I know absolutely nothing about cars. To be completely honest, I’m actually quite afraid of them and find that most car related issues make me a little sweaty. So when my 2001 Lexus (which, mind you, was chugging along to the impressive tune of 240,000+ miles) started making funny noises, I was anxious. In Los Angeles, a car is not simply just a car. It’s an investment. Drivers in Los Angeles spent an average of 81 hours in traffic in 2015.
No matter how much I wanted the perfect car at the perfect price to fall from the sky (gently, of course), I knew I had to put my big girl pants on. Choosing a car is a big decision, here are some tips that helped me negotiate the best deal.
All I knew about car salespeople is from what I’d seen on TV (more specifically, Danny DeVito’s character from the movie Matilda): Grimy, slimy tricksters in plaid suits. I now know this to be untrue. Apparently, car salespeople are just regular human beings who sell cars to other regular human beings.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be writing this article. I would have strolled into a Porsche dealership and driven out with a sassy red coupe with leather seats. But in real life, I’m a recent graduate with student debt, rent and an entry level salary; I was in the market for a used car. With the internet at our disposal, you can arm yourself with a ton of useful information.
By doing your research, you’ve given yourself a certain amount of control in the situation. I was able call the salespeople out on some arguable claims:
“You won’t find this car at this price anywhere else”
Yes I did, it’s listed at X dealership at Y price. Call on Kelly Blue Book to help you in this scenario.
“This car might be sold to someone else right away if you leave”
I see it’s been on the lot for X amount of weeks already, I think there’s a good chance it will still be here in the next couple of days. Check the dealership’s website and Carfax to gain this confidence. Be firm and don’t let them steer you off your course.
I was often met by the claim that “the dealership can’t budge on the sticker price.” Nine times out of ten, this is just not true. They may not want to budge on it, but they most certainly can. Sticker prices are inherently marked up and there is almost always wiggle room to come down on price.
Remember, you’ve got a lot of leverage in the situation - there’s nothing stopping you from getting up and walking down the street to the next dealership to another salesperson who will make more of an effort to negotiate a better price with you. Over the course of one weekend, I visited 5 different dealerships, one of them multiple times. I ended up negotiating a 2014 Honda Civic with a sticker price of $14,600 down to $12,800. Although my fear of cars might still exist, my fear of negotiating with salespeople is a thing of the past.
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Daralyn Kee Chong is a media professional who focuses on outdoor advertising strategies for an entertainment client. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA in 2016 with a degree in English and Screenwriting. When she's not searching for a corgi puppy to adopt, she can be found improving her knowledge of advertising and copywriting through after work classes.