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How to Negotiate at the Car Dealership

Tips and tricks for outsmarting the dealer at his own game so you can drive away with more money in your pocket.

1. Never trust the dealer
This may sound obvious, but it’s also easy to forget when you’re being hypnotized by his well-rehearsed charm. Remember: In most cases, the dealer cares more about his bottom line than he does about your best interest. Which leads us to our next point....

2. Do your homework
Showing up unprepared is a big no-no. If you don’t know your facts, you’ll be more apt to fall for the sales- man’s pitch, which means more money in his pocket—not yours. Before you visit a dealer, consult an online buyer’s guide, like Consumer Reports New Car Price Report (ConsumerReports .org) or Car and Driver (CarandDriver.com) to find info on safety and fuel economy and read helpful performance reviews. You’ll also get the scoop on what the dealer paid the manufacturer, so when you see the sticker price you’ll know just how much he’s trying to make off of you.

3. Play it cool
If you get all googly-eyed the second you see your dream ride, you might as well have “easy money” tattooed on your forehead. Never let on that you have your heart set on the Jeep sitting in the lot, or that your lease is up in two weeks so you need to find something fast. A show of emotion (whether it’s desperation or infatuation) will give the dealer the upper hand. Be sure to give off a tough, confident vibe, and make it clear that you know your stuff (which you should, since you did your homework, right?). Peruse non- chalantly, and tell the dealer you’re just seeing what’s out there—and won’t be driving a new set of wheels home today no matter what he offers.

4. Put on your poker face
Unfortunately, the back-and- forth negotiating BS is all part of the car- buying experience. So if you really want a great deal, you gotta play the game. The golden rule of car shopping? Never accept the first offer. Even if the dealer tries to sweeten things by knocking off 15 percent or throwing in gold rims, don’t cave. What seems like a bargain probably isn’t one at all, since most dealerships work out behind-the-scenes incentives with the manufacturers. And don’t you dare budge if the salesperson starts playing hardball. Remember, you’re in charge—don’t be afraid to walk away if the dealer won’t match your price. Nine times out of 10, he’ll come crawling back within a day or two (if not minutes later). Hate haggling? Bring a hard- bargaining friend or spouse along to do it for you.

5. Come back later
Think about it: You wouldn’t just buy the first flat- screen TV or pair of boots you saw—and a car is obviously a much bigger investment. So do your due diligence. Even if you’ve found the exact car you want and think you negotiated an amazing deal from the salesperson, still check out a few different dealerships before you commit. To get the best price, you have to pit the dealerships against each other (dirty, yes, but it works). Ask for the best price from the first one you visit; then tell the second dealer he has to beat it if he wants your business. Keep playing both sides until you get to the point where everyone says that’s the best they can do. Then just go with whoever offers the best deal for you in the end.

See More: Buying a Car , How to , Buying Guides