Would you drive 500 miles if someone paid you $2,000?
Most of us would say yes to that without any hesitation, yet when we search for a new or used car, we typically keep our searches narrowed to cars available within 25 miles or so. Expanding your search to other cities could save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
Car prices can fluctuate depending on the market. A 4WD Ford Excursion, for example, may cost less in Phoenix than it does in Minnesota. Here’s how expanding your search can help you find the best deal.
At the very least, shopping outside your market can give you a little more leverage in negotiations. If you find the exact make and model in a town 200 miles away for less money, you can take that to your local dealer and let them know you’ll buy today if they can meet or beat the price.
The example with the Excursion above is based on personal research. In my city, there are a couple of 2005 4WD diesel models available for about $18,000. Looking nationwide, I’ve found the same vehicle in the same color with similar mileage priced between $12,000 and $14,000. More research would be needed to make sure there aren’t any title problems, but based on the listings alone we’re talking a good $5,000 savings by traveling.
Of course, if the car is more than a few hundred miles away you might need to consider flying to the dealer, which can eat into the savings pretty fast. Either that or grab your sweetie for a road trip then drive two cars home.
If you’d rather drive one car home, you can always trade your old one, but tread carefully when trading with a distant dealer. The dealer isn’t likely to give you a specific price until the vehicle is inspected in person, and the offer might not be as high as you hoped. Be prepared with written offers on your car from dealers in your home town and try to negotiate up. However, also be prepared to take your car back home and sell it privately once you get there.
The worst thing that can happen after traveling to buy a car is finding out the price isn’t what you expected or the car is no longer available. To protect yourself, let the dealer know you’re traveling to make the purchase and get all pricing information in writing. Also ask if you can put a refundable deposit on your credit card to hold the car until you arrive. Take a test drive (follow these tips) and have financing in place or the ability to pay cash so you can close the deal quickly and get back on the road.
The next time you buy a car, try expanding your search and looking for great deals in other cities. Calculate the potential savings against travel costs (including gas, food, tolls, and hotels), then start contacting dealers and asking questions.
Have you ever traveled to buy a new or used car? How far?