Adventures in Disposable Income, new car edition:
"Desperation: it's the world's worst cologne." -Singles
After two years of being three months away from buying a new car, I finally bought one today. I found the process markedly less stressful than most people say it is, and I ended up with what I think was a pretty good deal. My secrets, such as they are:
* Buy at the end of the month. Close to the end of the model year helps, too.
* Edmunds.com to check prices, including the average price people in the area are paying for new cars in your model.
* Solicit quotes over the internet: out of four Honda dealerships, two quoted me the same price ($2000 below MSRP, $30 over invoice), and the third promised to beat any price by $100. At this point, the essential work was already done: the dealerships had placed themselves at the bottom end of the price spectrum, so while I might be able to eke out another few hundred, I wouldn't need to in order to get a good deal.
* Leverage the fact that you're test-driving at multiple dealerships to be non-committal and see if the price comes down at all. It helps if you can claim someone who needs to approve the purchase (like a fiancee) but is not in the room. (NB: My fiancee recognizes that I'm an adult who can make his own responsible financial decisions, but they don't know that. Also, apparently, most male car salesmen are raging misogynists: you know how women are...)
* Recognize that most dealers try to add on different stuff and charge outrageous amounts for it. All of these prices are negotiable, and all you really have to do is balk at paying for them (I had prices halved or more on protection packages, mud guards, and even the long-term warranty).
As it happened, the first place I went wanted to sell me exact car I wanted, with no add-ons, at a interest rate so low it'd be difficult to match. This is even better, since you are then negotiating with other dealers knowing that if they can't give you what you want, you don't have to take it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the place with the exact car I wanted also took the lowest-pressure sales approach. Give that kind of place your business.
Things to absolutely not do:
* Call in response to my request for a quote when I specifically request to be contacted by email.
* Call multiple times even though I do not answer my phone when you call, but do respond to your email.
* Email, say, four times in the space of 20 minutes before I get a chance to reply.
* Leave me waiting at the dealership, especially if you don't say why. Here I am happy to name Crossroads Ford as an unconscionable offender: the salesperson, who barely inquired as to the car I wanted (which they didn't have), attempted to upsell me to a higher-priced model (which I didn't want), and did not even offer to let me have a test drive of the model they had in stock (which is not the one they wanted me to buy), walked off with my academic ID for a period of 15 minutes, God only knows why. If he hadn't had my ID, I would have left.
* Make jokes about your girlfriend after assuring me the was "no big difference" between a girlfriend and a fiancee when he couldn't remember which my significant other was.
* Email and call after I have told you I am going with a different dealer to petulantly wonder why I did not agree to the car I conspicuously and repeatedly refused to commit to even test-driving, since it was (as mentioned) not the car I wanted.
* (different dealer) Insist your color options are limited to two undesirable colors, then magically discover you have a car in the original color I asked for only after I have told you I'm going elsewhere with my business. And then calling three times. And sending two additional emails. If you wanted to make that deal, you should've mentioned it before. Desperation: it's the world's worst cologne.