15 Things Car Dealerships Don’t Want You To Know

Many Americans equate a trip to the car dealership with a trip to the dentist. You have to do it sometimes, but it’s not going to be fun.

If you want to make your time at the dealership less stressful, it’s helpful to know about some tips and strategies to get the best possible deal on a new or used car. This information can make you feel more confident when you step onto the lot and ask to take a test drive.

While some dealerships may share these industry secrets with you, others are less forthcoming. Before you head to the dealership, use this list to learn about the things dealers don’t want you to know when purchasing a new vehicle.

1: Negotiation Tactics

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When you’re purchasing a new vehicle, you’ll see its MSRP, which stands for manufacturer’s suggested retail price. A dealership wants you to negotiate based on the MSRP, but you may not get the best price this way.

According to Edmunds, an automotive resource site, you should start negotiations with the dealer’s asking price. This price can reflect discounts on the MSRP and incentives the dealership receives from auto manufacturers.

2: Out-the-Door Price

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The sticker price you see on a car window usually isn’t the amount you end up paying for a vehicle. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask the dealership for the out-the-door price.

While the sticker price usually includes the MSRP and other options, such as packages, it doesn’t reflect the final selling price. The out-the-door price is the cost of the vehicle when you factor in registration fees, sales taxes, and other additional costs.

3: Get Manufacturer Quotes

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Want to compare quotes from different dealers without leaving your living room? Head to the car manufacturer’s website.

If you know the vehicle you want, go to the brand’s website and select the model, along with the colors and features you want. Once you put in this information, you can get quotes from different dealerships. Use these quotes to negotiate for the best price on a new car.

4: Shop for a Loan

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If you’re like many people, you may need to finance your new or used vehicle. Shopping for a car loan before you head to the dealership can give you more options and better rates.

Some dealer-financed loans come with markups, according to the credit reporting agency Experian. Plus, getting a preapproval can prevent a dealership from selling you extras that you don’t need.

5: Know Your Credit Score

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If you choose to use the dealership for financing, know your credit score before you go. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says your credit score is one of the biggest factors that determines the interest rate you’ll receive.

Also, be aware of the impact of multiple credit checks on your credit score. Some dealers may request rates from up to five lenders. If you visit multiple dealers who all do credit checks, your credit score may take a hit.

6: Consider the Final Cost

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Some people who finance their vehicles think about loans in terms of monthly payments. However, make sure you know the final cost of the vehicle once you’ve finished paying off a loan.

Many dealerships will do whatever they can to adjust a loan to meet your preferred monthly payment, even if it means extending the terms. In the long run, you may end up paying much more in interest. When you know the final cost you want to pay, you can better determine the monthly payments to make.

7: Cost of a Trade-In

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Trading in your vehicle can be a convenient way to sell your old car and put the money toward a new vehicle. Trading in your old car to a dealership, however, may result in a higher purchase price for the new car, according to a Forbes analysis.

If you can, refrain from telling a salesperson about your trade-in until you’ve received a quote for the new vehicle. That way, they won’t use the value of your trade-in against you. You can also consider other options for trading in your car, such as car brokers.

8: Sell Privately

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You can also prevent a trade-in disadvantage by selling your car privately. It takes some extra work, but you often get a much better price for your old vehicle than you can through a dealership.

When selling your vehicle privately, use an online resource, such as Kelley Blue Book, to determine a fair price for your car. Be open to negotiation but know the lowest sales price you can afford.

9: Don’t Finance Extended Warranties

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Many dealerships sell extended warranties, which can cover the costs of repairs or replacements after a manufacturer’s warranty expires. While an extended warranty can be worthwhile, don’t let a dealer talk you into rolling a warranty into your financing plan.

When you include an extended warranty in your vehicle financing, you have to pay interest on it, according to U.S. News and World Report. In addition, a dealer may try to sell you on this option to keep you from understanding the total cost of the warranty.

10: Be Wary of Add-Ons

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Dealerships often try to sell additional products, such as gap insurance or rustproofing. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that dealers may add these products to your vehicle purchase without getting your approval.

At the dealership, do your due diligence and make sure a dealer hasn’t included add-ons that you don’t want. If you decide to purchase an add-on, ask the dealer to put the cost in writing.

11: Money-Back Guarantees

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Did you purchase an extended warranty or other add-on at the dealership, only to get home and immediately regret it? Fortunately, you have some options.

In many cases, you can get a full refund on a service contract if you cancel within the first 30 or 60 days. Even if you’re outside this time frame, you can usually call to get a prorated refund.

12: Get an Inspection

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If you’re buying a used car, the dealership should provide you with a vehicle inspection report, which shows the car’s accident and damage history. However, it won’t provide details about potential mechanical issues.

For this reason, consider getting a mechanical inspection before you buy a used car. Some mechanics may offer mobile services and come to the dealership if you’re not allowed to take the vehicle off the lot.

13: Good Deals in December

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If you want the best deal on a car (and your current one runs fine), you might consider waiting to buy until the end of the year. Dealerships usually offer discounts in December to meet end-of-year targets.

In particular, the week between Christmas and New Year’s can be a prime time to buy a vehicle, according to Newsweek. At this point, many dealerships already have new model years available, which means outgoing years may be discounted.

14: Review Your Contract

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When you’ve already spent hours at the dealership, you might be tempted to sign your name to a contract just so you can leave. But it’s in your best interest to review a contract carefully before signing.

When you take the time to look over the contract, you may catch some fees you didn’t notice before, such as dealer document fees. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate for a lower price.

15: Know the Return Policy

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Hopefully, your trip to the dealership ends with a new vehicle you love at a price you can afford. If it doesn’t, you may have the option to return a new car, depending on the dealership and where you live.

There’s no federal law requiring dealerships to offer a return policy, according to the FTC, but some states implement this rule. Dealerships may also offer their own policies, often known as a cooling-off period or a money-back guarantee. If you’re worried about a vehicle purchase, make sure you know the dealership’s return policy before you buy.

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