Car Shopping 101: How to Negotiate the Best Price

Learn How to Snag the Lowest Price for Your Dream Car

Whether it’s time to upgrade your vehicle or you’re shopping for your very first car, the goal is to drive away in the car that you want, not the car the dealership wants to get rid of.

Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance has some car shopping tips to help make sure you get the best price on a vehicle, whether that’s this year’s model or a used car that’s still in great shape. (We also have some tips on how to insure that car, since auto insurance is a critical step in protecting your big purchase.)

Do Your Car Research

Before you go to the dealership, do tons of research!

  • Find the vehicle makes that you’re interested in, what they’re worth, and know what you’re willing to pay.
  • If you’re buying a new car, research the specific trims, bells, and whistles that you’re after.
  • If you have a car to trade in, know that car’s value. This will help guard against a low-ball offer from the dealership. Some good resources for gauging a car’s value are TrueCar, Kelly Blue Book, and Edmunds.
  • Know your estimated fees and taxes in order to better gauge your budget.
  • Research dealerships on consumer service sites such as Yelp to find out which have stellar customer reviews. One thing is certain—you want to deal with a trustworthy dealership.
  • You may want to get pre-approved for an auto loan with your bank before setting foot on the dealer’s lot. This will make the financing part at the completion-of-sale much faster. Plus, it will show the dealer that you’re no rookie, your stated price limit is firm, and you know better than to get ripped off on financing upsales.
  • Look for cars that have cash-back incentives or special financing. If you’re in the market for a new car, these deals sometimes happens with last year’s models, just before or early into a new year. You may even be able to get a zero-interest loan.
  • Check out multiple dealerships. If a salesperson is unwilling to come down to your price, mention the specific cars you are considering at other dealerships. Don’t actually tell them the other dealership prices, though, since you want them to come down as low as possible rather than just to meet a competitor’s office. Simply say, “There’s this [car make] that I like, at a price that I like, at [other dealership].”

Timing Matters

Shop for a car during the last week of the month, quarter, or year. This is when salespeople are pushing to make sales goals and are more likely to lower prices. If you really want to get specific, go on the last Thursday or Friday, since weekends tend to be busier. This is because you want a salesperson all to yourself. If you’re the only customer in sight, you’re likely to be a luckier customer.

Shop when there’s bad weather, or call to check in on a vehicle you like on a day when there’s inclement weather. Big weather events affect sales, and a low-sales day (or series of days) may be enough to bring a price down to your level.

Louisiana Farm Bureau members can receive bonus cash offers toward purchases or leases of eligible new Ford and Lincoln Motor Company cars.

Take Charge of the Negotiations

Ask the salesperson the price of the car up front. This way, you both have a figure to work with, and you haven’t given away your cards yet. If the salesperson ask how much you’re willing to spend before showing you any cars, evade the question by asking to see some specific models. Remember, once you state the price you’re willing to pay, you’re probably not going get any lower offers.

Unless you’re seeking an in-demand vehicle, the sticker price is just a ballpark, not what you should actually pay. Make your offer, based on what you already know from the research you did, about the car’s market value. Often this offer should be between $1,000 and $500 less than the sticker price, on a new car. Then stop negotiating.

Don’t let the salesperson pressure you, because chances are, the car you love is not going to disappear an hour after you leave the lot. Or even a day or week after. And if it does, it’s probably not the only model like it in town. So give the salesperson your number and leave. If they are able to meet your price, eventually, they’ll call you. It just may not happen that very day.

Stay On-Task

Car salespeople are famous for trying to talk about “amenities” rather than pricing. Stay focused and keep returning the conversation to the actual price of the car. Keep the conversation in the realm of “total cost” rather than “monthly payments,” so you don’t lose sight of the bottom line amount. Yes, if your loan is extended into seven or eight years rather than five, you’ll have lower monthly payments, but you’re likely to end up paying a lot more for the car in the long run.

Remember–you want the shortest loan possible, and if you can swing it, you should try to have the vehicle paid off while the powertrain warranty is still valid. This way you won’t be hit with expensive repairs while you’re still making payments.

Check the salesperson’s calculations yourself, visibly, with your phone’s calculator. This shows that you know how to deal with numbers, and that you’ll be very alert and aware about what you’re actually paying throughout this process.

Be wary of extended warranties and other costly “upsales” that happen during the financing phase. Unless your research suggests that this particular vehicle has a known issue that would make such a warranty worth its price, politely say no.

Additionally, don’t fall prey to guilt-trips. You’re not obligated to buy a car from any dealership, even if a salesperson spent hours with you. That is their job, and if they try to guilt-trip you about their “personal investment,” they’re acting unprofessionally, and they’re probably not someone you really want to do business with.

Use Your Farm Bureau Membership Discount

Know the facts. Rebates come from manufacturers and are available to any customer, regardless of whether or not you pay the full sticker price.

Louisiana Farm Bureau members can receive bonus cash offers toward purchases or leases of eligible new Ford and Lincoln Motor Company cars. See the latest deals for members here.

Negotiate More Than the Vehicle

Don’t act overly enthusiastic about a car. The more you project ambivalence, the harder the salesperson will work to earn your enthusiasm. This person will use all the tools at their disposal, including lowering the price.

If you can’t get the salesperson to come down on the price of the vehicle, they may be willing to lower transaction fees and interest rates. Dealers can mark up third party loans and take a cut off the interest, often without having to legally disclose this to you. This is why getting pre-approved for an auto loan is such a great idea. But if you don’t go that route, know your credit score and average auto loan rates. If the dealer’s financing offer seems far-fetched, they may be skimming off the top. Walk away from the deal if you can’t get fair financing.

Always Be Willing To Walk Away

Be firm but polite. If a salesperson tries to send you to a more senior staffer or keeps conferring with a manager, tell them you have limited time and then head towards the door. If the salesperson doesn’t stop you, ready to seriously drop the price, go ahead and leave. You can always come back later.

Never get angry with a salesperson. It’s far more dignified to simply leave if they can’t make you an offer that sits well. You may have to return to the same dealership multiple times to get an offer you like—even if each time, you’re checking out the same vehicle. (The longer it sits on the lot, the less valuable a vehicle becomes to a dealership.)

Insure Your New Car with Farm Bureau Insurance

Once you’ve followed all these tips and gotten a great car at a great price, it’s time to think about insuring your new (or new-to-you) vehicle. For many of us, our cars are among our highest price-tag possessions, which means that you’ll likely want to protect your investment with extensive coverage, rather than just the state-mandated liability coverage. And if you financed your car, the terms of your loan most likely specify that you must fully cover the vehicle.

For 60 years, Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance has offered some of the lowest prices for the most complete coverage of any agency in the state. Our coverage includes medical care, for both the driver and the passengers, in the case of an accident, as well as underinsured or uninsured motorist protection. This means that we cover your at-fault accidents as well as your expenses in no-fault accidents, if the other driver didn’t have insurance. According to the Insurance Research Council, 13% of Louisiana drivers are uninsured, which is an above-average percentage for the US as a whole.

And of course, we offer physical damage coverages for your automobile which include protection for damages from collisions and other causes of loss like storm damage, flood damage (a big one, in this state!), busted windows, and more!

Want to know more about specific policies and what they cover? Contact a Louisiana Farm Bureau agent today!