I had hoped to avoid car shopping for at least a few more months. But, unfortunately, my wife’s 2001 Sebring wasn’t able to hold out that long and we were forced to look for a different vehicle much sooner than we had planned.
Since this was an unexpected purchase, we had not put aside any money for a down payment. This meant we would be stuck paying full price (minus whatever trade-in we got for the Sebring). Our budget is already tight because I’m already making another car payment so, while we knew we needed to find the right car, we also knew we had to keep our overall purchase price down.
This wasn’t easy, especially since cars around this part of the state seem to be overpriced. But, thanks to three steps, we were able to get a good purchase price with payments that fit our limited budget.
The first thing we did was make the dealers compete with each other. At first, I wasn’t really sure if this would work or not. But, as it turns out, car dealers (or at least their salespeople) are pretty desperate to make a sale. By making sure to mention I was looking at the same car (or a similar car) elsewhere and leaving out specifics about what I was offered, I was able to get some pretty reasonable price cuts I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. In fact, I had one dealer reduce the sticker price by $6000 just because I let them see me drive to the competitor across the street.
Another thing we did was talk to the salespeople only when we were ready. Every dealer we visited had a salesperson run out the door the second we got out of our car. And, every single time, I sent them back into the building, electing, instead, to look at the cars ourselves. The advantage of doing this was we were able to look at all the cars, not just a select few the salesperson might have steered us toward. This, on more than one occasion, made haggling much more effective because we had several cars to compare.
Last, we made sure to get the most out of our trade-in. The Sebring had some problems (mostly related to needing new shocks) and we had some dealers try to low-ball us on a trade-in offer as a result. Instead of accepting that low offer we, once again, made the dealers compete against each other and, once we got a trade-in offer that was better than the blue book value, it was pretty easy to get the other guys to agree to match or beat it. That helped make up for not having any money for a down payment.
Even though this was a purchase we weren’t prepared for, we didn’t let our desperation for a new car let us be bullied into an overpriced replacement. And, as a result of these steps, we are now driving a much better vehicle that isn’t breaking the bank.