What is a reasonable offer for a new car?
April 25, 2006 6:41 PM   Subscribe

What is a reasonable offer for a new car?

I am looking into getting a new, more fuel efficient vehicle. I don't want a hybrid, you just can't make the money back, I've ran the numbers. But I am looking at a number of other vehicles.

One of which is the Honda Civic. So I sent out a request for quotes, and most sent back the sticker price, one sent out $1200 less than sticker.

That same dealer, about a week later, sends me another e-mail about their "Internet Sale" where no reasonable offer will be refused.

What is reasonable? The model I want has an invoice of $19,532, and a sticker of $21,310. The offer I was sent originally was for $20,200 or something like that.
posted by benjh to Travel & Transportation (37 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I highly recommend Consumer Report's guide to buying a new car. They also sell info on invoice price, incentives, and kickbacks so you can tell how much the dealer is actually, at the end of the day, paying for the car.
posted by aubilenon at 6:47 PM on April 25, 2006

edmunds.com TMV price.
posted by kcm at 6:48 PM on April 25, 2006

A few hundred above invoice. $20,200 was not a bad price; see if they'll do $19,900.
posted by kindall at 6:52 PM on April 25, 2006

$20k sounds like a lot for a Civic. Is that for real?
posted by knave at 6:54 PM on April 25, 2006

Take your lowest figure (in this case $20,110) with the exact configuration of the vehicle you want down to the last detail and email it out to a few local dealers (their Internet Sales Managers if the dealer has one). A few will balk and try to talk you into coming into the dealership to talk price - ignore those. Take the two lowest and play them off each other (without letting one know who the other is) until one throws up their hands.

I helped my friend do this and he got an awesome deal on a new G35.
posted by junesix at 7:04 PM on April 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

$20k sounds like a lot for a Civic. Is that for real?

Ms.Tacos picked up a Civic Hybrid for $25k, so it seems right to me.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:38 PM on April 25, 2006

Assuming there is no trade-in involved, here is what I do. It always works -- at one dealership or another.

1)Forget the sticker price. It is irrelevant.

2)Determine the invoice price via the internet etc. There may always be hidden nooks and crannies where the dealer makes money, but you can still get a good ballpark figure. Make sure that you have determined if there are any incentives being offered on the car you're interested in. I usually check Edmunds. I deduct any cash incentives (dealer or customer incentive) to adjust the "invoice price" even lower. A salesman once told me that something was a dealer incentive and so not up for grabs. I pointed out that the manufacturer wasn't giving them money just because they liked them -- it was to SELL CARS. Thus the division of the incentive was negotiable.

3)Get your "adjusted" invoice price and be prepared to offer $200 to $300 over that.

4)Go IN PERSON to the dealership and take your checkbook. Now they know that you are a serious buyer.

5)Test drive the car specific car you are going to buy. Not all cars of the same make and model are created equal, IMHO. Sometimes they have obvious problems. I don't believe in "fixing it after you get the car," if that can at all be avoided. It's easier to just pick a different car off the lot. Tell the salesperson you want to drive it yourself (they can xerox your license). Otherwise, they'll talk you to death while you're trying to listen to the car. Again, you're a serious buyer and aren't interested in a lot of baloney. Look the entire car over real good for scratches, leaks, interior problems etc. before you say this is the one. Don't be rushed.

6)Offer the salesperson the $200 to $300 over and be polite but firm. Let them run back and forth to the manager as much as they want, but don't give them more. Go elsewherre if they won't negotiate. Others will. You don't have to pay more than a couple hundred over, as someone else pointed out. Especially for a Honda.

Good luck and enjoy your new car!
posted by bim at 9:00 PM on April 25, 2006

One more thing. You want a full set of mats thrown in with the deal at your $200 to $300 over, regardless of whether they are standard or not. Always get the mats. :)
posted by bim at 9:06 PM on April 25, 2006 [2 favorites]

I read somewhere that one should make the opening offer of 3-5% over invoice (which usually comes out to a 'few hundred dollars' as suggested by many here).

For popular cars or high quality cars (like Hondas) it will be closer to 5%.

In most cases, if you then 'wait them out', they'll call you back by the end of the month and take the deal.

