Car dealers don’t want to rip you off.
All dealerships are in business to make money, provide jobs that pay a decent wage, and build long-term relationships with customers. To succeed they know they have to treat their customers well from the first moment of contact.
There’s a common belief that dealers just want to take as much money as they can from a buyer, which has created a lot of fear in people when it’s time to visit a dealership.
Those fears are amplified when articles are posted that proclaim to show the buyer how to avoid getting ripped off. It’s true, dealers will try to sell you products or services that you don’t need or are not a good value, but all you have to do is prepare a little to make sure you know what to decline.
The value of a car is different for each buyer. Some people might be comfortable paying MSRP to avoid the hassle of negotiations, while other folks might prefer hours of tough negotiating to score the best price possible. Neither buyer can claim to have been “ripped off,” because each paid a price that was perceived as fair.
There are two reasons to visit a car dealer: to shop and to buy. I would recommend making those two different trips, and letting the salesperson know your intentions when you’re on the lot strictly to shop.
After you’ve taken all the test drives you want and have conducted enough online research to know what car you want, don’t go buy it. Yet.
Your first stop should be your bank or credit union if you’re going to finance the car. By setting up the financing before you purchase at a dealer, you’ll remove that variable from the negotiations and be able to focus strictly on price. Dealers can provide you with financing, but you’ll often get lower rates by securing your loan where you bank.
Use sites like CarGurus to get a good idea of what a fair price is for the car you want. Know how much you’re willing to spend, know what trim level you want, then either contact a dealer online or go in and know you’re ready to negotiate.
Once you settle on a price, you’ll be presented with other options and add-ons, including service contracts, insurance options, VIN etching, and more. Generally these items are unnecessary or can be obtained elsewhere for less money. I would advise that you respectfully decline, unless the peace of mind of buying through the dealer is worth the price to you.
I’ve had both good and bad experiences at car dealers, but I know a little more preparation on my part would have made the bad ones a little better.
Have you had a great experience at a car dealer?