Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Me vs. the dealership (how to get the best price on a car)

I am frugal. I am not ashamed to say it either! We live in a one income household that feeds and clothes 5 people (boys for that matter) and we are around the poverty line. We eat healthy and vegan for most of us and I buy used whenever possible, this included cars... until this car!

We have always ALWAYS bought used when it came to cars, the mere thought of buying a new car brought me to shutter thinking of the depreciation as soon as it left the lot. I could not and would not ever buy new. Alas, I ate my words this time. When we finally had decided on buying the Nissan NV 3500 I started looking for a used one. This proved to be a large problem, in a 150 mile radius there were 3 vans. 3!! One had 30k miles on it, the other 2 had 50k miles for a grand total of $1,000 less then the retail price new. 2 to 3 years old  and 30-50k miles on it and only a savings of $1,000. Why? That didn't seem worth it in our book. This van seems to keep its value and new it had a 5 year warranty with it. So reduced to eating my words we started the hunt for a new Nissan NV 3500 passenger van.
My first car 1967 Chevy Nova

My tried and true tactics were taken from another fellow deal hunter I just polished it and made it work for me. This deal worked with this van and the Honda Odyssey we got before this van. It makes the dealership not like you much because they are not making any or much money at all on you. But you walk away with equity in your car and knowing that you got the BEST deal. Ready?

  1.  Decide on the exact car you want, model, year (year range), trim level, preferred colors. Get prequalified with your credit union or bank.
  2. Find local dealers that have that car, I chose 12. Email them and say: "I am interested in your (insert car here) please email me your best out the door price. I am already prequalified with my credit union." The key here is OUT THE DOOR, every dealer has their fees and other things they tack on. You need to know how much you need to bring in as if you were buying with cash. Showing them you mean business by being prequalified helps.
  3. They will email and call you, be nice and pick up the phone. Explain to them exactly what you want "I am looking for a (insert car here) and I need your total out the door price. I am busy so getting it in email works best for me." I was truthfully able to say I have 3 kids and phone calls were near impossible. 
  4. They will want you to "come take a test drive" or "when can you see it in person?" To that tell them "I need to not waste my time or yours, please just give me your best out the door price over email and then we can talk more". Be kind yet firm... like raising kids huh?
  5. You will then have a slew of emails with prices! I found it useful to have a spread sheet with the dealer names and other details. Here is a template here.
  6. You will not likely hear back from all the dealers, but once you have heard back from most of them then take the lowest price and email the other dealers back and say "Thanks for your quote, I am looking for the best deal so I had another offer of (insert lowest out the door price) from another dealer are you able to beat that?" If it is a used car be sure to tell them that the competing car has less miles or more options or whatever it has as competition. Because they will try and say "well mine has leather or navigation" etc.. 
  7. The dealers will then start emailing back with their new lowest out the door price. Be sure to keep it on the spreadsheet and keep track. Slowly they will filter out, you will get no response back or others will start dropping and say they can't beat that price. They will trickle down to just a few dealerships left. If you are not hearing back, email the sales manager what your lowest price is and add in "If you can not beat this please let me know so I do not waste any more of your time".
  8. Once it is narrowed down to just a few left, let them know "I am trying to decide between you and (dealer name) can you do anything else for me?" They want your business, they will work for you! At this point they either say "good luck, I can't beat that" or "yes I will beat that price" or "I will throw in floor mats or other accessory".
  9. Once you have the winner or winners get them to email you a paper with the breakdown on it so you can clearly see the price. This will show you the dealer fees, tax, tag and title. Most of the time it will be signed by the sales man or the manager as well. Print that out with you when you go in. 
  10. Arrange a day and time to come in, have the view that if they try and pull anything funny on you that you will walk out! The other dealers wanted to work with you, they will welcome you with open arms if you walk out. Bring your qualification letter, the print out of the breakdown, licence and proof of car insurance. 
  11. They might try and add on things you don't need but make them stick to the out the door price!!

If you have a trade in and you have no other option but to trade it in, here is the way to get the most for your trade in.

