First of all, the only way to buy a car these days is online. Going to a dealership, talking to a salesman, negotiating, and buying off the dealer lot is simply not the way to buy cars anymore. Who wants to go through the headache of talking to a salesperson who is not going to give you the best price or the options you want? The sales person is going to sell you the car they want off the lot at the highest price possible, maximizing the salesperson and the dealership's profit.
You must buy the car online to get the best price and the exact features and options you want. You do NOT want to go to a car dealer and make a rash and stupid decision. We will tell you step by step how to accomplish this. Here are the steps to buying a car online:
Find out how much you can afford
If you are paying cash, simply check your bank balance. If you are taking out a loan, check with your bank what interest rate you can get. Then, play with our Auto Loan Calculator
Find cars in your price range
Decide if you want a car, truck, or van and then start looking at the different car manufacturers. For the latest and newest vehicles, we recommend that you go directly to the car manufacturers' websites to read about their latest models. We have links to all the Automobile Manufacturers for your convenience.
Go for a test drive
Go for a test drive, but DO NOT buy. To make sure you like the car you picked online, go to a local dealer for a test run. They do not charge for this. In fact, they usually offer coffee, soda, popcorn, and even hotdogs and other snacks for coming in. AGAIN, do not buy the car regardless of how much of a "deal" they want to make. This is simply to see if you like the car or not. To find a local dealer in your area, go to our Car Dealer Locator
Build the car exactly the way you want
Most car manufacturers have a "build and price" option on their webpage. This is a great tool. It will tell you all available features and options and allows you to pick what you want based on your preferences and budget. To get started, go to our Build and Price your own car page.
Get quotes for the car you want
After you build and price the car as described above, you can usually choose to get quotes from multiple dealers in your area. Make 'your area' as large as possible. Wouldn't you travel 100 miles if you could save $2000? Anyway, the idea is to get quotes from as many dealerships as possible. To get started, you can also use our Get Car Quote page.
Negotiate by email
This is the fun part. Unless you are getting a limited edition or special order car, you should be able to negotiate a price of $500 over invoice or even less! If you end up paying MSRP, then we have a bridge in New York you also may be interested in buying!
Only do this by email. Do not call dealerships. When you are going back and forth by email you have leveled the playing field. The Internet Sales Person cannot use sales tactics such as making you sweat in a dealer room, and you have the time and energy to consider every offer without any pressure.
Remember, the dealers are going to start very high, so you have to start very low. (You can not insult a sales person, so it is fine to go way under invoice on your first offer.) Furthermore, they are not telling the whole truth, so why should you? You can use white lies like: "a dealer down in Tampa can sell it to me for invoice, but I don't really want to drive 100 miles to pick it up...can you match it?" or "I would like to support a local dealer, but your price is higher than everyone else. Anything, you can do to make me support my local economy?" and so on.
Take your time doing this. It could take as much as a week. Be patient. Take your time formulating the email...let them wait. And then be patient some more...they may let you wait too. In the end, you will get a good price.
Finalize the deal
When you have agreed upon a price, ask them to confirm the exact amount you should write out the check for. This should include taxes, registration, and so on. Then set a time to pick up your new car and bring a printout of the final email with the exact price and your check!
Note: If you need to finance the car, we recommend that you get financing from your bank. You will not get a better price at the dealership, even if they say 0 percent financing. They adjust sales price and terms and other factors to get a low percentage, and when you look at the whole picture, you are better off getting a loan from your bank.