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First Time at a Dealership? Here’s the Game Plan

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Going in a dealership for the first time? You need some guidance before you do so. The game inside is sometimes fun and challenging. But it’s a totally different story when you’re the loser. You don’t have to lose the dealership game if you can know beforehand what to do. Here’s the game plan.

1) Know the price you’ll pay.

It’s best to have an idea of how much you would pay for the car you’re looking to buy. You can do that by getting several price quotes from different dealerships and comparing them with each other. When you compare prices, be sure to pay attention to the MSRP or manufacturer’s suggested retail price, dealer invoice, add-ons, and other fees. If you’re buying used, find out its current market value through KBB.com to find out whether the vehicle is overpriced.

We recommend understanding what the numbers in the price quotes and window stickers mean. They say a lot about how the dealership came up with the price and how they’d make money out of the sale. Knowing how dealerships come up with their prices for a certain model and why it differs from the manufacturer’s and the others’ gives you more negotiating power.

2) Never tell the sales rep how much you can pay every month.

Giving the dealership an idea of how much monthly payment you’re comfortable with allows them to subtly mark up some parts of the deal—perhaps the car price or the financing rate.

Instead of negotiating for a lower monthly payment, focus on negotiating the car price down. Dealers still make good profit even if they’d give you the invoice pricing or something below that. So, try to get the lowest possible price for the vehicle rather than discussing the monthly payment with them, which what they exactly want to happen to gain the upper hand in the negotiation.

3) Find out the customer incentives available

Manufacturers offer incentives to their customers to stimulate movement in their slow-selling vehicles. These incentives are usually in the forms of cash back and low-interest financing and come as options. So, before you even step into a dealership, know which incentive is the best to take.

If you want cash back or the rebate, ask the sales rep to put it towards your down payment rather than receive it in check. As for low-interest financing, not everyone can get qualified for this incentive. Only car buyers with excellent credit have the chance to take advantage of such a nice offer. If your credit is less than perfect, you would most likely have to take the rebate.

In addition, customer incentives vary by region. The incentives available here in Miami may not be available outside Miami or Florida. So when you search for customer incentives, make sure you’re searching for the ones available in Miami.

4) Know your financing options.

Did you know that you have more than a couple of auto financing options to choose from? You can buy the car with cold cash, by leasing it, or by taking out an auto loan. But unless you’ve predetermined the day you’ll buy your first car and were able to save up way ahead so that you can purchase it with cash, you’d opt for either a lease or a loan. These options may cost more than paying with cash but that’s okay as long as you choose the right option.

5) Arrange financing first before going to a dealership.

We highly recommend going to lenders first and getting approved for financing before heading to dealerships. This way, you won’t have to discuss financing with the sales rep and be able to focus on negotiating the car price. You can also avoid being charged an exorbitant auto loan rate that you might not really deserve. Remember, auto loans are more competitive in banks and credit unions. Check out their offers first before considering dealership financing.

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