4 Key Shopping Skills Every Woman Needs When Buying New Car
While many women love to shop, most dread the actual process of selecting, shopping and buying a car. After all, while shopping can be fun, spending hours negotiating the price, then spending more time in financing and finalizing the new car purchase is about as enjoyable as having a tooth pulled.
Preparing for the negotiating process can help ease the process, saving the savvy woman both her time and money. Here are my four key shopping skills for placing the keys to a new car in your hands.
Did you know that Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is just a starting point? While invoice price -- the price the dealer pays the manufacturer for the car -- used to be a closely guarded secret, a variety of car shopping websites now publish this information online. Shopping sites like TrueCar.com and Edmunds.com do even more than just publish invoice prices, they show actual transaction data that will tell you exactly how much specific cars are selling for, locally and nationally.
Knowing what the dealer paid and the market average for a specific model is the first step to negotiating a great price. With market average in mind, it's better to negotiate up from the invoice price, not down from MSRP.
The pricing flexes on vehicles based on inventory and popularity. A brand-new or extremely popular vehicle experiencing especially low inventory will have a less flexible price, where another model that's high in inventory or that's been lingering on the lot for a long time will have a more flexible price.
You will not see giant discounts on a brand-new limited-edition super sporty model that many of buyers are drooling over; the salesperson doesn't have to discount such vehicles when there's another buyer who wants it and is willing to pay more. On the other hand, if you're willing to buy a car that's about to get a redesign, or even a model that's been discontinued, you may negotiate bigger savings.
I don't recommend that you negotiate your purchase price based solely on monthly payments; instead know the overall cost of the vehicle, including financing charges, that you're willing to pay. If you focus on getting the smallest monthly payment possible, then the salesperson can simply extend the loan for more months, adding finance charges to the term and increasing the total price you pay over the long run.
Most online shopping sites also have loan configurators that can show you how the market average price will break down into monthly payments, so you can also research what it should cost to finance it.
A smart woman negotiator knows how to pick the right time of day, week, month, and even year to sway the car-buying process in her favor.
If you want the best customer experience, visit the dealership in the morning while the rest of the world is working; sales people on an empty lot can spend more time with you because they're not as busy. Weekends are traditionally busiest.
Many people believe visiting a dealership late in the day -- when a salesperson might be willing to close a deal quicker and go home -- is a good time to buy. Others will tell you shopping near the end of the month will get you better prices because sales people are itching to make certain monthly sales quotas.
I do think that August and September still tend to be the best time for bargain hunters. Most carmakers are rolling out next year's models while plenty of current-year models are still on dealers' lots. A surplus of inventory will make dealers more likely to discount their older models simply because they need the space.
While new cars typically come with heavier discounts as the year draws to a close, selection can become an issue: Even though sales are brisk during the holidays, getting a year-end bargain may also mean choosing an unpopular color or having little choice of trim.
Know your credit score and visit the dealership with your own financing already pre-approved -- this will give you an edge. If you've got a substantial down payment and a clean credit history, then the dealer will want to beat your other financing options to keep your loan in-house. After all, the dealership makes money on the loan, as well as on the sale of the car.
If you have a trade-in, then research its value ahead of time using online services like KBB.com or Clearbook.com, or by visiting CarMax for an estimate. Knowing what your trade-in is worth will streamline your negotiation process. And keep the two transactions separate: What you pay for the new car is separate from what they should pay you for your trade-in.
The process tips in the dealer's favor if the salesperson knows you're in love with a specific model on the dealer lot. The sales rep will be more likely to negotiate with you knowing you're cross-shopping several models at other dealerships. Don't be bossy and demanding, as salespeople are likely to counter with similar aggressive behavior; if you're nice and respectful, then they should treat you the same.
Be patient: It's okay if you leave the dealership without a car. Unless you're shopping for an unusual model in a rare color or with unique features, there will plenty of cars on another lot on another day. If you leave, the dealership will follow up with you later; with every day that goes by, the dealer may grow anxious wondering whether you changed your mind or found a better deal. Use time to your benefit to get dealers to provide even more price concessions.
Following these tips will help you make a smart decision and eliminate much of the stress that comes with negotiating for a new car. Do your homework ahead of time, and you'll pass the test with flying colors at any dealership!
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