This is not a scientifically backed up study, just personal experience. We have bought many cars in our 15 years of marriage (and I had bought 3 before we were married). One way we save money is to NEVER buy new. We buy a vehicle that is 2-3 years old and save on the vast depreciation that occurs in those first few years.
Another thing we do is look for a car that might have slightly higher kilometers. Not hugely, but just a little. This allows us more room to negotiate. We also choose brands that we know have a track record for making it to very high mileage (think Toyota). I don’t think twice about buying a 4-year-old Toyota with 120,000 km on it, but I sure do on some other makes!
We try to limit our shopping to the end of the month. Car dealerships need to liquidate as many vehicles as possible to ensure they make their quotas. This means the car needs to be purchased (and usually picked up) by the last day of the month. Try shopping 3-4 days before the end of the month to achieve this.
Another thing we do to ensure quality, shop at the LARGER name brand dealerships. Not only do they typically have more room to negotiate, but they also tend to stand behind their sales more than the little guy.
If you completely luck out, you will find your perfect vehicle, at the end of the month, on a really ,really yucky weather day. The best deal we ever got was for a 2006 Toyota Camry (which we bought in January of 2010). It was the 2nd last day of the month, and it was a HUGE snowstorm. No one but us was in the dealership. When we negotiated the manager said two things to us: 1) I don’t have a choice, I’m in the business of selling cars and 2) It’s not like anyone else is buying today. Both of those reasons allowed us to get the car for about $4000 less than it was worth.
And finally, have a number you are willing to pay in mind, and BE PREPARED TO WALK AWAY! Don’t get emotionally attached to the process and let it cloud your judgment and cause you to pay more than you wanted to! There will ALWAYS be another car that will fill your need. If you really are set on that car, check back in a day or two and see if there has been any more willingness to move on the price. Slow and steady really does win the vehicle purchasing race!
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