  1. Clean it up! Take to the car wash, get it shiny and pretty. Clean the inside as best as possible, empty out as many personal items as you can. You want the dealer to have little to nothing to complain about. 
  2. Take your car to Car Max and ask them to do a estimate on it of what they would give you for it. That will be your bottom line price. They would cut you a check for that amount if you decided to sell it to them. However they will give you a written appraisal for your trade in as well if you don't sell it to them right there which is valid for at least a week. 
  3. Take that written appraisal with you to the dealer that you have chosen from your list and hold on to that wild card for when you need it.
  4. The dealer will want your trade in and want to make money off it, of course, so they will try to low ball you.
  5. They want to know how much you owe on it and come back with a new out the door price for you that includes the trade in.
  6. Do not let them give you less then Car Max would!! If they try, pull out that paper from Car Max and show them. Tell them "I will accept nothing less than this for my car. They even have a car I want and are going to take $$$ off in taxes if I buy from them." Its most likely true, Car Max has a million cars so they likely have one you want.
At this point they are already losing money on you by selling the car to you for under their price, now they are trying to make that money back by low balling you on the trade in. Don't let them! This isn't personal, its business. After that, you can sign the papers and ride home in your fought-for gold trophy. 

Do you feel ready now? Its not that hard!! I promise! If you have any other questions or feel like I missed a step please let me know :) Happy car hunting! 

For the Video version check it out here:


  1. What was your final out the door price and what did you end up buying? Any additional tips for after market extras? We are wanting to add a roof rack and a video system, seems like the dealers mark the prices WAY up. Debating getting quotes with all accessories or just basic and paying for accessories separate. With the current low rates, I would prefer to finance them though. Thanks for feedback

    (Just saw my user name 😂 Gotta love when kids play with your computer)

    1. Haha! My kids would do the same thing :)

      We got a 2016 Nissan NV 3500 SL (the top model). It has all the available accessories from the dealer. We paid $37,279 out the door, that is with all the taxes and fees but before trade in and down payment. Some how we got them to go lower then the emailed price once we got in there. They had quoted us $38,288 over email.. go figure!

      As for after market accessories, I was actually going to do another post on that :) :) I would recommend NOT going through the dealer for those. They mark them way up as you said and will try and use that as a bargaining chip on you when you are negotiating the deal. Just wait and do them yourself or have an independent place do them. Its harder to get the out the door price from all the different dealerships if one is going to throw in DVD player and the other one will do the roof rack. You most of the time don't get to pick the quality and brand too if you go with the dealer. They will use whatever they have in stock.

      I will do a full post later on the after market things we are adding on :) But I will tell you for now that we added running boards from Luverne and got tot pick the exact kind we wanted, installed them our self and saved hundreds of dollars.

      Side note on financing... you will probably have to go thru the dealer to get the rebates, but their interest rate will be higher 98% of the time. With this vehicle its considered 'commercial' so be aware of that, some banks don't want to finance that. But contact your local bank or credit union and be set up to refinance with them. They will most of the time have a lower interest rate. We did that and went from a 6% to 2.35% rate and made $300 by refinancing with our credit union.

      Hope this helps!! Let me know if you have any more questions :)

  2. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this topic. The tips are very helpful specially the out of the door car price , I learned a lot with this article of yours.So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject.

  3. I've been trying to negotiate a deal on a 2016 NV SL. You got an incredible price! The range I have seen so far has been ~40k-45k out the door. Hopefully after a bit more negotiation I can get it down to closer to 38k. Thanks for your info!

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  4. No problem!! I hope you can get them down more, keep hunting around I'm sure you will find a dealer willing to go down more. Especially since the 2017 NV vans will be out on the lot soon. Let me know if you have any questions!

    1. What state do you live in? And did you have to travel out of state for your NV? I am in Arkansas and the best deals I am finding are over the border in Texas

    2. We are in Florida, we put our search radius at about 3 hours out from where we lived. We ended up driving about 2 to get the van. Be sure to add that into your dealers emails that you sent out to them and let them know that you are finding better deals out of state and are willing to go and get it out-of-state if need be. It may be the sales taxes in Texas or they may have a larger supply they need to get rid of. Hope it goes well!!