If you opt to shop for a car on your own, remember this: you are the consumer and have a right to walk away from a deal at any time. You should do your research and have several options in mind to avoid being pigeonholed into making a costly decision. Do some research on the internet and go to several dealerships. Get the following information about the vehicle you are interested in: base price, options prices, accessories prices, add-on charges and fees. If you feel that any of the items are inappropriate, such as dealer prep fees, ask the dealer to remove them.
Start your negotiations from the dealer invoice price, not the sticker price. Ask for the minimum profit the dealership will accept to see if it meets your set goal. Insist on dealing with one person during the this process to avoid turnover ("T O"), a common sales tactic whereby you are continually referred to a higher-level salesperson. This process is taxing and can compromise your tenacity.
Timing is key in your ability to negotiate with a salesperson. Most dealerships chart sales performances weekly and are more willing to negotiate on a Saturday than on a Monday. Another good time to buy is month's end since there are monthly quotas to be met. As the year closes, dealerships push sales to boost annual profits and avoid inventory taxes; thus you have the most leverage in the late fall and early winter. Also shop when sales are low and the lot is full.
Becoming skilled at the art of negotiation and being confident about your asking price are critical to a successful deal. Once you have these down, the hard part of getting a new car will be choosing its color.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Roland Frommknecht