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Get the best price on your next car

(MS) — With the days of affordable fuel a thing of the past, more and more people are looking to downgrade the size of their current vehicles. While the turn of the century saw a boom in SUV sales, the current economic and even social climate is changing the way we look at automobiles. Nowadays, gas mileage and the environment are playing a significant role in just what we’re looking for when we buy a car.

While you might have a good idea of your vehicle preferences (good gas mileage, environmentally friendly, etc.) as you head to the dealership, you might be less confident in how to negotiate once the time to buy arrives. The following negotiating tips should help regardless of the type of car you want to buy.

* Be open to negotiation. Many people see auto dealerships in a negative light, and that can draw out the negotiation process. In truth, you’re there to buy a car, and the salesperson is there to sell you a car. Rare is the instance where you arrive at a dealership, tell the salesperson how much you want to spend and leave spending exactly that. The process is a negotiation, and buyers should be open to that. Of course, if the dealership won’t budge, you don’t have to buy a car from them. But you should be willing to bend somewhat. Of course, when making an initial offer, it’s best to offer less than you can afford, and that’s your built-in leeway.

* Separate trade-in and new car price negotiations. Your trade-in should have zero impact on the price of the new car. How much your trade-in is worth (or how much the dealership is willing to give) is irrelevant to the price of the new car. Once a price for the new car has been established and agreed upon, then you can begin negotiating for your trade-in.

* Ask to see the invoice on any new car. Each car has its own invoice, and the dealerships have invoices on every new car they own. Cars such as Honda Civics or Chevrolet Cobalts are probably going to be sold by the dealership at the invoice price because dealerships often have more of those cars on the lot and they’re typically exactly the same except for their color. However, invoice price can vary greatly for higher-end models such as BMWs and Lexuses. Ask to see the individual invoice for each car you’re considering. Upon seeing the invoice, you can then negotiate a fair price.

* Don’t mislead dealers about what other dealers are offering for your trade-in. Lying to the dealer by saying another dealership is offering more for your trade-in or the cost of a new vehicle will only drag out the negotiation process. Dealerships don’t fluctuate much on their trade-in offers, so if your 5-year-old car has 80,000 miles on it, you’re likely to get a similar dollar offer from one dealer as you are from another. Along those same lines, dealerships don’t make huge profits off of new cars, so how low they’re willing to go on the selling price doesn’t fluctuate much from dealership to dealership either. By misleading the salesperson on other offers, you’re only drawing out the process, and you’re probably not earning yourself any favors either. If you want honesty from them, you must be honest as well.

Last modified Oct. 8, 2008

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