Remember that the last few days in the month is the best time to buy a car, so they say, because the car salesmen are under pressure at that time to 'make their quota for the month', and most of them, many of them, will be willing in the last minute to take any 'reasonable' offer of 5% over invoice right before the month ends. (give them a day or two to sweat it out though).

This wont work if the car is insanely popular where they can easily get more than that from someone else, by the way; but it works in most cases.

I've bought two cars using this method, it has worked well for me: Walk in near end of month, visit atleast 3 dealerships in the area (within 100 miles perhaps; be willing to travel a little bit), tell them you know the invoice, and that you're willing to do a reasonable deal like 4 or 5% over invoice; tell them you know exactly what you want including the options, and you'll basically buy it at the first dealership that gives you that deal. (It helps of course if you actually have done your research and DO know exactly what you want). Let them give you their pitch etc, but let them know thats what you want to do and you want to wait and see if anyone will give you that deal. Leave if they dont give it to you right away; thank them and let them know they can call you if they can do it.
Then just wait it out. Chances are very high one of the three will call you before the month is out. Be flexible but you should get a 'reasonable' deal that way and avoid all the senseless haggling and headgames that car salesmen love to do.
posted by jak68 at 9:17 PM on April 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll try to be as brief as possible, but I had an ALMOST-perfect car buying experience recently. I'll post what I did, and then throw in blurbs where I felt I could have improved. It's long, but I needed to type this up for a friend who's about to buy a car anyway. Take it all with a grain of salt.


My dad is a pretty smart fellow. One thing that he recently told me has stuck with me during my car buying experience. "When you walk into a dealership, just remember that every single person you talk to is going to do everything they can to take every last penny they can get out of you. They might pay lip service to 'customer loyalty,' but EVERYTHING is motivated by profit," he said. He's right.


First of all, Edmunds True Market Value is your friend. Go to edmunds.com and go to the "pricing" tab. Configure the vehicle exactly as you want. The web site will show you exactly how much the dealer paid for the car, exactly how much the window sticker will read, and it also supplies the "true market value," which is supposedly what other people are paying for the vehicle.

You can use price or car model as your starting point. I used price at first to get a rough idea of what I could afford, then honed in on a specific model. Once you have it narrowed down to two or three models, go test drive all of them. DO NOT WALK BACK INTO THE DEALERSHIP AFTER YOUR TEST DRIVE. This will only lead to bad news. If you have to, wait outside while they go in to get your driver's license.

Once you know exactly what car you want, the fun starts. In my case, I knew I wanted a Black Mica-colored Mazda 3s with a manual transmission, a spoiler, and no other options. You will probably have more luck with this process if you are more flexible - I got into trouble because there was only ONE car like that in the entire Houston area when I was shopping!

Go back to Edmunds.com and get a pricing report for your actual car. If there are options that you are not sure whether you want or not, price it both ways. The object of this step is to know the retail, invoice, and TMV prices of every possible combination of car you would be happy with. Set your "target price" a bit above invoice, but below the TMV (if it's higher than invoice). This is the "art form" part of the process. The closer you get to invoice price, the less likely a dealer will be willing to sell you a car. Also, other factors such as holdback (read edmunds.com) and demand can affect your ability to get invoice price. I'd say that around halfway between invoice and TMV is a good goal. (For reference, on my car - Retail: $17,875; Invoice, $16,713; TMV, $17,388; I paid $16,900.)


Next, prepare your message to all of the car dealerships in the area. Mine went like this:

Here's the story.  Last Thursday, I wrecked my beloved 2003 Mazda Protege.  I get my insurance check on Friday.  I know exactly what I want to replace it, so there's no reason for wasting your time or mine.

At 11:00 AM on Saturday, I will be buying a new Mazda 3s.  I want Black Mica paint with a 5-speed manual transmission.  I want Mazda floormats and the Mazda factory wing spoiler (not the lip spoiler).  These are the only options I want (or the only ones I want to pay for).

I will pay $16,900 for this car.  That might sound low, but it is still a few hundred dollars above your invoice price (not including holdback).  So although it seems low, you are making several hundred dollars for a few minutes of work.

I have already test driven a Mazda 3; if you have this vehicle, I will drive to the dealership, sign paperwork, and be on my way.

If you have this car, please call me or e-mail me as soon as possible.  If I do not answer, please leave a voicemail and I will call you back.  Thank you, and I hope to see you on Saturday.

