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Get the Best Deal on a New Car with One Simple Email

How can you get the best deal on a new car? Learn how to send one simple email that will have car dealers scrambling to give you the best deal on a new car.

Get the best deal on a new car by creating a public email bidding war among dealers.As somebody who makes a living running a profitable car business, I argue it’s not always a good idea to grind car dealers into a bare minimum, below-invoice price on your next new car. (Yes, I know most of you disagree.)

That said, I’ve seen every type of negotiator walk through my showroom doors over the last 15 years. I know what it takes for someone to walk out with a smoking deal — how to get the best deal on a new car possible. And today, I’m going to share with you what really works: from research to financing to one simple email that will get dealers scrambling to give you their best price.

How to research the best new car deal

It starts with research. You can’t walk into a dealership with the Kelly Blue Book app on your phone and expect to have everything you need to get a deal. Savvy buyers do most of the legwork from the comfort of their couch before setting foot in a store.

You want to settle on the specific make and model car you want to buy before negotiating price. Don’t skip this part! Buying the right car is as important if not more important than the deal you get. You have to live with the car for the next several years. Buy the wrong car and you’ll forget about “what a deal you got” as you sputter joylessly around a curve or – worse – wait for the tow truck on a cold winter night.

Visit a few showrooms for vehicle presentations and test drives. Be very clear to the sales consultant that you are just test-driving and are still considering several models. A good salesperson will still try his or her best to sell you then and there, but chances are you’ll get a half-assed presentation and no bothersome follow-up calls. If you do get a call, you can politely dismiss it saying you’ve decided to go a different direction.

Once you’ve decided on the car you want, begin comparing apples-to-apples pricing at different dealerships. Do more research. Find the dealers that sell this model. Visit their websites. Research online reviews of these dealers on sites like Google, Yelp, and Dealerrater so you know what to expect from each dealer when it comes time to negotiate. Next, head over to the manufacturer’s website. Take in the info on any specials, rebates, and financing incentives. Lastly, jump onto a third-party consumer websites like Edmunds.com or TrueCar.com to gather their pricing information.

Understanding new car market conditions

Now that you have a ballpark figure for what you should pay for your car, it’s time to factor in the current market. Dealers have expensive software and auction results that provide up-to-date market data, but consumers will have to take a more manual approach.

Your goal is to determine the level of demand for the model car you want to buy. Drive onto the lot of your local Chevrolet or Toyota dealer and glance over the inventory. You’ll see larger volumes of Silverados and Malibus compared to Corvettes. There will be more Camrys and Rav-4s than Land Cruisers. You’ll see the bread-and-butter cars with over twenty in stock and the lower demand and lower supply models. Your goal is to figure out how eager the dealer is to move the particular car you want. If a certain model is selling fast, a dealer has little incentive to negotiate. If not, the dealers may be eager to do whatever it takes to get the car off the lot.

Getting the best new car financing

It’s a myth that you have to go to your local bank or credit union to get the lowest interest rates.

Dealers send multiple “deals” to a variety of lenders everyday and they have a lot of flexibility around who gets approved and for what rate.

Before you get all nervous that a dealer will try to give you a higher APR than you could get elsewhere, remember: A dealer’s main purpose is to sell you a car. Making a profit on the financing is “plus business”. The dealer would rather offer you financing at the “buy rate” and earn a “flat”. The “buy rate” is the percentage the dealer pays for the money and a “flat” is the flat fee paid to the dealer if the money is lent with little or no markup.

If you come prepared with the rates local banks are offering, you can usually leverage an even better financing deal at the dealership. The key is to know your credit score and what tier that puts you in. Be honest about what sort of rates you have found and qualify for elsewhere because the dealer can call your bluff – they have a little book with competing lenders’ rates!

The single email that’ll get the best deal on a new car

Now it’s time to put it all out there. With a list of dealers that have the car you want, you are going to craft an e-mail that puts you in the driver’s seat. Don’t do this through a contact form on their site unless you can’t find a salesperson’s email address. You want the dealers to see whom else they are up against, so make sure all the dealers’ names are visible in the CC line.

The e-mail needs to include:

  • The fact that you’ve selected a vehicle you want to buy and you have already test driven it at a local dealer.
  • That you are ready to buy and want to take delivery of this new car by a certain date a few days out.
  • The options you must have and any that are flexible.
  • That you’re aware of all the costs associated with the invoice and options.
  • Any programs like loyalty or dealer cash you found in your research.
  • That you are pre-approved for financing but would rather finance through the selling dealer just to make the transaction easier.

Now, here’s the cherry on top: Give the dealers 24 hours to respond with their best offer and tell them you will give a credit card deposit over the phone to secure the deal.

Hit send.

