Internet Prices on the Showroom Floor | Edmunds

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Internet Prices on the Showroom Floor

This In-Person Internet Strategy Saves Time and Money


There are people who always buy their cars by walking into a dealership, looking at inventory and sitting down to talk price. It doesn't matter that there's strong evidence that online car-buying research and negotiation save time and money.

Maybe you're an on-the-ground shopper. Perhaps you can only take one day off work to buy a car and need to hash out the entire purchase in a few hours. Maybe car shopping tends to be an impulse decision for you and you don't do much — if any — research. Maybe you get a kick out of negotiating with salespeople.

In any case, this article isn't here to talk you out of going to a dealership. But we'd like to present an alternate strategy.

Rather than wait for a salesperson to approach you at a dealership, we suggest you go directly to the reception desk and ask for someone from the internet sales department. We tried this a few years ago when we were shopping for a minivan for our long-term fleet. In less than an hour, we made a deal for at least $1,000 less than if we had been shopping the conventional way. You can do this, too.

The No-Pressure Internet Manager
Here's how our purchase went: We went into a Toyota dealership in Santa Monica, California, sidestepped several salespeople and asked the receptionist for a salesperson from the dealership's internet department. Her expression told us that this was an uncommon request, but she went along.

And so we met courtly, no-pressure Mark. We told him we wanted to buy a Toyota Sienna. He walked us outside to see the minivan and offered to let us test-drive it. We declined since we had already driven one. We just asked him to give us a price.

Mark led us to his office, which was across a busy street from the dealership and removed from the usual selling atmosphere. Mark turned his computer screen toward us, pointing at the Sienna's MSRP, the invoice price and all the options. He then said he would sell it to us for $500 over invoice.

We needed to confirm whether that was a competitive price, so we pulled out a smartphone and configured the Sienna on the Edmunds mobile site to see what others were paying. It listed the Edmunds True Market Value® price as $1,037 over invoice. This meant that Mark's offer of $500 over invoice was well below the average price that other people were paying for the car. So we made the deal.

We gave Mark a check as a deposit and arranged to have the minivan delivered to our office the following week. We left the dealership about an hour after we had arrived.

The next week, Mark arrived with the Sienna and the paperwork. We asked what the price would have been if we had gone the conventional route. He said it would have been $1,000 more "at least." The "at least" was probably because he was thinking that a conventional sale would have concluded in the finance and insurance office, where the dealership would have offered us additional products and services.

Showroom Shopping Tips
When you're buying a car, you should try to handle as much of the deal as you can online or over the phone. Edmunds makes this easier with special offers that provide you with a locked-in, up-front price for a new car without having to set foot on a dealer lot. But, if you like some of the hands-on aspects of car buying, you might try out this internet-in-the-showroom approach. Here are a few tips:

  • Schedule a test drive by calling the dealership and asking for the fleet or internet manager. Ideally, you want to schedule a few test drives in one day so the impressions of each are fresh. Then sleep on it and make the decision later. Let the salesperson know if you're in the research stage or if you're ready to buy. You can get a head start on the loan application over the phone if you give the salesperson some information on your finances.


  • If you started the buying process with an email or phone call, get the dealership contact's name and continue dealing with him or her when you are on the car lot. If you're coming onto the lot cold, ask the receptionist to get you a salesperson from the internet department.


  • Check for a supplemental window sticker or ask if there are any dealer-installed options. These can complicate the negotiations. If you don't want the options, ask if they can be removed or consider shopping elsewhere.


  • Check to see what others are paying so you can spot a good deal when you see one. Additionally, look for special offers on the Edmunds inventory pages. You might find a better deal at a nearby dealership. Compare the quote to the TMV price to confirm that it's a good deal.


  • Before agreeing to any deal, ask for the "out-the-door price" or a list of all the fees you'll have to pay. You should only be charged for the purchase price of the car, local sales tax, a documentation fee and registry fees.

If you follow these steps, you might be able to get the same quick action and good price enjoyed by internet shoppers.


To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.

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