ISO Advice on Car Buying...

OK, so if the bonus comes through this week, I will be in the market for a new car. I’ve been very good, and driven my Hyundai into the ground (now 8 years old) and am moving on up in the world…

So I am buying a Dodge Challenger, probably the RT/J.

What I am looking for is tips not so much about the car, but about the buying process. Is it better to take one off the lot, or build on line and have them order it for me. I’m thinking with a sizeable chunk of cash as a downpayment (circa half the cost of the car) I should be in a pretty good negotiating position given the economy.

So, especially if you work at a car dealership… Give me your best tips for walking away with the deal I so richly deserve on my mid-life crisis muscle car…

Great article here, it is kind of long but well worth reading.

The best way to do it is to get on Edmunds, figure out exactly what you want vis-a-vis options and color, see what other people are paying, and then call the fleet sales department at your local dealer.

You’ll be done in twenty minutes, and you’ll get the car for less than the Edmunds price.

Use the Costco Auto buying program.


You get a far better deal on a car that is on the lot (in todays economy). I also suggest Edmunds, but when you get to the end of “pricing out” your dream car, use their tool to send an email to 2-3 dealers, asking for a quote. You’ll get a fairly good one that way, as long as you are flexible on options.

Deal with the people via email, that way all the dumb games don’t happen.

Well I am trying the Costco thing to see how that works. The problem I always face is that the model I want never seems to be on a lot anywhere…

Costco should be able to find the car somewhere. They don’t just look at local dealers.

Here’s what I did, recently.
“Build” the car using the manufacturer’s website, make note of exactly what options you want.
Price the exact same car using This will give you sticker, invoice, and typical selling prices.
Using Edmunds, request a quote from as many dealers as you can stand, by entering different ZIP codes. Make it absolutely clear in the “additional comment” section that you only want to be contacted via email. It doesn’t matter if the dealership is on the other side of the country, if they give you a really good price, you could always ship the car and the main idea is to get a starting point.
You will receive a bunch of mostly useless emails from dealers that give vague prices and ask you to call them. Do Not Call.
You will also receive some phone calls from salesmen who ignore your request to not call. Do Not Answer and Do Not Return Their Calls.
Email a form letter to each salesman something to the effect of “Please give me a price, including all fees, for car XYZ with options A,B,C,D&E and financing X.” Do not allow yourself to be baited onto the phone, this only wastes your time and the salesman’s.
After you have heard back from most of them, send a new form letter to the effect of “I have a quote of $XXX, all fees included, for car XYZ with options A,B,C,D&E and financing X. Can you beat it?”
Keep repeating this step until they stop lowering their price, then buy the car from the cheapest one.

How do they provide you financing options via email? Do you send them your credit info?

They just sent the best case APR, with the warning that it was for qualified buyers only. For the car I bought, the best the manufacturer had was 2.9% for 36 months. After I got the whole deal in writing with final pricing, I called the dealer with my financials and they ran my credit.

I should hasten to add that while this method wastes far less of the salesmen’s time than shopping over the phone or in person, it should really only be done when you are sure you are ready to buy, as the OP appears to be.

Mostly good advice except you can’t really go across state lines in many cases, due to smog laws, sales taxes, registration, etc.

And, have some options which are optional, and other which are firm, like : Mooroof and A/C are must- haves. I have several options on color, ie… I’d prefer a car with"the little doggie in the back window whose head goes up and down", but it’s not a deal breaker.

Oh, I didn’t see that you were in CA. Yes, the emission laws would be a problem, although some models from some manufacturers are now 50-state legal. As for taxes, the situation varies wildly. In my case, where the dealership was 2 states away, I paid my home state’s tax rate, but it was collected at the dealership and sent to Oklahoma in some not very clear way. For an Oklahoma resident buying in Texas, no taxes are paid on the spot. Rather, it is the buyer’s responsibilty to pay them when he regiisters the car at home. I’m sure there are some combinations of states where you’d wind up paying taxes on both ends, which would likely ruin the whole deal.

Yes, this method only works well if you have a very narrowly defined idea of what you want to buy. Add in a few maybes and the permutations get out of control.

I’m moving this thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

General Questions Moderator

I did more or less what Furious_Marmot did, and it worked well for me. I doubt you’ll need to go out of state; if you’re in or near a metropolitan area, there should be several Dodge dealerships within reasonable driving distance. There’s a law of diminishing returns here: you want to deal with 4 or 5 dealerships so you can compare prices, but getting bids from 20 or 30 is probably not going to help.

Make it clear that you are not interested in a test drive or anything else on-premises. If you decide to buy from them, you’ll come in to sign the paperwork and pick up the car. Unless and until that happens, they’re not going to see you. I didn’t have a problem enforcing this; many dealerships have internet sales staff now, and seem to be accustomed to doing business this way.

Some of the dealers I contacted did call me, but I just explained that I was not going to respond to verbal offers – if they wanted me to consider their number, they had to email it to me. Also, for every offer you get, confirm that the price in question includes EVERYTHING other than tax, title & license (“TTL”) which should be roughly the same regardless of dealership. In other words, make them confirm that there are no other charges, surcharges, fees, etc.

In addition to saving time and aggravation, communicating through email ensures that you have a record of every offer they’ve made. So if you show up to consummate the purchase and they try to tack on some extra charges, they can’t just say, “oh golly, you must have misunderstood me.” You can say, “no I didn’t, I have a copy of your email right here, where you confirm that X plus TTL was the total price, with no other charges.”

Good point, but note they will still try to sell you overcoating, undercoating, special warranties, etc. Say NO!

I just bought a car last week. Credit is still TIGHT I had to fight just to get a lousy deal. If I wasn’t buying at gunpoint, I would have walked away. That lousy loan is getting refinanced when this credit mess has died down.