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How to Negotiate the Best Deal on a Vehicle

Making big purchases takes some planning. Today’s pricing and inventory issues aren’t working in the customer’s favor. That means you need to invest extra time and consideration into making significant purchases like a new car. 

Experts say the months of November and December may be the best time to buy a car for several reasons. First, this upcoming Black Friday isn’t just for technology and clothing. Many dealerships also participate in the sales craze, offering special incentives.

Also, toward the end of the month, sales associates are crunching numbers and trying to meet sales quotas – something that compounds at the end of the year. 

Here’s how to negotiate your new car purchase and what to pay attention to when purchasing a new or used car this holiday season.

The Best Time to Buy a Car

For most of us, the New Year starts in January. For the auto industry, it begins in October. That’s typically when several all-new and redesigned models arrive at dealerships. So, that means salespeople are trying to get the older models off the lots — which leads to more incentives and discounts.

Those discounts typically continue into November. On top of that, Black Friday is right around the corner. You’ll see deals ramping up throughout the month leading up to Black Friday. Those deals include low or no-cost financing incentives and generous cash-back car deals.

In December, salespeople sprint toward the finish line of their month, quarter, and year-end sales goals. Since dealerships are trying to get rid of those previous model-year cars, look for a 2022 model, which can save you a few thousand dollars. It’s a newer vehicle with up-to-date technology, but it’ll be less costly.

December is also the time companies are looking for year-end tax write-offs. Many automakers will offer attractive lease deals to capture corporate business. However, those same deals are often also available to individual car shoppers.

What Deals to Look For

Since the end of the month and the end of the year are two great times to purchase a vehicle, Black Friday is the perfect time to capitalize on both. Salespeople are eyeing those critical end-of-year goals and are eager to sell.

The most common deals you’ll see with vehicles are appealing lease deals and financing rates as low as 0%. You may also get a more desirable interest rate and some cash back. Keep in mind that you will likely need a good credit score to qualify for the best offers.

If you don’t qualify for zero percent financing, turn to your local credit union. They usually offer consistently lower annual percentage rates than other financial institutions and may offer holiday specials or finance incentives such as deferred payments.  

What to do Before Going to the Dealership

Start by following the RAIN method — Research, Ask, Investigate or Inspect, and Negotiate.

Research

  • We highly recommend considering a pre-approved auto loan, which will help tremendously in the research phase of purchasing a vehicle. If you know what you qualify for before you hit the dealerships, you’ll be able to narrow down your search and harness your negotiating power. Even though prices are discounted, buying a car is still a big purchase and requires planning.
  • It’s also essential to check out Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book, and other similar sources to ensure the vehicle you want is reliable and suitable for you. Don’t feel pressured to buy the car because it’s on sale.
  • Use the buyer’s guides to find the wholesale price –the price the dealership paid minus any rebates, hold-backs, or incentives. That’s how you’ll learn just how good of a deal that Black Friday sale is.

Ask

  • Ask the dealership for information about the average cost of upkeep. This information is critical as you examine the overall costs of the purchase.
  • Insurance is another high cost. Contact your insurance company to determine your expected rates with that vehicle.

Investigate or Inspect

  • Tell the dealership salesperson that you plan to test-drive the vehicle on this trip. This is your opportunity to get a feel for the car. Will it meet your needs? How does it handle? Will you be happy with it for years to come?
  • If you're buying a used vehicle, the inspection process is critical. Check out the exterior and interior. Take a test drive to see how it handles, accelerates, and brakes. If you have the option, take it to a certified mechanic for a complete diagnostic check.

Negotiate

  • Pick out two to three dealerships to visit. Tell the salesperson that you're checking out other dealerships, and the one that offers you the best deal will get your business.
  • Ask them, "What's the lowest price you can offer on this vehicle?” Take that number and visit your other dealerships to see which offer is the best.

Most importantly, do not feel pressured to buy a car just because it’s on sale. We often buy things we aren’t sure about because they’re discounted, and later we find out we don’t love them. You don’t want to make that mistake with a vehicle.

Want more auto-buying tips? Read How to Avoid Car-buying Mistakes and gain more control over your next auto-buying experience.