Maybe your car just got totaled and you need new wheels to get to work tomorrow. Or you're buying a car for your teenager who is heading off to college soon. Or maybe you find car buying overwhelming and just want to get it over with quickly. Whatever the reason, you need to be driving a new car by the end of today. Is that really possible?
We certainly don't encourage shoppers to rush the car buying process. But if, for whatever reason, your purchase has a looming deadline, you can buy a car in just one day. I know this because I've done it many times while buying cars for the Edmunds.com long-term test fleet or for friends and family.
Recently, I helped an out-of-state friend buy a 2012 Lexus RX 350. She also was trading in a 2003 Honda Odyssey EX, which made the deal a little more complicated. I started shopping at about 10 a.m. and she had the SUV before dinner. In another case, it only took my colleague two hours to buy a 2010 Chevrolet Traverse for our long-term fleet. The point is, when you know the right path to car buying, you can get there faster than you ever imagined.
In this article, we assume you already selected the car you want to buy. If you haven't chosen a car yet it may take a bit longer because you still need to do a test-drive. To help you make a sound choice, read "10 Steps To Finding the Right Car for You."
Once you know what car you want, here is the express lane to making a good deal:
Step 1: Locate Your Car
Use Edmunds.com's New Car Inventory page to find your car, rather than physically visiting dealerships. When you're in a hurry, it's tough to try to hit car lots in person. You also can go directly to the dealership's own inventory tool on its Web site. Narrow your search to find the color, trim level and options you want.
Edmunds' New Car Inventory tool provides a link to easily contact Internet managers at different dealerships and verify that the car is still for sale. If you prefer to call the dealership, just ask to speak with the Internet manager to make sure the car is still on the lot. Ask the manager to e-mail the window sticker or invoice to you. These documents list all the information about the car, such as interior and exterior colors, options and the price.
Some vehicles will be marked as having an Edmunds Price Promise® special offer. This means that the car is eligible for an instant competitive price quote, which you'll see when you click on the "View Price Now" button. That price will be honored when you buy the car. Edmunds Price Promise eliminates the hassle of negotiating.
Step 2: Make a Deal
In this new era of car buying, agreeing on a car's price is easy. In fact, negotiating for a car can be completely nonconfrontational. Here's what you do: During your chat with the Internet manager, ask for the dealership's best price and see if any incentives or rebates are available. Write these figures down, thank him for his time and hang up.
Now, look up the Edmunds.com True Market Value (TMV®) price of the car. If the price quote you get is at TMV or below, you're in good shape. If it's higher, call the Internet manager back and offer $500 below TMV. Negotiate upward. However, you will probably discover that the Internet manager's initial offer is below TMV. Shopping through the Internet department automatically gets you a lower price.
If the quote you got is above TMV, ask why that's so, just to be sure you and the dealership are talking about the same configuration for the car. If it is the same, and the Internet manager won't budge on the price, you could contact other dealerships in your area or perhaps a little further away. But first, consider what your time is worth. Perhaps it's OK to pay a little more to get the exact car you want from a local dealership.
Before you agree to the salesperson's offer there are two things you need to do:
1. Ask for an "out-the-door" price that includes all taxes and fees.
2. Carefully read the next step.
Step 3: Arrange Delivery
Let's assume that you found the car you want and that the price is right. Before you say yes to the deal, say that there's one condition: Request that dealership deliver the car to you. That's right: Ask the salesperson to bring the car to your home or office. Understand that if you're requesting this on a busy Saturday or Sunday sales day, it might not be possible. But it doesn't hurt to ask during your negotiations.
If you decide to pick up your car at the dealership instead, set up an appointment to close the deal. To speed up the paperwork, ask what documents you need to bring and arrange the proper form of payment. If you are financing through the dealership, complete a credit application and find out what your monthly payment will be. Check the dealership's figures by using the Edmunds.com monthly loan calculator.
However you take delivery of the car, inspect it to verify it is the year, make and model you want. Also, make sure there are no dents or scratches and all the equipment that's supposed to be there has been included. This includes such things as floor mats or headphones for the rear DVD player.
The last step is signing the contract. If you are arranging a home delivery, most Internet managers will offer you an extended warranty over the phone. You can also ask about other products the dealership offers if you have a special need, such as requiring an additional alarm system. The Internet manager will draw up the paperwork for these items so you can sign them when the car and the sales documents arrive. If you don't want additional items, you will be asked for your signature to show you have been offered the warranty but declined.
When you review the contract, make sure the amount matches what you were given as an "out-the-door" price. If you are financing, the down payment and monthly payment should match what you discussed with the Internet manager earlier. Here's more information on this crucial car-buying step.
Assuming all is correct, you will give the Internet manager your payment and he will give you the keys to your new car.
There is one more step in all this that could slow your deal down, and that's the salesperson's demonstration of the car. These days, vehicles are loaded with technology, so it's valuable to get a solid introduction. However, if you're in a rush, much of this description will go right over your head. So here's a tip: Arrange to bring the car back a week later for an hour-long briefing. By then you'll probably have some questions and you'll be ready to pay attention.
One-Day Car-Buying Mission Accomplished
Even though a car is a big-ticket purchase, you can do it quickly and with little stress. Break the task into the steps listed here and you'll save time and money and still get the best car for you — all in one day.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.