Dealership Flow Chart: Know What to Expect
What if you were in the middle of a fight and you knew the other guy was about to throw a right hook? If you knew what was coming, it would be easy to duck or block the punch.
Negotiating is the same way. You try to anticipate your opponent's next move so you can be ready for it.
While most consumers know it's important to prepare for car shopping, they don't always know what to prepare for and in what order it will happen. In most cases, the customers see the salesman as the enemy and direct all their energy to countering his efforts to inflate the price. However, the salesman is only a part of a bigger picture. Once you understand the way the dealership tries to work you, you will know how to defend yourself and get the best deal.
Before we go much further, we should point out that this article will outline the process used by the shopper who visits the dealership in person. If you decide to become an Internet shopper — and we strongly recommend you take this route — you will save time, reduce stress and probably get a better deal. However, people are very connected to the dealership experience, so here's a condensed look at how to safely navigate these shark-filled waters.
Phase One: Test-Drive
Time required: At least one hour
Location: Car lot
Salesman's goal: To get you in a car — any car.
Your goal: To thoroughly test-drive the car and select the right vehicle for you.
Key points: Don't hurry the test-drive. Decide if you trust your salesman and want to enter into negotiations.
More information: How to test-drive a car
Phase Two: Negotiating
Time required: One to two hours, longer if a trade-in is involved
Location: Sales office
Salesman's goal: Get you to buy at the highest price.
Your goal: To get the car at Edmunds.com's True Market ValueSM or below.
Key points: Don't be trapped in the sales office — move around. Don't be afraid to walk away. Make sure you take advantage of all incentives and rebates. Ask for an "out the door" price before you agree to the deal.
More information: Negotiating 101
Phase Three: Closing the Deal
Time required: One hour (longer on weekends)
Location: Finance and insurance office
Finance manager's goal: Improve the deal, sell additional products.
Your goal: Ensure that all negotiated elements of the deal are correctly put into the contract.
Key points: Question the sudden appearance of extra charges and fees. Review contract carefully before signing. Know what each form is that you are signing.
More information: Closing the deal
Phase Four: Taking Delivery
Time required: 30 minutes
Location: Car lot
Salesman's goal: Get you to sign and take possession of the car.
Your goal: Inspect the car for damage and make sure all promised equipment is included (floor mats, DVD headphones, additional key fobs).
Key points: Inspect the car in good light. Make sure car has a full tank of gas.
More information: Inspecting and taking possession of your new car