What to expect when you send this email to car dealers

As a dealer, I hate emails like this. I know it’s going to be a long shot and a loser deal, but at the end of the day, dealers need to sell units, so the smart ones will respond. (Don’t be surprised, however, if out of 10 dealerships only 6 or 7 write back.)

You will get some competitive quotes. Depending on supply and demand, you could see some invoice or under-invoice deals. Just don’t expect any special treatment from the dealer with the lowest price.

What you might do is send the email to every dealer except your local guy. Preferably the one where you did your test-drives. Then, take your competing quotes there.

Why? Dealers are territorial. We pay attention to where you live and where you bought your last car. We take it personally if you didn’t buy it from your local dealer. Manufacturers and dealer managers pay attention to something called a cross-sell report. It tells exactly which dealers are strong enough to keep their local buyers local and also go after customers outside of their own territory. Lose too many of your own local customers and it doesn’t look good. This report puts certain dealers above the rest in very black and white terms. So a smart, reputable dealer will do whatever is necessary to earn your business and keep you local. Keep that in mind before abandoning your local dealer for a low quote two hundred miles away.

Timing is everything. Dealers do have quotas. If you’ve followed the steps I’ve outlined and all else is equal, you are more likely to get the best deal on a new car on the last two days of the month.

Finally, treat the dealer the same way you want to be treated. If the dealer isn’t being nice or you feel taken advantage of, go elsewhere fast. Please, just don’t take out frustrations with that last bad car dealer on the next guy.

Get Free Price Quotes at Edmunds.com Now

About Tom Niejadlik

Tom Niejadlik has over 15 years of experience in the auto sales industry and is eager to help us understand his industry and save money on one of our biggest expenses: our cars. He lives in Portland, Maine with his wife, sons, and golden retriever, Barkley.

Comments

  1. I bought my first car this past year and got a great deal. I did a couple of the things you have listed here in your article and I was surprised at how easy it was. As a young woman, I didn’t feel comfortable going into a dealership and getting into some sort of tough price negotiation. I had been looking at a certain car for a while. I knew the list price, but wasn’t sure how to get the best deal. I was waiting for an ad on TV or the paper because I had no idea what I was doing. Anyways, I went to a dealer just to look during the last week of May 2012 and as I was about to walk out the door the salesman mentioned 0 percentage APR, which is rare on this model of car. My ears perked up and I asked how long for 0 percentage APR and he said until the end of the month. I got a quote and told them I was going home to think about it. I was naive and assumed other dealerships may have this same APR deal so I called a couple other dealerships in the area. One guy was rude to me as a young female and told me that this APR wasn’t possible so I quickly decided to take my business elsewhere. I called another local dealership and told them I was offered 0 percent APR at this other dealership today and asked for a price quote the specific make and model I wanted. He called me back with a price that was well under the list price for a brand new car with 0 percent APR. I was shocked! I told him that I’d be in later that day to make the purchase it. I love my new car and made my dad and grandpa envious and proud!

  2. I used this process when I bought a new car a few years ago. Some of the dealerships didn’t respond or weren’t willing to negotiate in writing (suggesting I come to the dealership to “work something out”). Happily, a young women managing internet sales at a local dealership beat all competitors’ offers and gave me no trouble when I came in to finalize the deal. (In fact, she said she made a calculation error and lowered the price by a couple hundred dollars.) I think it’s a great way to get a really reasonable deal.

  3. I did all of that you mentioned except for the email part. What if you plan to pay it in cash?

  4. Thomas Niejadlik says:

    Offering the dealer your financing business just gives a dealer more justification to accept a less than ideally profitable deal. It’s just another tool in your toolbox. The entire process should work the same in theory with or without a cash deal.

    Buyer always come in and say “what’s your best price for a cash deal” as if there is some benefit to a cash transaction. The dealer gets the same dollar figure whether you pay cash or finance. Dealers would actually prefer to have you finance the vehicle.

    -Tom

    • Dave Donovan says:

      On that rule you have to remember, It’s ALWAYS CASH to the seller! That is the fact.
      Whether there is a loan for the purchase or not, the seller receives cash on the day of closing.
      Yes, cash can move the deal forward a little quicker for the store – but the many other bureaucratic steps take time to process a transaction.

  5. Tom, I appreciate the insight that you bring with these articles. Wondering what your thoughts are on the buying programs that places like AAA, Costco, and others have through their websites. Are they worth it?

    Bryan

    • Dave Donovan says:

      Programs such as AAA Costco will give you a fixed price a dealership around invoice. These are simply advertising sources for dealers. If you send an email as Tom’s article writes it will give you the best offer. Many dealers have a fixed price around invoice for program customers and these can be subject to audit. At this point you may not be able to go lower.

