Car Buying Articles

How To Get an Internet Price Quote for a Car

Get a Great Price Without Getting the Runaround


  • Man on Laptop

    Man on Laptop

    Using a dealer quote system will get you a price for a car without your having to visit a dealership. | June 08, 2011

3 Photos

Getting an up-front price for a new car by e-mail is a great improvement over the old days of car buying. Then, you had to physically visit car lots and talk to salespeople who often were reluctant to name their price on a vehicle. Now, there is a streamlined dealer quote system that's meant to avoid that situation. Simply put, you fill in an online form that describes in detail the car you want and send it off to local dealers. They respond with their prices for the car. It works fairly well. And it works even better when you use our simple tips to new car pricing bliss.

I've used the Edmunds dealer quote system numerous times for many years while shopping for cars for our long-term road test fleet. I have found dealer price quotes to be a valuable time and money saver. The greatest benefit is that it quickly connects shoppers with the Internet department at a dealership. The Internet sales staff almost always offers lower pricing than you'll find via the traditional car buying route.

For shoppers who want an even faster route to a price quote, Edmunds.com has introduced Price Promise®, which brings online car shoppers a guaranteed, up-front price on a specific car. It's definitely worth checking out.

The Car Shopper's View of Internet Price Quotes
While the dealer quote system is a big step forward, it isn't perfect. In some cases, users complain that dealers are still reluctant to name a firm price. Instead, these shoppers say, the salesperson tries to persuade them to come down to the lot to get a price, according to Mark Holthoff, director of customer and community support at Edmunds.com.

The second complaint is that dealers don't always seem to know the specific details about the car (such as the desired color or options) that consumers typically send along with their price quote request. And the third complaint is that the dealer never answers the request for a price quote at all.

From the Dealer's Point of View
While these non-responses can be annoying, the dealer quote system still puts you way ahead of the game. The good dealers know how important customer leads are, and they know they have to handle them right, or risk losing a sale.

For example, when Santa Monica Ford Lincoln receives a lead, its goal is to provide a personalized response and a price within one hour, says dealership owner Ron Davis. Then, the customers are free to initiate phone contact when they choose, he adds.

Because of the Internet, "people won't just drive in like they used to and kick tires," Davis says. "We have to give them answers to their questions and we have to be responsive."

But some car shoppers don't make it all that easy to be responsive.

Dianne Whitmire, fleet sales director of Carson Toyota-Scion, in Carson, California, says shoppers often configure cars that either don't exist or are very hard to find. A brief phone conversation is the best way for her to find out what exactly will best suit the customer's needs so she can provide an accurate price. On the other hand, she wants to respect the wishes of someone who only wants to communicate via e-mail.

Another frustration is that many of the phone numbers people supply are "bogus," she says, and she winds up reaching a person who is angry because he's received a number of such calls.

Still, Whitmire says, the quote system is a valuable selling tool. It seems to work for her customers, too.

Getting a Price Without Getting the Runaround
After years of using this price quote system and hearing feedback from shoppers, I recommend these steps to get a solid price from the Edmunds dealer quote system — or any other quote system, for that matter.

1. Consider creating a new free e-mail address from a provider such as Google or Yahoo solely to contact and handle responses from dealers.

2. If the quote form requires a phone number, use the one for your cell phone. You can set your cell to vibrate and not take the call, but bear in mind that the car salesperson might actually need to talk to you in order to better understand the car features you want.

As one salesperson/commenter to this story has said: "Be responsive. Answer my e-mail or call, even if it's just to tell me that you were only browsing and aren't interested. I can take rejection but I can't read your mind. I get paid to follow up with you, but as soon as you tell me to stop, I will. In my case, it's just polite to do so, and it's also the law." And don't use a false phone number. The calls that go to that unfortunate party will be extremely annoying.

3. Be as specific as possible about the year, make, model, trim level and preferred colors for the vehicle.

4. Click the "Get Price Quotes" button.

5. Wait for responses. It won't take long. Most calls will come in over about the first two hours. If you don't want to talk right away, let the calls go to voice mail and then listen to them afterward.

6. Review the calls and e-mails, paying attention not just to the prices and availability information, but also the professionalism of the callers and e-mailers. As you move forward with your purchase, you will likely be working with one of these salespeople. You want to choose someone who is well-spoken, trustworthy and responsive.

7. Some e-mails might only say "Come on down!" Send such dealers this response: "I have already driven the car so I don't need to come to your dealership. However, I'm interested in knowing your best price. If you want me to consider giving my business to you, please let me know if you have this car and what your price is."

Used properly, the price quote system can not only help you find the right car at a great price, but will connect you with a good salesperson and make the transaction enjoyable. Good dealerships understand that.

"People want to be treated right," Davis says. "That will never change."

