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Cruise Control: How to wheel and deal when buying a car:

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

If you’re one of those people that anticipates your car salesperson to steer you in the “wrong’ direction, you’re not alone. From those driven by prospect of a new purchase to the most mechanically minded, it’s often hard to get revved up about dealing with a dealership. Whether you on the prowl for a Prowler or out hunting (VW) Rabbits, you’ll want to avoid paying top dollar. But, driving the price down requires some skill at wheeling and dealing. Here’s some advice from the experts on how to jump-start a real bargain.

1. Leave’em hangin’: Never admit that you are READY to buy. Remember sales people make their money off of commission. The more money out of your pocket, the more that goes into theirs…and before you know it they’ll be driving home in the car YOU really want. Experts warn that displaying eagerness leaves you vulnerable to a variety of sales ploys, including the salesperson offering you a deal at slightly below the suggested retail price (MSRP) to see if you’ll bite. Once they’ve got you hooked, it gives the sales rep a chance to talk you up, instead of you talking him/her down. Experts suggest making your desire to buy known, but within certain stringent parameters. Tell the salesperson what YOU want, and be prepared to walk, if he/she is not prepared to give it to you. Industry leaders also recommend getting a head start on your search. Shop around, compare prices and don’t be afraid to flaunt the figures at salespeople from each dealership. Remember, competition is tight…and if they want your business, they will meet you somewhere in the middle. And, keep in mind (almost) any sale is better than no sale at all.

2. Avoid Financial Disclosure: If lose lips sink ships, they also don’t help much when negotiating the price of a car. Telling the salesperson how much you are willing to pay per month only serves to shift the financial power to them. According to experts, it’s quite common for the dealer to assure you that you’re getting a great deal (on your monthly payment) but you won’t really know what you’re paying for.

Experts emphasize that it’s the dealer’s objective to get you to commit to a specific payment amount. Once they’ve obtained that number they can work around it, cleverly getting you to squeeze out a slightly higher monthly payment. This enables them to increase the bottom-line amount by hundreds, sometimes thousands. Maintain a steadfast purchase price including taxes and all service fees and walk away if the dealer persists on negotiating monthly payments.

3. Refrain from “Taking It Out In Trade”: Experts suggest not disclosing a potential trade in until after an acceptable price has been set. By offering your car as “collateral” you are giving the dealer the opportunity to low ball your trade in value, even play “games”, playing one off the other.

4. Don’t Cash-In Too Soon: Buying a car outright all cash is great for YOU, but for the dealer, “not so much”. Professionals point out that dealerships and sales people profit quite nicely when they sell you financing. So, there’s no need to clue them into to your little secret. Instead experts suggest remaining vague as to your financial intentions by saying something like you’re still in the process of weighing out your options and what will be most financially feasible for you. Most of all, they stress, you have to call their bluff and give them confidence that you “may” be financing, so that they willingly offer you the best price. Still they suggest having a tentative financing plan, just in case.

5. Remember That Knowledge Is Power: If you expect the salesperson to be helpful, you may find you were right, at least until they make the sale, but if you expect him/her to be honest, you may want to consider some bridges for sale. They salesperson’s job is to make money for the dealership and himself. If you don’t know what you want, he/she will be more than happy to let you know what you “need”. Experts suggest “window” shopping before buying. You should familiarize yourself with the vehicles you like, the going sticker price, and all the amenities before even entering a dealership and (seriously) sitting down with a rep.

6. Contain Your Enthusiasm: Don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve. Even if you’ve just won the Meg-Millions Jackpot, and are about to purchase that cherry red convertible sports coupe you’ve always dreamed of, there’s no reason to let the sales person see you drooling. Instead pick up your jaw and handle the inquisition and transaction nonchalantly. Experts suggest devising a plan to keep your cool and sound convincing by pointing out both the pros and cons in a calm and confident manner.

7. Contest Popularity: No doubt your vehicle is a status symbol, but a word to the wise warn against trying to “outdo” the Joneses’ and looking for the hottest trends. Contemporary cars are generally fully loaded with enough extra amenities, even at the base model to be considered a luxury vehicle. “Popular Options” are merely a buzzword to dealers to sell you un-necessary (and often costly) extras that you can always add on later. Again, experts advise knowing your options and determining ahead of time what you want and need.

8. How Low Can You Go: According to experts, making this statement is among the least effective bargaining tools. They note that professional sales people expect this question and often use it to their advantage. Many may even go through the trouble of putting on the whole “act”: listening intently, making the expected facial and bodily gestures, “speaking” to a manager and then returning with a figure that’s most likely not much of a deal, at least not for you. All this to “guilt” you into accepting their terms. A better alternative, according to industry experts is beating them at their own game. Brush up on the cost, MSRP, sticker price and book value of the vehicle, put on your best poker face and be prepared to make a reasonable reduced offer. Wait patiently and quietly for the counter offer and anticipate a little drama and “haggling” even if it means you have to leave and wait to be contacted by the dealership in a few days.

9. Showing Off Their Figures: Dealers and sales people are notorious for “pressuring” you with fancy figures. Experts warn against allowing the sales representative corner you in his/her office and start talking numbers. They note that this is a “ploy” often used when the sales person senses that you are still “shopping” around and “undecided”. They suggest refraining from money talks until you are ready to do business.

10. Let’s Make A Deal: While you do want to negotiate, experts say you don’t want to sound accusatory or like you are haggling. You especially don’t want to give the salesperson the impression that you don’t trust them or have confidence in them….after all it’s your confidence they are trying to gain in order to make the sale. The more you show YOUR distrust, the least likely you are to get him/her on your side. Therefore professionals point out that it’s your job to “play nice” and get the salesperson on your side, at least while in the negotiating and buying stage. The best negotiating tactic recommended is being knowledgeable, doing your research and shopping around, this way you can politely (and truthfully) suggest that, while you’d like to do business, another dealer is willing to offer you a better deal.

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