The Dallas Morning News

The art of the deal

Hate haggling? Here’s how to nab the lowest price

- Philip Reed, NerdWallet

A short stint as a car salesman taught me that dealers are pros who negotiate all day for a living — and they always have the home field advantage.

Later, while buying dozens of test vehicles for an automotive website, I was on the other side of negotiatio­ns, and experience­d the tricks dealers use to pressure buyers.

I’ve found that simple, nonconfron­tational negotiatin­g tactics can help even car shoppers who hate to haggle still get the best deal possible. These strategies, combined with online tools, can keep car shopping from turning into a battle with the dealer.

Here are five ways to level the playing field:

1. Know your numbers

In the car business, there’s a saying: “Hit ’em with high numbers — then scrape them off the ceiling and make a deal.” But if you have a good idea of what you should pay for a car, this trick won’t work. Picture this: The dealer says an SUV is $27,500, but your research found the current price is $24,500. Do you think you’ll have trouble saying no?

Research the key numbers and that knowledge will guide you through the negotiatio­n and depersonal­ize the interactio­n since you’re relying on data rather than opinion or emotion to establish the sales price.

Here are the numbers you should know:

■ The current market value of the car you want to buy, which you can research on sites like Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book or TrueCar

■ Any incentives you might qualify for, such as customer cash back or lowinteres­t financing

■ The trade-in value of your current car

■ Estimated fees and local sales tax With these figures, you can determine a target price to empower you in negotiatio­ns.

2. Negotiate remotely

Once you test drive the car, you can do almost everything else from home. This means during a negotiatio­n that if you don’t like the numbers or how you’re being treated, you don’t have to physically leave the dealership. Instead, you can just say goodbye if you’re on the phone or simply stop email or text communicat­ions.

To use this approach, call the dealership and ask for the internet department. Or email the internet manager through the company’s website.

3. Shop your price

Once you get a price from one dealership, you can “shop” it by contacting other dealers for a quote. Tell the other dealers that you already have an offer in hand. Dealers often test competitor­s’ prices so they know what figure they’ll have to offer to win the sale.

A dealer might say, “We’ll beat any competitor’s price.” Instead of tipping your hand and giving them a number to beat, just ask for their best price.

4. Be unpredicta­ble

Salespeopl­e are encouraged to control customers by pressuring them into a test drive, getting them into a sales office and working to close the deal quickly. If you prefer to visit a dealership to hammer out a deal — which I don’t recommend — make sure you’re calling the shots.

A quick way to show you can’t be controlled is to be unpredicta­ble. When you make an offer on a car, and the salesperso­n leaves to “take the offer to my boss,” you should also leave the sales office. Leave without explanatio­n and walk around the showroom. Believe me, they’ll find you in a hurry.

5. Negotiate with your feet

I had a retired friend with time on his hands who liked to go to dealership­s, kicking the tires on a new car. He let the salesman talk awhile, and then he would walk out — twice. On the third visit, my friend bought the car, figuring the salesman negotiated himself down to his lowest offer.

Before you say ‘yes’

Make sure enticing offers are really as good as they appear. Before you agree to any deal, ask for a breakdown of fees to see the total — or the “out the door” — price. In some cases, dealership­s insert bogus charges or inflate the documentat­ion fee to try to take back some profit they gave away. Once you know the total price, and if it still looks good, you can buy with the confidence of knowing that you’re a savvy negotiator.

 ?? 2017 File Photos/The Associated Press ?? Salespeopl­e are encouraged to control customers by pressuring them into a test drive, getting them into a sales office and working to close the deal quickly. If you prefer to visit a dealership to hammer out a deal, make sure you’re calling the shots.
2017 File Photos/The Associated Press Salespeopl­e are encouraged to control customers by pressuring them into a test drive, getting them into a sales office and working to close the deal quickly. If you prefer to visit a dealership to hammer out a deal, make sure you’re calling the shots.
 ??  ?? Once you get a price from one dealership, you can “shop” it by contacting other dealers for a quote. Dealers often test competitor­s prices so they know what figure they’ll have to offer to win the sale.
Once you get a price from one dealership, you can “shop” it by contacting other dealers for a quote. Dealers often test competitor­s prices so they know what figure they’ll have to offer to win the sale.

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