Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Girl's Guide on How To Negotiate a Good Car Deal

I hope that one day all dealerships will begin offering fixed prices for new cars, and that we will be able to walk into any dealership, point at the car we like, and say I'll take this one... like in a shoe store. But for now we have to endure the process of haggling and leave the dealership feeling that we have overpaid for the car.

Yesterday, I wasted my entire day on negotiating a car deal and then steaming over the experience. I give myself a pat on the back for walking out of the deal, but I do think that I could have avoided the stressed and saved my valuable time. Negotiating for a car used to be a man thing, but more women now feel comfortable with negotiating without a man by their side. I certainly felt that way when I drove to the dealership yesterday morning.

So here's what I did right and what I did wrong, and the lessons I learned along the way. 

Do not walk into a dealership without a clear plan of action. 
Always, and I mean ALWAYS, know exactly what you want and how you are going to get it done. Buying a car is an emotional experience - new cars, just like shoes, not only do they take us places, but they also give us a sense of fabulousness. But cars are expensive, and we can't let emotions take over. So we must be prepared to lead the process of choosing a car, negotiating, anticipating the salesperson's attempt to shift us away from our plan, and be ready to refuse doing anything beyond the plan. We can't let the salesperson to take over the lead!

I had a plan when I walked into the dealership - I came to ask a question: I leased a car from them, but I went over my allocated mileage, so I wanted to know if the dealership would waive the extra mileage and match the deal I made with them previously. If they say no, I would look for other alternatives. 

My mistake: as soon as the salesperson did not say that he will match my previous deal but vaguely said that he will give me a great deal, I should have walked out. Instead, I went beyond my plan and continued into the salesman's office, chose a similar car to substitute my car, test drove it, and started negotiating the deal with all that let me talk to my manager mambo jumbo.  All I came here to do was to ask a question! I did not plan to get a new car yet! Fine, the salesperson needed to see if the manager agrees to match my previous deal. But as soon as he came back with higher numbers, I, again, should have walked out. But instead I stayed and let him go back and forth. What a waste of my time! 

Once you decided that it's time to get a new car, set up a clear budget. 
I may not be the best advisor on how to budget, but I know for sure that we must budget. We must know what we can and cannot afford. 

Prior to shopping for a car, make it clear to yourself how much downpayment you can afford and how much you can spend comfortably monthly. You should also decide on what your limits are. Based on your budget range, you can decide what type of car or cars you can afford. According to experts, we should apply 20-4-10 rule, i.e. put down at least 20%, finance for no more than 4 years, and not let the total monthly vehicle expense exceed 10% of gross income.  

Decide in advance whether you want to buy or lease a car
I found out that unless you plan on driving your car for more than a decade, buying a car is not necessarily cheaper than leasing.  So you can decide whether you should buy or lease by looking at the following: would you be able to deduct the mileage or car payments from your taxes? If you drive too much, will mileage deduction be higher than the car payment deduction? Can you come up with a higher downpayment, if you buy? Are you willing to come back every two to three years and deal with the dealership and negotiations? When making my decision I found Car Buying Basics from  to be a very helpful guide. 

Decide what car you want
Since we have an entire world under our fingertips, decide which specific make and model you like. Then add specs ~ Do you want seat warmers (#1 requirement for me!)? Do you want sun roof, moon roof, key-less option, navigation, sport's package, premium package?.. Finally, decide on the color. Every car company has a build your car option on their website where you can decide on every available detail for your car. 

Do your research on how much the car worth. 
It is hard to know how much the car really worth. I mean, it has to be less than the sticker price, of course. But how much less? To get an idea, you can look at AutoTrader,, and Kelly Blue Book to compare prices. In addition to this, you can also email different dealerships the details of the car you want and ask to give you their best price. 

Be ready for the negotiations.
Okay, this is it. When you walk into the dealership, be relaxed and confident. Always remember that the car dealers are very good at what they do, and they will do their best to play with your emotions. 

Tiphave someone available on-call to advise you and be the voice of reason, and never make a deal without calling that person first. No exception!!! 

The reason I walked out of dealership was my on-call man, my Honey. I personally thought that even though I wasn't getting the exact matching deal, the numbers were close, but when I called my Honey, he said no deal! I listened and walked out. I was upset that I didn't drive out the dealership in a brand spanking new car that I wasn't planing on buying just a few hours ago, but I know that he was right. Once out of the dealership bubble and with a cooler head, I could later see that the "close" deal was not close enough - both the downpayment and monthly payment were a little higher than the original deal and, while I could probably afford it, it was beyond the budget, beyond what I should pay for the car. My original lease is not even up yet, and I need to give myself a chance to shop around for a better deal. 

I guess in a way, yesterday was not such a waste of a day - lesson learned. And once it's time for me to shop for a new car, I'll be ready. 

I hope this helps. And please, as soon as you sign the contract and get the key to your new car, stop thinking about whether you overpaid for it or not. It's done. So drive safely and enjoy.

Have you ever shopped for a car by yourself? Please share your experiences and tips!

xo, Zuma A.

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