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Let’s make a deal: Negotiating car prices online

In the market for a new car? Before you hit the internet to strike a deal, peep these pro tips to ensure you’re getting the absolute best price possible.

woman shopping for cars online

Do your homework

Because, girlfriend, what you don’t know really will hurt you in this case! According to LeeAnn Shattuck, co-owner and Chief Car Chick of Women’s Automotive Solutions, new cars are relatively easy to research online.

“Many websites can tell you the invoice price of the car as well as any incentives that might be available. is one of my favorites, and it tends to be fairly accurate,” she notes. “You should also check the manufacturer’s website, as additional incentives may be posted there, such as customer cash/rebates and special APRs [annual percentage rates]. You can then subtract any incentives which you qualify for (be sure to read the details!) from the invoice price to get an estimated ‘bottom-line price.'”

Take some initiative

Don’t just sit around waiting for the perfect car to come to you. David Bakke, editor of, advises initiating the price negotiation process yourself via the internet by asking the dealer what is the least he or she will take for the car you’re interested in.

“Once you’ve determined this, ask if they’d be able to omit the dealer fees,” he says. “These are unnecessary expenses, and there’s always a possibility you can get them eliminated, so why not try?”

But don’t make the first move

Remember those awesome incentives we were just talking about? Shattuck says that sometimes, manufacturers will throw in extra ones late in the month if they need their dealers to move more of a certain vehicle — and these incentives may or may not be published.

“That’s why it’s so important you don’t make the dealer an offer,” she cautions.

Let them make the first move and then go from there.

Make sure you’re connecting with the right person

While it’s certainly critical to find the car you like first and to have a basic understanding of pricing, Scott Neuman — former top salesperson for Mazda and Honda in the Northeast — stresses the importance of speaking to the right person at your local dealership. In other words, contact the internet manager! Call (don’t email!) him or her, say that you’re looking for the car you’ve priced out and ask for the internet price. Also, say you want the name of a contact at the dealership with whom you can make an appointment to see the car.

“Internet managers normally work on flats and give you the bottom number,” he notes.

Negotiate each part of the deal separately

Keep in mind that you’re discussing not only the price of that shiny new car you want but also the trade-in value of your old vehicle as well as the finance rate. Female spokesperson for AAA, Ginnie Pritchet, recommends negotiating all of these things separately. Why?

“This will allow smart consumers to save money, as most are homing in on just one item, typically the monthly payment as a whole,” she points out. “By looking at each negotiation independently, you’ll be able to see what the cost/value/rate is of each area and determine if they’re acceptable to what you want to pay or receive for a trade-in.”

Shop around for the best deal

When you find a shirt you love online, you don’t just snatch up the first one you see, right? You take the time to shop around for the best deal. Well, the same thing goes for purchasing a car!

“The key is to play all the dealers off each other so they know they’re competing aggressively for your business,” says Shattuck. “Sure, you might tick someone off, but there will be four more dealers waiting down the street for your business. Always be polite, but firm. You are looking for the best deal and the best service.”

More car advice

5 Car lessons from my dad, who is also a mechanic
Harnessing your car-buying power
Lease vs. own: Which is best for you?

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