Do your research
Before you even step into a dealership, set your budget and look at what you can realistically afford. Heart set on a specific model? Look up the listing price so you know roughly what you should be paying - the Glass's Guide is great for this. Then you’ll recognise if a dealer tries to overcharge. If you’re not 100% set on a specific car - don't worry, only 29% of second hand buyers are* - write a list of the features and equipment you need and stick to it. This will help to avoid being sold a higher, more expensive specification than you need.
Head to the dealer with pre-approved finances
Going to a car dealership with a pre-approved loan is a bit like going as a cash buyer. You know exactly what you can afford and you can avoid the hard sell of higher spec cars. Plus, not negotiating on the dealership's finance packages saves you valuable time and lets you focus on the price of the car - over 50% of time in dealerships is spent negotiating finances*. Having pre-approved finances also means you could go to any dealership as you're not tied down - and dealers are fully aware of that. They might offer you a better deal to keep you on their forecourt, and away from their competitors.
Timing is key
Most of us know that car dealerships generally work in accordance with targets and bonuses on quarterly sales. These are based on three month periods - usually ending in March, June, September and December. At these points, dealers often need to shift cars to reach targets or to make room for new stock, making this an optimum time to buy. Dealers may be more willing to negotiate or offer cheaper deals in order to secure a sale. If you can wait until these times to buy, you may be able to get a better deal on the same car.
Keep a poker face
Obviously, it’s important to be friendly, but stay firm to your demands and keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t tell the dealer your top budget - they’ll probably try to sell you something more high-spec and expensive than you actually need. Even if the dealer offers the perfect car at a great price straight away, try not to let your emotions show. They may exploit your excitement and add features to bump up the price.
Check and try before you buy
Before you agree on a car, it’s crucial to test drive and check its history. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. There’s always a chance that the car has been involved in an accident, has hidden faults, or outstanding finances. Test driving can help settle these doubts, and websites like the AA and RAC can easily run vehicle checks. If you have a friend or family member that knows a fair bit about cars, it might be a good idea to go to the dealership with them so they can look over the car, too.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
According to research by the Money Advice Service, 64% of people who negotiated when buying a car were successful - only 13% failed to get a discount. It’s important to remember that car prices at dealerships usually aren’t fixed and there’s room for movement. So if you feel confident enough to haggle, do it! Try offering less than the asking price with a view to meet in the middle.
You could at least try to get some freebies thrown in - like floor mats or a tank of fuel - if the dealer won’t budge on price. If you can, don’t seal the deal on the same day. The dealership might contact you with a lowered price or better deal to entice you back.
To get the best price from the dealership, you need to know what you’re looking for and stand firm on your demands. The power is ultimately in your hands - it’s your choice to make and your money to spend. If a deal feels too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re not fully happy with a deal, don’t do it. You’ll probably find better elsewhere - most people go to three or more dealers before buying*.
Our top tips
- Do your homework
- Look to buy at the right time
- A poker face is key
- Get to know the car you’re buying
- Feel free to negotiate, if you feel comfortable to
ChooseMyCar Staff Writer
Model reviews, buying guides, service tips, and auto news - straight from our team of car experts.