There are a few things I might have done differently. I'll explain more about that later.


After you've set a target price and written your message, find the "quick quote" tab on the edmunds site. Send out a request for info to any dealership within about an hour or so from where you live. When I did it, I provided them with a temporary e-mail address and a fake phone number.

Boy, am I glad I did.

What occurred next was nothing short of an communications onslaught. Every dealer (I sent messages to 11) sent me at least 1 email, and the average was two or three. In one round of messages, I accidentally used my real phone number; every single one called me. Be prepared... when these sharks smell the blood of a car buyer (especially one in a hurry), they get scary.

Out of the 11, 5 or 6 dealers e-mailed me telling me they wanted to "contact me by phone to discuss the details of the sale." WRONG. 3 or 4 said they had the car, but they made a counter-offer. Apparently they couldn't read my email. WRONG AGAIN. Two dealerships told me they could get me into that car for that price.

Now you simply bounce them off of each other. One of the dealers likely said they could meet your price, but they tweaked it in some way. Without using names, let them bid it out until someone quits. Keep it in email, not on the phone, so you have a paper trail. Once you have a winner, restate exactly what you're getting and how much you're paying in a final email. Use that same email to suggest a meeting time with the dealership, sometime in the next few days.

(This is where my method actually broke for my own purchase. As it turns out, there was only ONE black 5-speed 3s in the Houston area. One of the two dealers thought he could trade for the car - apparently he didn't realize that I was also in negotiations with the dealership that HAD the car!)


You can't. You'll still get screwed if you're not VERY careful.

Before you go to the dealership, go to your bank or a local credit union and apply for a new car loan. Take the amount you agreed on and add 10% for sales tax, title, license, and ridiculous dealer fees. That will be the rough total price for the car; subtract any down payment and there's your loan amount. Keep in mind, just because you get approved for the loan by your bank doesn't mean you have to use it. You'll hold on to this as your 'ace in the hole' when you get ushered into your second small, glassy room with a greasy finance guy instead of a greasy car salesman.

When you head to the dealership, take the car you're buying for a quick test drive. (I had originally forgotten this part - thanks, bim.) You should already know how the car feels - just make sure this one's the exact one you want.

Assuming you get through the first part with your salesman without any major catastrophes, you'll be ushered to the finance office. This is where you can get nickeled and dimed to death if you're not careful.

The finance guy will try to sell you things you might want, and many things you won't need. For example, I DID buy gap insurance. If you're not familiar with gap insurance, it works like this: say I owe $14,000 on a car that's only worth $11,000, which is not uncommon in 5-year loans. If I total the car without gap insurance, my insurance company pays me $11k and I've still got $3k left to pay before I can consider buying a new car. Gap insurance pays that extra $3k.

On the other hand, he did try to sell me an "extended warranty." Even people that are vaguely familiar with the idea of buying a car know how stupid these things are. My finance agent told me that if I bought the warranty, he'd use his commission to buy down my interest rate, effectively making the warranty almost free! He shot a bunch of numbers by me that made questionable sense at best, and in one of the stupider moments of my life, I actually bought the warranty. (Cut me some slack - I was tired and I'd been there for 3 hours. By the way, make sure and eat food before you go so you don't make tired, stupid decisions like I did.) Of course, when I got home, I reviewed the numbers, realized that the warranty was costing me $40 a MONTH (even with the lower interest rate) for a total of $2400 over the life of the loan. The next day I called the dealer and returned the warranty. Luckily, most of those things come with a 30-day refund period before you start incurring penalties.

So after all is said and done, hopefully you've said no to most (if not all) of the financier's add-ons, and he should give you a final interest rate and monthly payment amount. Now is when you drop the bomb. In my case, he told me the best he could do was 9.9%, whereas my bank had already issued me a loan for 8.75%. It's funny how they can "find" an extra point or two when you wag that piece of paper in their face.

Also, one thing to consider is bringing some sort of financial calculator or other tool. After I got home with my stupid extended warranty, I set up a rather complicated Excel spreadsheet to calculate exactly how much I was getting ripped off. It then occurred to me that I could have easily put that spreadsheet on my Treo using Documents To Go and saved myself some hassle. Use technology to your advantage - the dealerships hate it, which means it's a good thing.