    • Thomas Niejadlik says:

      Bryan,
      Dave nailed that one. Not saying you don’t get a good deal using one of those services. It’s usually a fair deal for all parties and takes the negotiations out of the picture. The only buying services I would recommend staying clear away from are those in which you hire someone to put the deal together for you. For a small fee they go out and negotiate the best deal. The only thing they negotiate is which dealer will give them the biggest kickback and magically that’s where you get the best deal.

      -Tom

  6. As somebody who has worked only in the auto industry for a few years, I know the truthfulness of this post all too well. I hope consumers read this before they purchase!

  7. I am a single woman who bought a car using these exact steps this year, and I just wanted to add a couple of comments.

    - This approach is great, but it sounds easier than it is. If you think you’re going to get the information you need with “one simple email,” you’re out of luck. You will learn that many dealers lack (or fail to use) basic reading comprehension skills. I was specific with dealers: I said that I wanted a [particular car] S 2013, with leather seats, with a specific premium package, in one of two specific colors. Many dealers first sent out a round of irritating automated emails that gave the MSRP on a standard S model. Then I received a second round of emailed quotes from the actual direct/Internet salespeople, most of which did not bother to conform to the specifications I’d given. It took 2-3 more rounds of email to get most of the salespeople to give me a quote for the exact specifications they requested or to tell me they could not give me a quote, either because they didn’t do the aftermarket leather modification, could not get the right color car in, or did not have a car with the premium package I wanted. Meanwhile, I was receiving calls (consider not giving these folks your phone number) and a barrage of emails (consider inventing a specific email address for this purpose that you can abandon later, as the emails will continue for months after you have purchased your car.) Also, remember to INSIST that the dealers give you an “out the door” price, including all taxes and fees before you come to the dealership. You may have to advise them that you are unavailable to meet in person with any salesperson who has not given you an out the door price AND that you will immediately turn and walk out of the dealership if the price changes once you arrive.

    Eventually, I was able to negotiate a very good price (well under KBB fair market value for this configuration in my area) with one sales person 50 miles from my home, so good that when I shared it with another dealership, they asked me if I was sure that was a true out-the-door price, as they couldn’t come within $500 of it. I was set. I took that offer in writing (email) back to my hometown dealership and told them that if they were prepared to match it, with 0% financing, with the same $1,000 rebate they offered to cash customers (based on my status as a “recent graduate,” i.e., someone who had gotten a graduate degree two years ago), I was prepared to buy on the spot. They turned pale … but did it.

    The online “negotiating,” while truly frustrating and much more of a PITA than articles like this made it seem, gave me the peace of mind that I was genuinely getting a reasonable price for my vehicle as a single woman. I did not want to follow the maddening, sexist advice that I needed to get a male friend to tag along as a prop. I endorse this approach, but wanted people to be aware of some of the downsides and the critical importance of negotiating online based out the door prices, to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

    - Tom’s advice is incorrect on one point in my experience: “Buyer always come in and say “what’s your best price for a cash deal” as if there is some benefit to a cash transaction. The dealer gets the same dollar figure whether you pay cash or finance. Dealers would actually prefer to have you finance the vehicle.” During my car purchasing experience, I found that there was usually a cash rebate for all-cash buyers (in my case, $1000) offered as an alternative to five-year 0% financing. Honestly, I found this setup to insult all of our intelligence. If cash buyers are getting a $1000 discount, then buyers who finance at “0%” are effectively paying $1000 in interest, only it’s not called that. I was prepared to put 50% down, but wanted to finance the other half … at 0% … with that same $1,000 off. This took more shopping around via the Internet. All of the dealerships told me that I could not get the cash incentive if I financed half the car … but one was willing to offer me their “recent college graduate” rebate (also $1,000) combined with the 0% financing. Everyone again confirmed that I couldn’t combine the college graduate rebate and cash incentive for $2,000 off, unfortunately. But the existence of the graduate rebate – not advertised at any of the dealerships – ended up allowing me to pay the same price as a cash buyer while still enjoying actually-0% financing. If you are offered 0% financing, do your due diligence and fight to ensure you’re not actually paying a higher purchase price than a cash buyer would. If you are, that higher purchase price is the effective “interest” on your purchase.

    • Bethany, in better effort to improve communications at our dealership with our customers, I am attempting to compile a narrative of written correspondence. If possible would you be willing to provide your emails with all dealers involved? e.d.simonski@gmail.com?

    • Hi Bethany,

      What was your timeline for this whole process (start of emails to purchase)? Also, what part of the month did you finally make your purchase? I’ve read/heard from multiple sources that the best time to make a deal is the last two days of the month.

      -Ashley

  8. Tom-

    Are there any tips to purchasing a used car?

    • Thomas Niejadlik says:

      John,
      Unless you are buying a plain jane used car that is super common on dealer lots (say Toyota Corolla) used car take on a whole different angle. One reason. No two used cars are exactly the same. There are many more variables than just price in the used arena. I will try to put some tips together for an upcoming post. Thanks,

      -Tom

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