How to Get the Best Deal on a Car

Try these ten smart strategies to get a great deal on a car.

byTrueCar| UPDATED Dec 14, 2020 5:22 PM
How to Get the Best Deal on a Car

This article is sponsored by TrueCar.

Buying a new car can be challenging. From deciding which car is best for you to knowing whether or not you’re getting a good deal, the entire process can leave even the most prepared car shopper exhausted. 

Come prepared with savvy strategies that’ll help you save money and get the best deal. The key is knowing how to begin your search for the perfect new car and save money along each step of the process.  

Try these ten smart strategies to get a great deal on a car.  

1. Go Online Before Heading to the Dealership 

You shop for everything else online; why not your new car?  

While heading straight to a dealership is still a popular way to start a car search, it’s always smarter to get a head start online. Websites like TrueCar analyze pricing, dealer, and vehicle information to help you find the right vehicle for the right price at the right dealership.

You can browse everything from engine options to trim packages to warranty offerings, and even get a personalized upfront price. You’ll have a good idea of what you want and how much it should cost before you get to the dealership. And with TrueCar Buy From Home you can get your dream car delivered directly to you. 

 If you’re a Military service member they also have a dedicated car buying program TrueCar Military with special incentives and exclusive benefits tailored to the military community.

2. Search for Current Incentives and Offers  

Next, look for discounts and deals. The incentive landscape can be challenging to navigate. Dealerships offer constantly changing specials and sales events while manufacturers offer cash back rebates, and even financing incentives. You’ll want to ask about these deals—and search for them online—to see what kinds of savings are available. 

Some local dealerships even have special financing offers and discounts through credit unions and banks. And don’t forget about consumer-focused websites like TrueCar, which show you nationwide incentives, discounts, and upfront pricing information.

3. Look for the Market Average

Understand pricing context when you do your online search. Often, you’ll see MSRPs on new cars. Thanks to Oklahoma Senator Almer Stillwell Monroney and the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, you’ll see the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). The MSRP is the price the manufacturer recommends a particular car should sell for. The MSRP doesn’t include taxes, fees, and overhead costs that go into the drive-away price at the dealership. Websites like TrueCar provide pricing transparency and show you a comprehensive price for the vehicle you want that includes manufacturer incentives, dealers’ discounts and dealer fees. 

To easily recognize whether you are getting a fair deal, look out for the Market Average. Websites like TrueCar calculate the Market Average for the vehicle you want by analyzing recent sales transactions at the local, state, regional, or national level. Based on actual recent transactions other buyers have made, the Market Average shows you the average price others paid for vehicles similar to the one you want, while taking into account that the vehicles could have different option combinations from your dream car. 

Being able to recognize the market average and see what others paid for the vehicle you want provides pricing confidence and allows you to shop smarter. 

4. Calculate Your Total Cost of Ownership Before Buying 

You’ll also want to crunch the total cost of owning your new car. You won’t simply be paying the price for the car itself; consider the full long-term financial commitment your new car will demand.  

 Make sure to calculate: 

·   Your expected monthly payment 

·   The total cost of financing, including interest over time 

·   Car insurance premiums 

·   Fuel costs 

·   Maintenance costs 

·   Registration fees 

·   Parking costs 

This will give you a good estimate of what you’ll really spend on a car once your work at the dealership is done. 

With TrueCar, you can build your complete deal online for the car you want, including valuing your trade and customizing your monthly payments based on your preferences, and receive an upfront price that includes all dealer fees and accessory charges. 

5. Factor in Resale Value  

If you want to get the best bang for your buck, it’s a good idea to think about a new car’s resale value long before you ever want to sell it. Some vehicles hold their value better than others and choosing one with a solid resale value is a smart financial choice. 

Do some research into which makes and models see the least depreciation. While every car will lose value, some highly sought-after cars and SUVs are always in demand. Luxury cars tend to depreciate the most. Use online tools to discover how much your new car could be worth in five, 10, or 15 years.  

ALG publishes a list of the vehicles with the highest residual value every year, those are the cars that are projected to best hold their value.

6. Time Your Purchase Right 

If you have your heart set on a specific car, the best time to buy is when you need the car since inventory levels can impact availability and price. 

If you aren’t tied to a specific make or model and have the luxury of time on your side, you can make your purchase during the holidays, when special offers and rebates are typically offered, or at the end of the month, quarter, or year. During these times of the year, car dealerships are often under more pressure to meet quotas which means you can score bigger deals and discounts.  

December is the best month to buy a car. Days of the week matter, too. According to TrueCar, car shopping on a Sunday is the best day of the week to buy a new car, with an average savings of 10% off MSRP.  

7. Explore Trade-In Options

Negotiating a fair price on a trade is just as important as negotiating the purchase price of the new car. To save time and energy, use helpful online tools to understand your vehicle's value ahead of time.   

You can use a vehicle trade-in service like TrueCar Trade to get upfront price offers from participating dealers. Enter your license plate number and answer a few questions to understand your car’s value in real time. You can see the estimated value go up or down, depending on your vehicle's features and condition. Participating TrueCar Certified Dealers will give you a cash offer on your vehicle, so you can either trade in for a new vehicle or get a check. 

8. Get Multiple Financing Offers  

Make sure you head to the dealership with some financing options and offers in your back pocket. It’s a good idea to consider multiple options, although sometimes the dealership really is your best choice. Dealerships actually get special financing offers from different lenders daily. They also have some flexibility in who gets approved and the interest rates they can offer.  

If you show up with other financing options ready, you’ll be able to compare your options. It may even help you negotiate a lower APR or better financing terms if you show the rates you’re getting from other lenders. 

TrueCar recommends checking your credit well in advance of your new-car purchase, as credit score is one of the key factors in determining the kind of financing you’ll qualify for.  

9. Recognize When You’re Getting a Good Price

Remember that market average? Keep it in mind as you negotiate the price of your new car. You don’t want to haggle too hard; be realistic and aim for something in the middle.  

It’s also a good idea to know your haggling limit. Understand that the more in-demand the model you want is, the fewer the cars that are available in the inventory pipeline and the closer to MSRP you will pay, regardless of your haggling skills. And you can’t negotiate away taxes and registration costs. Focus on the bottom line: discounting the MSRP, reducing financing costs, and lowering your overall out-of-pocket price. 

Get price confidence and assess pricing competitiveness before you set foot in a dealership when you compare offers on websites like TrueCar. TrueCar price ratings help you know whether you’re getting a good deal based on what others paid in your area for the car you want. 

10. Shop Around for the Best Price 

Comparison shopping is critical if you’re looking to get a stellar deal. It’s important to do your research and understand what deals and incentives are available to you. With TrueCar your searches are saved, so you can easily compare favorites and get price alerts on the vehicles you’re interested in. 

Whether you visit multiple dealerships or request quotes from every local dealership online, make sure to get multiple quotes for the model and options you want.  

Connecting with different dealerships is the best way to make sure you’re getting the best price possible and with TrueCar you can get competitive offers from TrueCar Certified Dealers for the vehicle you want.

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