I feel pretty satisfied with my car buying experience, and I hope you will too. Doing it this way seemed to calm my nerves a lot. By doing as much decision making as possible beforehand, you remove the chances of doing something stupid on the spot, which is how these dealerships stay in business. Leave the stupid buying decisions to Joe and Jane Six-Pack who wander in off the street and pay $1000 over MSRP - you can save more money that way.


There are a few things I would have liked to have done differently. First of all, I feel like I got a little reamed with dealer fees. Unfortunately, these things can vary widely from dealership to dealership. If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken the "target price" I got from edmunds.com, added 9% for TTL&F (tax, title license and fees), and done all of the bargaining with that number as an out-the-door price. Then, you can constantly remind the salesman and finance guy that if at any time you see a number bigger than your target number on any piece of paper anywhere, you will walk out of the dealership without saying another word. This can be a powerful thing if you let them waste 2 1/2 hours on you before threatening to leave.

Also, I would have been more prepared for the financing part. I didn't do enough advance work to have a good loan already in hand when I went to buy the car. As a result, I got into a higher-interest loan than I had to. I was able to take care of it a few days later at my bank, but it would have saved me a trip across town if I had gotten the loan before buying the car. Also, I would have really liked to have that Excel spreadsheet with me. You'd be amazed at how those finance guys can make up numbers that are factually untrue.


To sum up this longest-ever MeFi post, I'll say this again: "When you walk into a dealership, just remember that every single person you talk to is going to do everything they can to take every last penny they can get out of you. They might pay lip service to 'customer loyalty,' but EVERYTHING is motivated by profit."

Feel free to email any questions to chadbailey at google's fancy email service (dot com.)
posted by cebailey at 9:34 PM on April 25, 2006 [789 favorites]

My current car is a Honda Civic. I paid $200 over invoice. I think I had a pretty good idea what invoice was.

It's not that complicated to get a good price and you don't need a cover story. Just do your homework and it is a piece of cake. I've done this many times. It's not rocket science. And you don't need stuff like extended warranties or rustproofing.

Just take you calculator and check all calculations to make sure the tax is right etc. I was much happier this time financing through my local credit union rather than letting them arrange financing at Chase Manhattan. If you wreck the car etc. and need to get the insurance checks and such straightened out, it's much easier to do it locally than have to send things to some large bank in New York City. Been there, done that.

Enjoy your new car. I'm sure it will all work out. Remember, polite but firm. ;)
posted by bim at 10:02 PM on April 25, 2006

Excellent choice in a new car. The Civic was named Motor Trend Car of the Year.

This car may be in high demand and of course--sold at a premium.

FWIW, I have a couple friends that work in Dealerships. They hate internet sales. Little profit to be made, so it would seem this is your best bet.
posted by vaportrail at 10:31 PM on April 25, 2006

Be sure to check every car-buying-info Web site you can get your hands on. When I was buying my 2003 Elantra, I found only ONE site that knew that there was a direct-to-dealer rebate on, in addition to the factory-to-consumer rebate. Armed with this knowledge, I offered to split the direct-to-dealer rebate with the dealer and actually got my car for under invoice price. Had I just checked Edmunds I never would have got such a deal.

I had previously test-driven the model of car I was thinking about buying, and I gave that dealer the first shot at making me the deal I wanted. They were happy to do so, which tells me I should have negotiated even harder.
posted by kindall at 10:59 PM on April 25, 2006

cebailey, you're my hero.

I'm soooo pulling that email trick the next time I buy a car.
posted by frogan at 11:51 PM on April 25, 2006

cebailey. wow. seriously very quite possibly longest ever. ++.
posted by disillusioned at 5:06 AM on April 26, 2006

... and to get into the very mind of your friendly car salesman, read this.

What does the car salesman do when he leaves you sitting in a sales office and goes to talk with his boss?

What are the tricks salespeople use to increase their profit and how can consumers protect themselves from overpaying?

Even if you're not in the market, it's a great investigative piece.
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:58 AM on April 26, 2006

Not to lessen it in anyway, but I think cebailey's success, in part, was dealing with the 'Internet' or 'Remote' salesperson. I've been to a few dealerships and in the past few years they've all developed this 'Internet' guy. The internet guy deals with smarter customers, and is usually smarter himself, so he deals much more upfront then the lot guys. Having said that, everything else cebailey suggested... especially Edmunds... and knowing what you want... I absolutely concur and agree 100%. Be an informed consumer.

