Skip to main content

Buying a car seems like it should be a fun experience. Yes, you’re shelling out plenty of cash, but at the end of the day you get to take home a fun new toy that makes many aspects of your life easier. Unfortunately, the constant desire for profit means that dealerships are putting more pressure on the customer than ever.

If you’re looking to buy or lease a vehicle in the near future, you owe it to yourself to come equipped to the dealership. Plenty of sales and finance managers are “nice guys”, but at the end of the day they want to make as much money as possible at your expense. Here’s some of the best advice we’ve collected on the subject.

Know what you want to pay

Car MSRPs are available online, and with a little research you can even see what the average price was that people actually paid. It’s best to go into the dealership knowing what you’re looking to pay.

That way, you can avoid getting talked into a bigger vehicle you don’t need. Additionally, knowing your price range will speed up the process. Knowing what you want to buy and what you’re willing to pay for it will go a long way toward making your dealership visit a pleasant one.

As a follow up: make sure you know what car you want to buy. If you’re trying to decide between multiple vehicles that’s okay, but don’t go to the dealership with one vehicle in mind and get talked into another one. 

Successfully navigate finance agreements

A car dealership advertising financing deals on the window
A car dealership advertising 0% financing | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

After you decide on a vehicle, you’ll meet with the finance manager to discuss payment terms and add-ons. This is the point where a deal can quickly go from a reasonable price to an astronomical one.

If you’re financing the deal, try to get the loan through your bank or a local credit union instead of relying on the dealership. This will give you more leverage and lower the amount of money you lose to dealership profit.

A recent post on Reddit also provided another potential tip: bring your laptop to the dealership. While a smartphone is probably also fine, the gist was that finance managers play a one-sided game. They have access to all the data and you have nothing. Being able to level the playing field and check prices while the finance manager does the same makes it more fair.

The tricky math of car buying

View this post on Instagram

Red, White, and (Boost) Blue. Happy #4thofJuly!

A post shared by Honda (@honda) on

One of the most common tips for buying or leasing is to never look at the monthly payment. Sure, it’s easy to think about $250 a month rather than $50,000 total for the vehicle. But that allows dealerships to hide plenty of excess fees and charges in the total and then split it out over a term of years.

This gets even worse when you consider deferred payments, which give you the opportunity to take the vehicle and put off paying for it. However, these deferred payments are added on to the end of the loan, meaning that you’ll be driving the new car for a long, long time.

Visiting a dealership to buy or lease a car doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. In addition to understanding how they try to increase their profit and sticking to your guns when it comes to price, there’s one other trick that they have no counter to: walk away.

You don’t always have to buy a car. And if you do, it doesn’t have to be from this dealership. It doesn’t matter if you’ve agreed on a price or shaken every hand in the building. Before you sign the contract, you can always walk away.


When Does Buying a New Car Make Sense?