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7 car-buying tips that’ll get you the best deal

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

December is a great time to buy a new car as dealers have been dropping prices since September to make room for next year’s models. But to get the best deal at the dealership, you have to play the game. To help you save the most money, check out some of my secrets to saving when buying a new car.

#1 Do your homework
First, before ever coming near a dealership, spend at least an hour online doing some homework. Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue book are great resources to find out the fair market range of the make and model you want. If you don’t do this, you’ll be walking in blindly and likely end up paying more than you need to.

#2 Search for rebates
You can search for available rebates on Edmunds.com site as well as directly on the car manufacturer’s site. In addition to cash back, look for incentives like low-interest financing offers that are offered directly to shoppers.

#3 Know the difference between the “MSRP” and “invoice” price
To stay on budget, walk in knowing what your maximum purchase price can be. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP, is what the dealers want you to pay. The invoice price is closer to what the dealer actually paid for the car. A fair price, or the fair market range, is just above the invoice price — and that’s the number you want to keep in mind.

#4 Don’t forget about all the fees
Buyer beware: your head can spin with the fees the salesmen throw your way. But not all of them are legit, warns Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book. “The only real fees you cannot get out of are the taxes (based on the state you live in, not where you buy the car), the title and license/registration fees,” says Brauer. All the other fees, such as transportation fees, delivery fees, doc fees, and dealer prep fees, can be negotiated down to zero.

One way to keep it simple and stay on budget is to ask for what insiders call the “out the door” price. This price includes all the fees on top of the car’s base price — making it easier for you to calculate your monthly payments.

#5 Print out all of the research
Once you’ve done your research, print out the information to take with you. Even if you’re able to pull up some details on your phone, having those papers with you will let the salespeople know you’re serious and prepared. And as you’re shopping around from dealer to dealer, you can take notes down to help you process all the information.

#6 It matters who you go with
OK, now that you’re ready to wheel and deal, know that it matters who you go with. Don’t bring anyone who might fall easily for sales gimmicks. Instead bring a friend who’s great at looking uninterested, and every once in awhile, ask her to urge you to shop around. It makes it easier to walk away when you’re dealing with aggressive salesmen.

#7 Know when to go
Finally, know when to go. Instead of going on a weekend when it’s busier, if possible go on a Monday or Tuesday when dealers are more eager for sales. Better yet – they’re even hungrier the last 3 days of the month as they’re trying to reach their monthly sales goals to score those higher commissions. Knowing that, bargain hard.

What are your car buying tactics? Tweet me your tips @jeanie531 or in the comments below.

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