Are you thinking of buying a car, but want to make sure you get the best price? Here are a few tips to help you find the right car at the best price.
Buy “off-season.” Peak demand for cars is in the spring and fall, but if you want to find a bargain, shop for a car in December and January when the prices are lowered. That’s when dealerships are eager to move the inventory off their lots to make room for newer models.
Know the real price of the car. Use websites like Edmunds.com, Kbb.com (Kelley Blue Book), and carsdirect.com to find the actual value of particular make and model. If you’re looking at new cars, find the invoice price (what the dealer paid for the car) and the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. If you’re looking at used cars, find the wholesale price and the dealer’s asking price. Also look for current rebates. Knowing this information will help you during your negotiations with dealers.
Comparison shop. Use online resources like TrueCar.com and Cars.com to compare the prices at dealerships in your area. This will save you time and gas money.
Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) states have the best prices for hybrids. If you live in a state with strict emissions regulations, like California, you can probably get a good deal on hybrids and battery-electric cars. Manufacturers must sell a certain number of zero-emission cars per year in order to continuing selling in those states, so invoice prices will be lower there.
Look for discounts. Check the automakers websites under their “current offers” webpages. Many offer discounts to students, military service members, and members of credit unions. Deduct these discounts after you negotiate the price with the dealer.
Cash Rebate vs. 0% Financing. Some dealerships lure customers by offering a cash rebate or zero percent financing. Typically, only 10% of car buyers qualify for these incentives, and you may find you don’t qualify. Even if you do qualify for their incentives, you’ll likely save more money per month by taking the cash rebate and getting your loan through your credit union. To see for yourself what’s best for your situation, use this calculator from Bankrate to compare the two options.
Don’t settle for dealer financing. Since dealers get a commission or flat fee for every loan they coordinate, he or she will probably try to get you to finance through the dealership. There are better options. You’ll get a much better loan rate at a credit union — typically 1-2 percentage points lower than the average.
Get your loan first. Before you head to the lots, do a little research, then talk to one of our loan officers about getting pre-approved for a loan. This can be a great way to discuss overall vehicle prices and monthly budgets. It can also give you a heads-up on negotiating car prices at the dealership.