Timing Your Purchase  

Use these tactics to increase your odds of scoring a great deal on your new vehicle:

  • Skip the weekends. Saturdays are the busiest car-shopping days for dealers. Go during the week when salespeople have more time to answer your questions and work with you on price negotiations.
  • Head to the dealership late in the day. No one likes to work late. When it’s approaching closing time, the sales and finance department may not want to spend hours negotiating a sale and may be more agreeable to your terms. However, making an offer late in the day could backfire if staff have had a good sales day and aren’t interested in spending time negotiating a deal.
  • Shop at the end of the month. A dealership may be more willing to make a deal if it’s falling short on meeting its monthly sales goals. Keep in mind salespeople also have monthly sales quotas to reach and earn bonuses on their total number of cars sold. 
  • Pick the right time of year. Many manufacturers offer more incentive programs toward dealerships at the end of summer, making August a good time to receive deep discounts on last year’s model vehicles. Dealerships are also more willing to work with consumers with pricing in order to move the current-year models off their lots to make room for next year’s models. 

Negotiating Positions

Depending on the car you want to buy, your financial situation and other factors, you and the dealer both have negotiating advantages. When negotiating, you’re smart to keep them in mind so you can leverage them in your favor.

You have the advantage when you exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Flexibility. You can often get a better deal if you’re flexible on colors and options because the dealer may be able to sell you a car that is on the lot, rather than one that needs to be ordered to your specifications or transported from somewhere else.
  • Strength. If you’re paying cash or have a pre-approval, you have the strength to negotiate the purchase price alone, rather than having to negotiate financing, too.
  • Discipline. Don't get emotional. Have the discipline to walk away if you’re not able to reach a deal.

The dealer has the advantage in these situations:

  • High demand. The dealer may have less incentive to negotiate on a car that is in high demand. You may want to consider delaying your purchase to a more opportune time when there are more similar models in inventory.
  • Trade-ins. Chances are you’ll receive less for your vehicle during trade-in than you would if you sold it yourself. However, that may not be possible or practical if the car isn’t paid off. Research the value of your trade-in from a reputable reference such as NADA.com before discussing with the salesperson.
  • High need. If you’re in the position of having to buy a car quickly—for example, if your previous car was totaled in an accident or isn’t repairable—you may not be able to time your purchase or spend a lot of time pricing cars at different dealerships. You may want to keep this information to yourself when negotiating.

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