing that even if you are good at numbers and math -- there's just an overwhelming number of numbers.

The loans are arranged so that there are different percentages offered, at the different lengths of time, and with the banks versus the Ford bank. Also, the two types of loans have a different rebate that comes off the sticker price. In the end (and it was a lengthy type of thing), I told him I don't borrow money with interest due -- and that's true. I had the money to just buy the car, so I didn't want a loan unless it's with no interest. He pushed for other options, and brought in the Finance guy to push for the other options (the Finance guy said, paying interest would be smart, because it would show on my credit report; I said a credit report is only important when you don't have cash for purchases).

tl;dr: In the end, I got window tint for free, about 15% off the sticker, and a loan for 3 years with the Ford bank at zero percent interest. It took one full day, there was haggling, I did go to different dealerships, did not tell them I went but they totally know and expect that you will, and I remained firm about what I wanted -- and was willing to leave even after they'd handed me the keys and were washing it up for me, when the Finance guy discovered a last-minute problem was found with the deal. And I got this! In red! with the V8 engine!
posted by Houstonian at 3:57 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I should add, because I see I didn't make it clear, that everything you discuss is negotiable. This includes financing via the dealership with a bank. In that case, they negotiate with the bank for big blocks of loans, and then tack on for their own money (if that makes sense). Also, if the car is not on their lot, they can buy or swap from another dealership. Also, extras like window tint are negotiable. And of course, the interest rates, down payments, and total cost of the car are negotiable. Even the paperwork fee is negotiable (this is paying them to process your paperwork for your license plates, etc.). It helped me to just keep the discussion about "total cost" and not worry about which line item the deduction was coming from, or what monthly payments would be, etc. They can do their paperwork however they need to do it; really, the important thing for the buyer is the bottom line.
posted by Houstonian at 4:24 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites] sent one of their journalists undercover to work at two different car dealerships. The article is very long but worth the read IMO. He reveals a lot of their "negotiating" tactics and you get a pretty good sense of the overall car buying process. Here is the link.

Good luck!
posted by hummercash at 5:52 AM on January 9, 2010

Best answer: Keep it simple. Never participate in negotiations based on worksheets that present financing options, leasing options, etc. The so called four-box worksheet is a tool that is used to confuse you as to the total amount you're spending. If you balk on total price, they refocus on monthly payments, if you balk on payments, they adjust payment periods/rates, if you balk on that, they talk leasing, etc. It's a tool to let them keep going around in circles adjusting things while making it difficult to tell how much you're really paying.

Negotiate ONLY on total "out the door" price (i.e. tax/title/fee included). Flat-out refuse to discuss any financing -- treat it as a cash purchase. Don't worry, if after you've settled on a price, you say you decided you'd like to finance, they'll be happy to offer you financing and now they can't play tricks on the price.

The fastest way to get the best price is to come up with an exact configuration for the vehicle (color, trim level, options, etc.) and ask multiple dealerships for their best price "out the door" price that should include ALL fees, taxes, title, etc. Contact 10+ dealerships by email asking for their best out the door price on that exact configuration. If you're not picky about color, you can leave that open. When they get back to you, send them the lowest offer you got, and ask if they can beat it. If someone comes back with a better price, go with them, or if they're furthest away than you'd prefer, contact your nearest dealerships and tell them you were offered X and ask if they can match that.

Once you have the price and dealership settled, you can talk with them about financing. Since financing is entirely separate, you can consider the financing on its own terms -- it can help to get financing offers via car loan websites, so you have a basis to compare to and know if the dealership's offer is good. The price for the car should not change at any point.

If you really care about the details, you can go to sites like and see what the dealers are paying for the cars from the manufacturer, and what incentives are available from the manufacturer for the dealership. Those incentives frequently further reduce the dealership cost. Really you don't need to know all that to get the price if you don't care to, though. Good old competition from a large enough pool on a fixed configuration is enough. Even if most of the dealerships are further than you'd ideally prefer, you can still use them as leverage to get the best deal.

Good luck.

P.S. I know you mentioned that you couldn't find good used options, but look into the long-term reliability of the model. Some cars, particularly in salt-free states, hold up just fine into the hundreds of thousands of miles, and so the difference between 10,000 and 40,000 miles on the odometer can make little difference in terms of reliability, but a massive difference in price. I don't know anything about the RAV4 however, so YMMV.
posted by laughingcow at 5:55 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and tell them you won't take the car if they stick one of those stupid dealership badges on the trunk. (If they already have it on the car, have them remove it to your satisfaction before taking possession of the vehicle. They can remove it much more easily and cleanly than you.)
posted by laughingcow at 6:16 AM on January 9, 2010

Best answer: First: please get out of the mindset that you love this particular car. Dealers want you to fall in love with a car and agree to anything to own it. You can find another one. Really.

Second: Check sites like Edmunds for MSRP and invoice prices for the car you want to buy. Based on this site, the MSRP for a base 2010 RAV4 without AWD is only $21,675 so in my opinion the price you have is way inflated. Invoice is $20,264 so you should be looking to pay something closer to that.

If you don't like haggling, try emailing the dealer and asking for the best price. Do all haggling via email. You should read some of the other AskMe threads on this topic, of which two are:

How do you not haggle when buying a car?
negotiating via email
posted by cabingirl at 8:03 PM on January 8, 2010

Not specific for your exact car-lust, but car-buying advice that I swear by: Go in on a snowy or rainy day during the middle of the week when they will likely not be making a lot of sales. They want numbers on the board for the day, so they'll be more willing to make good deals.
posted by banannafish at 8:08 PM on January 8, 2010

@laughingcow, I totally agree on the dealership badges, I don't pay for a car to advertise for them.
When we bought 2 cars in 2008 when we moved into the US, I did all the negotiating on email while in another country so I'd worked them down to a price before even setting foot in the dealership (I had 3 dealers all competing for my business).
posted by arcticseal at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you so much! The dealer is offering finfnacing at 3.9% for 60 months, which is pretty much what we could get at our credit union, so this really opened my eyes! I think I'll start emailing dealers like crazy...

posted by Tarumba at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2010

My mom's new car (but it's a Ford, I don't know if a RAV4 is within their availability) came from... COSTCO.
They do the email negotiation for you with local dealers after you tell them what you want. In her case, the resulting price was $4,000 less than going through the dealer directly. A friend of hers has now bought 4 (four!) cars this way.
posted by whatzit at 8:35 PM on January 8, 2010

I recently shopped for a new ('09) used car. Several dealerships I visited just said flat out, whatever price we have, that's the price. There is no haggling. That's it, the price is set. When I attempted to haggle, they would have none of it. These were Toyota/Honda/Subaru dealerships. Apparently they're on the other side of the supply/demand curve than domestic dealerships. They set the price, and they're very confident that either you pay it, or someone else will shortly.
posted by sanka at 9:10 PM on January 8, 2010

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