New Car Buying Guide | Closing the Deal

Negotiating by phone

Telephone can be an effective aid in speeding up the negotiating process. This works best for buyers who are either paying cash or have financing approved through another source.

The key is to determine the vehicle and exact configuration you want, scout out which dealerships have it in stock, and do a thorough walk-around and test drive of any vehicles youíre considering buying before you initiate telephone negotiations.

When you call the dealerships, set the same ground rules you would if you were there in person. Tell the salesperson that you know what the dealership paid for the vehicle, have a reasonable target price in mind (use your 1- to 5-percent-over-dealer-cost figure), want that price or the lowest markup over that price, intend to buy as soon as possible, are prepared to give him or her your credit-card number for a deposit if you get the price you want, and if not, intend to call other dealerships.

Resist pitches for you to come into the showroom to get the best price, and point out that you donít want to spend a lot of time on the phone. To get the price as low as possible, our buyers often need to set up a bidding war by calling several dealerships and then playing one off the others. One reason this method works is that the salesperson and dealership staff have so little time invested in this phone transaction that even if the dealership makes only a marginal profit, it still may be worth it.

Before you hand over your credit-card number, however, itís important to have the dealership fax the final contract to you so you can review it and make sure everything is correct, including the model, trim, and any options.

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