Marcus Lawrence | 

16 Car Buying Tips & Tricks to Outsmart the Dealerships

The Krazy Coupon Lady is an independent service supported by advertising. Most of the offers appearing on our site are from companies from which we receive compensation. We may receive a small payment from an affiliate if you click a link to purchase a product. Sometimes a post is sponsored by the maker of the product, and we receive a fee for the post. Learn More.

We talk about saving money on all kinds of things, but one of the biggest purchases you’re probably gonna make is a car.

Until they make legit manufacturer coupons for automobiles, you’ll wanna use these car buying tips and tricks before getting that sweet ride!


1. Buy at the end — end of the day, end of the week, end of the month, end of the year.

Salespeople have certain goals they’re trying to hit (or exceed), and those are typically measured in weeks, months and years.

Your best bet is to catch a dealer at the end of the month, near the end of the day — you should have a much better negotiating position than at the beginning of a new sales period.


2. Price check outside of your town — dealerships in different places price their vehicles differently.

In Boise, a 2016 Honda CRV Touring SUV costs $30,258, while the same vehicle in Phoenix costs $27,152.

Spending a few hundred bucks in travel to save thousands on a car seems like a pretty smart idea. Plus: road trip!


3. Don’t get financing from the car dealership.

One of the ways the dealers make money is by providing financing. They’re known to find the best rate they can get you and mark it up to 4% more — that’s called a “dealer reserve.” They pocket the additional markup and share a little bit with the financiers.

For a $20,000 loan paid over 60 months, even a 2.5% interest rate markup would cost $1,420 over the life of the loan — that’s like double what the average dealer makes on the price of a new car.

Instead, get pre-financed by your bank/credit union and have your pre-approval letter in hand.

TIP: Near the end of the month, dealers offer special financing. It’s only worth it if you can get 0% financing!


4. Just say “no” to all those add-ons.

You may have outsmarted the sales staff in the negotiating part of the deal, but if you give in now, they’ll recover some ground they lost with these overpriced, unnecessary add-ons like rustproofing and mostly worthless extended warranties.

For example, a fabric protectant package will “only” add $12 to each payment — but over 72 months, that’s $864! Rip-off!



5. Get ’em to throw in extras, like free lifetime oil changes, floormats and accessories.

Don’t let the dealers make these add-ons; get ’em free as part of the deal you negotiate!


6. Oh, you have a trade-in? Don’t. Say. A. Word.

Let’s say the dealer’s rock-bottom price for a car is $15,000. You have a trade-in valued at $5,000. If they know this in advance, they’ll say they can sell it for $20,000 and take your trade-in’s $5,000 to get to that $15,000 price.

Instead, get to that rock-bottom price of $15,000 and THEN drop the bomb that you’ve got a trade-in and negotiate that separately. You just saved some serious cash.


7. New cars are (mostly) a bad investment.

You’ve probably heard lots of warnings about how you lose thousands of dollars the moment you drive a new car off the lot — and that’s pretty much true.

But the supply of used cars has decreased dramatically after the “Cash for Clunkers” program took lots of them out of commission — and raised prices for used cars.

Compare mileage, safety ratings, fuel efficiency and other important factors — with both new and used cars — to find your best deal.


8. Do your research, know your car’s Average Transaction Price (ATP), and avoid an impulse purchase.

Look, I know it’s a cute minivan with all the cupholders, but unless you did your research, you wouldn’t know that it performs awfully in crash tests and tends to have transmission problems. Become an expert on the car you want — before you walk into the dealership.

Plus, to know where to begin with your negotiations, you’ve got to find out the going rate for the car you want. That’s called the ATP. Sites like Kelley Blue Book, TrueCar and Edmunds have tools that’ll help you determine the ATP for your car, in your area.

Some time on the internet could save you many thousands of dollars.



9. Don’t buy based on the monthly payment — pay attention to purchase price most of all.

“Wait, I only have to pay $199 a month for this Honda Pilot? Sign me up!” Don’t be that person.

Let’s take this out of car world for sec:

If you bought a new Instant Pot for $500 but only had to pay $2 a month for it — it’s still a $500 Instant Pot! A bad deal is a bad deal, no matter how many pieces you chop it up into.


10. Ask about the hidden costs with any deal.

There could be a lot of these, and rather than have them surprise you as you’re signing the papers, ask about them up front. They’re usually called things like preparation fees, delivery fees or dealership fees.

They’re difficult to negotiate — especially if you got a really good deal on the car — but go ahead and try. I’d start by trying to cut them in half.

If they’re all too eager to accommodate, you probably overpaid for the car.


11. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Many dealers have a “no walkouts” policy — the salesperson is supposed to keep negotiations going rather than let you drive off.

I have a friend who says she makes sure she walks out of at least one dealership every time she buys a car so she knows the rock-bottom price when she goes into the next dealership.


12. Think about buying your car online — no, really.

For the most part, online sales staff are paid salaries, rather than commissions. The overhead is low compared to standard dealers, and it’s pretty easy to do price comparisons. You can even negotiate.

Places like TrueCar, Edmunds and Car Gurus have become popular because of real-world-friendly perks like a 7-day test drive and free delivery up to 100 miles.

Results may vary, but at the very least, you can use online price quotes as a starting place at the dealership.



13. Don’t make the first offer in negotiations. Don’t talk too much.

Wait for the seller to make the first offer — they may offer you a better price than your first offer was going to be.

Silence is a great tool, too. Pausing or even suspending negotiations can help sway the proceedings in your favor. Responding too quickly can make you look desperate.


14. Have a certified mechanic check the used vehicle you’re wanting to buy.

Whether you’re at a dealership or shopping online, you’ll want to get a certified mechanic to give whatever car you like a once-over to make sure there are no glaring problems.

There’s a cost associated with it — usually $100-$200 — but it could save you a heck of a lot more in the long run.


15. Don’t buy a trendy car — you’ll have no power to negotiate.

Good old supply and demand. When the supply is low and demand is high, you won’t be able to dicker on price. The dealers will take full advantage of a car’s popularity, so steer clear.


16. Get an auto insurance quote to make sure you really can afford the car you want.

By knowing the car you want in advance, you can shop around online to see how low your monthly premiums can be.

People often forget to include that in their monthly car-buying budget and then get stuck with a way-too-high bill. Gotta factor that in!


UP NEXT: How One Family Saved $9,713.76 in One Year Without Feeling the Pinch

Get our best deals on the go

By entering my phone number, I want to receive promotional messages from The Krazy Coupon Lady. Message frequency varies. Text STOP to 57299 to end or text HELP for help. Msg & data rates may apply. View Terms & Privacy.