Here's my very short (on preview, ha) additional advice, that has made me more or less the car buying representative for half of my more introverted, quiet geek type friends:

You're the boss.

That's it. In any negotiation it is a play for power. The trick with buying a car is to recognize YOU hold ALL the cards. Knowing when to walk away, and when to state you are walking away, are all you need to keep a car or finance dude in line.

Oh sure, they'll try to sneak a $500 fee in, and try to tell you they can't get that trim, and oh geez the trade-in guy reviewed the trade and came up short. In doing this they're trying to regain the controlling hand in the negotiation. Slap them verbally, because you are in control. It's your money, it's your signature, and you call the shots. You can't worry about being a friend to them, or treating them poorly. Those are the psychological gimme's salespeople use to force you into deals you don't want, as they smile widely at you. Wrong. This is a negotiation, and you have all the cards, you win.

In my own experience I finally decided to buy a new car 3 years ago. Yes yes I lost X amount of money for buying it new, but you know what? I wanted new.

I researched the cars down to the specific few I wanted, like cebailey, and I went to Edmunds, like cebailey. I even bought a file folder with me with the printouts and data I had collected. They had their books and lists, I had mine. I drove the cars. I waited a few days (I had the luxury, as well as a horrible case of second guessing my choices, to deal with ;) ).

I came back, found the guy, and made an offer. He saw my folder and my printouts, kind of shrugged, and took me to an office.

His offer came back about $2-$3k higher than mine, if I remember right. I asked him if he was serious about selling me a car. Then we went to $1k-$1.5k. Turns out the model he was pricing had the fancy stereo(tm) and some other option I didn't want. I don't want them. Oh, we don't have any models without that. Ok, well, thanks anyway...

Standing up, he brings the price to $500 over what I'm looking for.

ETc..etc... the key is no matter what shit they fling at you, remind them that you are the boss. They are the money grubbing scum working for you. Make them work, make them dance.

And financing.. hell yeah, get approval by 1 or 2 banks not connected to the dealer. If oily guy tries to screw you, say, oh, see, I already have this loan offer, so thanks anyway. The only catches I wasn't successfully able to negotiate away were a 'regional marketing fee', which apparently every dealer in my region was in cahoots to charge. I stopped the deal and called the two other local dealers. I made them up my trade-in to pay for it, cause I thought it was shit.

Buying a car is fun. I look forward to doing it again.. one far away day.

And the original question.. $500-$600 above dealer invoice is good. Run with it, just tell them to shove it when they start tacking fees on.
posted by cavalier at 6:38 AM on April 26, 2006

What I did when I was in the finance office was actually call my car insurance company (USAA, who I absolutely adore). They had pre-approved me for a great interest rate loan, and I managed to talk the dealer into giving me a <3% 'promotional rate' that I supposedly didn't actually qualify for, when he had initially offered me something like 12%. And that was with no down-payment.
posted by empath at 7:57 AM on April 26, 2006

What I did ... was actually call my car insurance company (USAA, who I absolutely adore).

USAA f'n rocks. Not only are they the very best on all financial matters, they also have a car negotiation service, similar to Costco's car pricing services. It's not the very bestest deal you can get, but if you're totally averse to negotiating, it's a better option than any dealers no-haggle pricing.

But cebailey's plan is eminently copy-able.
posted by frogan at 11:47 AM on April 26, 2006

Just saw this one in the sidebar. Wanted to chime in that I had a FANTASTIC experience with Toyota of Walnut Creek, a few years ago.

They had a secondary division that worked over the Internet. Their price was 'invoice' plus $500. (realize that they don't pay invoice, but it's still a reasonable price.) No haggle, no hard sell... if they have something you want, the price is invoice + $500.

I'd already done my shopping, so I went in, took a quick test drive (I'd already test-driven others to be sure), spent about an hour signing papers, and off I went. No fuss, no hassle, no pressure. Great outfit.

This was about five years ago, so they may not do it the same way anymore, but I liked them very much.
posted by Malor at 12:15 PM on April 26, 2006

The dealerships make most of (or at least a large portion of) their profits from selling the financing, not the cars. Get your loan from your bank or credit union, never from the dealership.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:11 PM on April 26, 2006

One of which is the Honda Civic.

