Car shopping can often be overwhelming for first-time buyers or those who haven't done it in a while. Most people do the following to get a price: Visit the car lot, test-drive, then spend hours going back and forth with a salesperson as they try to home in on a price that fits their budget. There's an easier way to do this and we'll explain how.

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Get an Edmunds Special Offer

Here's the fastest way to get an online price quote. Browse the Edmunds inventory page and find a vehicle you want to know more about. Some cars will have a "Lease Offer" link, and others will have a "Purchase Offer." After entering your contact information, both will present an upfront, guaranteed fair price on that specific vehicle at the dealership listed. The lease offer will instead show the monthly payment, total due at signing and list the mileage terms.

In either case, it is important to read the fine print and contact the dealership to verify that the vehicle is in stock. We recommend getting a few offers since pricing can vary from one dealer to the next. If you're not the negotiating type, the next step would be to take the best offer and redeem it at the appropriate dealership. Other shoppers have been known to use the offer as a reference point in negotiating a lower price.

If you see a vehicle on the inventory page that says "Request Price Quote," it means that it doesn't have a special offer, and your request will be sent out to the internet sales department of that dealership. A salesperson will then call and email you with the price quote.

Call Three Dealerships

This more traditional method may take a bit longer than an instant price, but it is still very effective. Call, text or email the internet sales manager of the dealerships near you. Make sure to include the stock number of the vehicle if you've found it on the dealer's web page. If not, the internet salesperson should easily be able to locate the car you want.

It helps to have a first and second color preference, as well as knowing your "must-have" options. The initial question might go like this:

"Hi, I'm Ron. I was looking for a 2018 Toyota Camry with leather seats and the safety package. I like red the best, but I'd be OK with a blue one, too."

The salesperson would then narrow down the choice for you, and, we hope, confirm that the car is in stock. A good reply on your part would be, "What's your asking price?" This is a soft way of asking them to make the first offer. A number of people make the mistake of saying, "What's your best price?" This approach can come off as abrupt and standoffish, which goes against the rules of negotiating. More on that here.

If you get a price over the phone, ask that your contact at the dealer also email it to you so you have it in writing. Now, do that at least two more times and you'll get a good idea of the real-world prices for this car. From here, you can either take the best offer or, if you like the price from dealer A but dealer B treated you better, ask that dealer to match the price.

In some cases, you'll run into dealerships who will ask that you come down and test-drive the car before talking price. Not every dealership will be willing to make an upfront offer for fear of the customer then shopping the price elsewhere. Thank them for their time and move on.

What About Used Cars?

Getting an online quote for used cars is slightly tougher since condition levels and mileage vary. It isn't quite an apples-to-apples comparison. Dealerships are willing to talk price over the phone or via email, but you'll want to make sure you've seen and driven the car before making a serious offer.

As when you're buying new, your goal should be to have a list of at least three vehicles you're interested in. Try to get as close as you can to the year, trim level and mileage. We'll now proceed with the assumption that you've test-driven them all. Reach out to the used-car salesperson at the dealership and ask for a price by email.

In some cases, the price quote will be the same as the listed price. Here's how to counter that: Use the Edmunds appraisal tool and enter the year, make and model of the vehicle you're interested in. Make sure that the trim, miles and options match as closely as possible because those factors will affect the results.

Pay attention to the following numbers: The dealer retail price is an estimate of what dealers will be selling the car for. The trade-in value is what the dealer might have paid for the car at auction or from the prior owner. Your goal is to make an offer in between those, allowing for some profit on the dealer's end. For example, if the dealer's asking price is $25,000 and the trade-in value is $22,000, you might want to counter with about $23,500 and work your way up.

Some salespeople will be more receptive to negotiating than others, but explaining that you've done some research on pricing goes a long way in showing that you're a serious and educated buyer.