The week before my 30th birthday, I made an appointment at a Honda dealership to test drive a new car. Living in Rhode Island, a car is almost necessary and my current Nissan Versa wasn’t doing too well—it needed over $1000 repairs and was worth basically as much as I owed.
After a conversation with my mom telling her how stressed out I was about paying for the repairs before winter, she suggested I look at leases. I have always wanted to lease a car—you have a newish car for a limited time, don’t have to worry about payments, and it can be less than a car loan. And, since I don’t usually drive very far, I didn’t feel stressed about the mileage limitations.
I was hooked.
When I went to the dealership, I made sure to do my research and know what I wanted before going in. I knew four things for sure:
- I wanted a Honda Fit.
- I couldn’t afford to pay more than $250 per month for a lease payment. That was what I was paying for my car payment, and my budget doesn’t afford a lot of wiggle room.
- I did not want to put any money down. This wasn’t exactly a planned decision and I didn’t have money saved for a down payment.
- I wanted at least $3,500 for my current car—which was a little higher than the balance on the loan.
As I sat there with the car salesman, (who was very intimidating) I channeled my inner Alex Dickinson and remembered these three things:
- I could walk. I had a car that worked and got me there. I wasn't in a situation where I truly needed a car.
- If they couldn't meet my terms (see above!) I had a lot of options. My credit was good and there were a lot of dealerships that would want my business.
- The ball was in my court. They wanted MY money.
As I sat there negotiating, I stuck to my guns. Buying a car can be really scary, and they tried to fight me in every way, down to every dollar. When I said $250, they said $350, and I just had to work backwards. I not only asked for what I wanted, but that was all I was willing to accept.
I ended up driving home that day with a new car—but, I got the payment down to $259 a month (when they had wanted $350+ AND a significant amount down) and got what I wanted for my car. I'm proud I didn't back down until I got what I wanted!