The cost of a new car nowadays equals about what my parents paid for their first home. It's not a purchase to be taken lightly. You want to do everything possible to ensure you get a great deal.
Never rush your decision. If you are completely without transportation, rent a vehicle until you find the right car. When you rush a purchase, you usually end up on the losing end of the deal.
Thanks to the Internet, you can uncover the typical retail cost of a specific make and model. With a little digging, you can find out the wholesale cost as well. This information makes you a powerful negotiator.
You want a win-win situation with the car dealership. They need to make some profit, and you need to feel you paid a fair price. It's fair to negotiate to a price that's $500 above dealer cost or about 20% off the sticker price. So take along your calculator when you shop.
If the only cars on the lot have expensive options you don't care for, you might want to order a car to your specifications. You might wait a bit, but will save money on options you don't need.
Check with the dealership to see if you can return the car if you don't like it. I did this once. The car I purchased ended up less comfortable than my old car, so the next morning I took it back for my check and my trade-in. Many dealerships now offer this option.
You may have heard the advice to shop the last day of the month for better deals. It's true that you might get a better deal from a salesman then.
As far as trade-ins go, do your research here, too. Knowing the value of your old car makes it easier to negotiate a better price for it. Try not to talk about a trade-in possibility until you get a purchase price.
I researched the value of my little red Corolla and found that it was $3500. One dealership offered me $1200 because "they'd have to repaint it". Another dealership offered me $3500 and complimented me on taking such good care of the engine. Stick to your guns when it comes to getting the value of your trade-in, especially if youíve had your car serviced regularly.
You may want to advertise your older car and sell it privately. Typically you can get a better price this way, but it may take a little time.
A service contract will likely be brought into the negotiation. The consumer information I've read discourages buying an extra contract on a new car, as it's not likely a problem will occur during the first months of use.
Whatever you do, always read the fine print of any contract before signing it. Ask a bazillion questions about what certain phrases mean if you donít understand something.
Simply because the car just rolled off the factory line doesnít mean you should buy it without asking questions. Keep on your toes during the negotiation process. Thereís nothing like the thrill of getting a new car AND creating a win-win situation for you and the dealer.