My wife and I both drive Civics. Both are far and away the most reliable cars we've ever owned.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:09 AM on April 27, 2006

Have you considered a used car? If you want new the advice above is excellent - but if my main concern was value I sure wouldn't buy something that started depreciating the second I drove it off the lot. Buy a 2005 model for a lot less, let someone else eat the depreciation.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2006

Then, you can constantly remind the salesman and finance guy that if at any time you see a number bigger than your target number on any piece of paper anywhere, you will walk out of the dealership without saying another word.

No, you can't.

Salesmen are poker players. Their job is to make you fold. The first time you threaten to walk and don't, you've told them you're bluffing. Maybe you're not bluffing, but that's the message you gave. You immediately forfeited your power. Sure, you could still walk out the door; but your goal is to buy a car, right? You're trying to successfully negotiate, and that's about posture and perception. You've just crippled yours.

Don't bluff, ever. Threatening to walk out of a car dealership is like drawing a pistol on a burglar: If you're not prepared to pull the trigger, don't make the threat — because if you stand there frozen, you're liable to get hurt.

Don't assume car salesmen are pure, cold, rational businessmen. Most aren't. Don't assume that they would never turn down an opportunity to make a reasonable, albeit small, profit. Most would. They're poker players; and if you give them a wrong cue, they'll try to play over the top. The result will be a standoff where either (a) you'll pay too much for the car or (b) you'll walk away — but in either case, you don't get the car.

Cebailey wrote a great post, and his dad's advice is particularly worth repeating. But be careful about using an ultimatum. "You have the power" is a naive way to view the transaction, because presumably you wouldn't have walked onto the lot unless you wanted to buy a car. If your goal is simply, "Don't spend more than $16,900," that's easy to achieve. "Buy a car for $16,900" is a bit more complicated.
posted by cribcage at 10:29 AM on April 27, 2006

I find its best to treat them like Children. Just pretend that you are dealing with children.
posted by subaruwrx at 9:17 PM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

At the Ford dealer I went to, I was in fact dealing with children. I got turned over to approximately four different salespeople (they do that if you say something they don't like, like "I'm just here for a test-drive, I'm not going to buy today," so that you might forget to say it to the next guy and he can feel free to apply the full press) and not one of those guys was over 25.

Did not buy anything from them, obviously.
posted by kindall at 11:24 PM on April 27, 2006

excellent post cebailey
posted by ruelle at 6:30 AM on April 28, 2006

Au contraire, cribcage, I think you have the power is not at all a naive way to view the situation. You absolutely should be able to walk out of that dealership and still buy a car, for every major car manufacturer has several dealerships within a 100 mile radius. More importantly they have other sales people in the same dealership, too. It is not naive to assume you have the power, it may be naive to flaunt it prematurely, but in any situation where you are the one signing over the cash -- you are the one in control. The deal doesn't have to be made with that salesperson, there are tens of thousands of others.

You walk onto a lot to buy a car. If they don't want to sell you one, there's another lot that will.
posted by cavalier at 8:44 AM on April 28, 2006

I don't have a lot of time right now, but you need to visit fightingchance.com and spend a few bucks on James Bragg's book The Car Buyer's and Leaser's Negotiating Bible. By far the best money I've ever spent.

There is no short answer. Buy the book, read it cover to cover, save thousands of dollars.

Just one sample tidbit: timing is everything. The end of the month is the best time to buy a car.
posted by intermod at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2006 [3 favorites]

I think you have the power is not at all a naive way to view the situation.

That's because you're naive. You write:

You absolutely should be able to walk out of that dealership and still buy a car, for every major car manufacturer has several dealerships within a 100 mile radius.

Maybe where YOU live, that's true. You're assuming that because something is true in your neighborhood, it must also apply to everyone on the Internet. In other words, you're naive.

I'm tempted to give you a geography lesson and explain the folly in assuming that the Internet is comprised of your neighbors — but frankly, that's unnecessary in this thread because, if you had read cebailey's anecdote, you'd have seen: "As it turns out, there was only ONE black 5-speed 3s in the Houston area."

...in any situation where you are the one signing over the cash -- you are the one in control.

One more time.
  1. "Don't spend more than $16,900."
  2. "Buy a car for $16,900."
See the difference? In the former, you are the one in control. In the latter, control is shared. Hence the word, "negotiation."
posted by cribcage at 2:50 PM on April 28, 2006

My wife and I both drive Civics. Both are far and away the most reliable cars we've ever owned.