Comments

  • I work in the internet department for a large metropolitan dealership. The article makes some good points, but there is so much more to this process than what you see above. Let me just make a few suggestions that will help get your request handled in a professional and expeditious manner. 1. As mentioned in the article, DON'T MAKE UP A PHONE NUMBER. If I get a wrong number (and upset someone who is not interested in a car), or if I get a fax machine or a disconnected or otherwise non-working number, my interest in helping you takes a serious dip. I'm a professional, and I've bought cars before. I don't like being bombarded with calls and I won't do that to you. If you don't want me to call, just say so in the commenst section and I promise you that I will not call. 2. Be responsive. Answer my e-mail or call, even if it's just to tell me that you were only browsing and aren't interested. I can take rejection but I can't read your mind. I get paid to follow up with you, but as soon as you tell me to stop, I will. In my case, it's just polite to do so, and it's also the law. 3. Tell me what you want. Again, I can't read your mind. Don't just tell me that you're looking for a Mercedes C-Class. MSRP's on those vehicles can vary as much as $15,000, so I need more info to get you that price. Tell me that you want a Black C300 with tan interior and the Premium 1 Package. Tell me options or colors that you don't want, but give me something to go on. 4. If you're just looking to find out how much a car costs, or want more information, this is not the way to go about. If you want to find out how much a Mercedes S-Class costs, go to the website. That will show you the MSRP (which will get you in the ballpark) and you can probably download a brochure as well. If you're browsing WITH NO INTENT TO BUY, there are a multitude of ways to get that information without starting a chain of e-mails and phone calls that you don't want. I know that you want to be treated well and have your questions answered, and honestly I'm happy to do so. Just remember the golden rule -- do unto others...

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  • I used this for my wife's Jeep in January of this year, 2013, and it worked well. I tried it again, with both EDMUNDS and the two manufacturers this month. I got prices from one brand, and several, we need more information, come in and see us. Looking at what they had on their lots, they all seemed to be heavy with dealer installed options and just options in general. I did not like the response and was blunt about it. I told, I would send them all the exact specifications and options that I had filled out in the EDMUNDS build and price and the Brand's build it and submit for an online quote. Maybe it is my fault and maybe they just did not have enough information. Either way, all I am doing, as a last attempt, is writing down in an email and submitting the two versions of the vehicle I was interested in, with the options I filled out on both internet sites. We shall see.

  • Dear Edmunds, After using your service at the end of last year, 2013, I received the responses from the dealers I asked for and that all but one were on your list; I added it. All of them, all of them, either responded with something not close to my request, and/or the famous, "come on down, we can talk and you can answer some questions as to your preferences that were not on the quote request. Everything I wanted was on the quote request. You see, the problem is exactly like your number two complaint, you commonly mentioned by customers trying to do business with an online quote. They all wanted me to come on down and fill the in on the things that were not on the quote request. You basics like color, listed, and options requested, listed, and comments, listed, that they said they did not have. So, cut the speal. You have started doing business with dealerships. For one, the Antwerpen dealerships, they have a are notoriously bad, and very deserved, reputation for crooked sales tactics. I sold cars for a year when I was younger. Any salesman that lasts more than six months, has what it takes to sell. They used every trick I ever heard of or read about. I was warned a few years ago, but thought I would get by, and went in with my wife anyway. Nine hours and hundreds of lies and dozens of cheap tricks and we walked out at 1:30am, with a car that should have, could have, taken less than an hour. With me, you lose all of your credit and reputation by listing any Antwerpen dealership, as one of your Premier Dealerships. It is like recommending Wiillie Sutton to manage your bank. I tried very hard to locate Mr. Antwerpen, without luck. He has several levels of buffer between him and any customer, and you cannot even pay those online locate them sites to get his address. Finally, in frustration, a senior official I knew that had moved to another dealership told me, "Nothing happens at any Antwerpen dealership, without his hands on direction. I have purchased 21 vehicles in my life, 17 new, and, of all of them, Antwerpen Dodge, was the most dishonest, and it was not close. They even had to move from their Charksville, Maryland Auto Park site, because they had destroyed their reputation in the area. How can you make them a Premier Dealer? Shame. You sold out any reputation you had with me by doing that. You should ask me, I will tell you all the tricks they pulled. They only stopped then I said, from now on every time one of your salesman walks by and says this, or says that, or you again, misprint the agreed on price, "accidentally, "I lower my offer by $50. In about five minutes, and $150 salesman walk by lies later, they stopped. Worst buying experience of my life. Before we really got started, the initial salesman offered me $100 to send in a recommendation and high marks on him and his work. He had a secretary call to see if I was still interested in filling out the sheet. Normally everyone buying a car gets one from a dealership. Apparently, my tone of how I would just love to fill it out, and that I had great experience, was enough that I never got one. I did go in a ask for one, filled it out. Came back two hours later and found it in her, receptionist's trash basket. I guess all bad ones go there. Kevin Wethington

  • This is a comment response to Interstate One. I understand the not giving a correct phone number is a terrible hassle. Please understand my side. When I filled out the request for quotes with Edmunds and Ford and Chevrolet for a Mustang or a Camaro. I specifically stated in the comments box, that we had a very ill family member and it was very difficult to take phone calls. Still, of the 10 or so dealerships that were forwarded my quote request, I received calls from five. I crossed them off the list immediately. Further, there are a couple of online quote sites that do not have a box where you can ask not to be called or emailed. Finally, one Chevy Sales Manager showed me what he got from the Chevrolet, ONLINE QUOTE REQUEST, it was missing some of the data I had input. I should not have to explain my reasoning for not wanting to be called, but knowing how insistent Sales Managers can be to the staff, I included it as a courtesy. That is all. Your point is well taken.

  • sueswift sueswift Posts:

    I e-mailed a dealership yesterday about a BMW CPO and the first thing they want is to call me. When I replied that I really didn't want to talk, that I just wanted the "out the door" price, I got an e-mail back saying they have the figures but aren't allowed to provide them in an e-mail. Why????

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