My '91 civic is in its 15th year. Purrs like a kitten. I've done nothing but oil changes and tires. Its just amazing. I dont think it will ever die.
posted by jak68 at 2:57 PM on April 28, 2006

Maybe where YOU live, that's true. You're assuming that because something is true in your neighborhood, it must also apply to everyone on the Internet. In other words, you're naive.

My statement stands for any major civilized city in the world.

At this point you're attacking me because you don't like my opinion. This is the part where I stop talking to you. Have a nice day. :)
posted by cavalier at 2:43 AM on April 29, 2006

My statement stands for any major civilized city in the world.

In other words, it doesn't apply to everyone -- exactly as cribcage says?
posted by kindall at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2006

Similar to the cebailey method, I bought my car by (1) using edmonds and other websites to determine a fair price that gave the dealer a little profit but kept me below what most people pay; (2) borrowing that amount from a bank (I used a home-equity loan, which is better than a car loan, but you could do either); (3) taking a cashier's check to the dealer with the exact amount I was willing to spend; (4) presenting the cashier's check and declaring that I had no more money budgeted for the car.

The salespeople argued with me for about 20 mintues to try to get an extra $500 (they wanted me to use my credit card!), but I said no. I also refused to pay any extra fees -- everything had to come out of the cashier's check.

This worked.

The best part, by far, was avoiding dealing with the dealer finance clown. If the salesman hasn't ripped you off, the dealer finance guy will. Get a loan from your bank or credit union, avoid the finance guy like the plague.
posted by Mid at 8:13 PM on April 29, 2006

OK, I have a tiny bit more time now. But not enough to correct all of the stuff swirling above. Hopefully someone will read this and get some value out of my effort.

1. Timing is everything. As I type this, it is now the worst time of the month to buy. Wait until the end of the month, when their sale to you might push the dealer over an internal factory incentive quota and thus they might actually be willing to EAT some cost just to get that last sale on the month's books. The best time of the year is Jan-Feb. Read the book that I linked to above, it's worth every penny.

2. Invoice price (via Edmunds, internets, etc.) is far less meaningful than folks here make it out to be. Dealer holdbacks, factory incentives, etc. You think they aren't prepared for the yahoo walking in with the web page printout? Read the book that I linked to above, it's worth every penny.

3. There are three ways that they can make money off of you in the whole transaction: price of car, financing terms, trade in value. Keep the three transactions separate, meaning first agree on a total price for the new car, then determine trade-in value, then determine financing terms. Read the book that I linked to above, it's worth every penny.

4. Don't negoatiate price face-to-face. Use the fax-attack technique. Read the book that I linked to above, it's worth every penny.

I bought a rather expensive car using Bragg's methods a few years ago and it worked beautifully. I spent a few hours on the phone, had about 20 or so dealers involved and I got what I wanted at a fair price. By the way, I paid them with a check and financed elsewhere. Read the book that I linked to above, it's worth every penny.

cebailey's pretty close, but I think you get the complete story from Bragg's book.
posted by intermod at 9:05 PM on April 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

These are good ideas, good plans. But the CostCo route is really the way to go if you (like me) don't care about the car-buying experience and just want your car at the price they'll let you have it for. And if you hate car salesmen.

With some companies (Chrysler was the one I bought from last year) you can order your car on the Web and it will show up about six weeks later at your local dealer.

I got my price -- allegedly $250 over invoice, but still a very fair price based on lots of Consumer Reports / Edmunds online research -- and got the car I needed with *exactly* the options I wanted, nothing more, no dealer padding.

It rocked. Got pre-approved for the zero-percent financing (this was easier last year, obviously) and even got a free long-term service warranty because the car showed up about two weeks late.

(Just make sure to refuse ALL "options" they offer at the signing of the contract. Under-body rust treatment, etc. You don't need it. You don't want it. Say thanks & goodbye.)
posted by kenlayne at 11:41 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

you can order your car on the Web and it will show up about six weeks later at your local dealer.

I did this. Turns up at a dealer's. You just go, sign some paper, and leave. I was in and out in 15 minutes. Really, the only way to shop.
posted by meehawl at 4:56 AM on May 5, 2006

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