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Used is the best way to go but that can take time and you do run some risks of issues even if you are mechanically inclined.
I think if you must go new, the key is patience and narrow your choices down to a couple of models otherwise understanding what is a good value becomes hard to easily determine in your head.
We just got what I consider a pretty good deal on a new Toyota CHR, I was against the idea but when my wife started talking about and using the word Lexus, I moved fast 🙂
We by chance found a decent salesman told him what we wanted and he called us about 2 weeks ago when he had it. The price was less than some of the cars they had on the lot of the same model that were 2-3 years old. They took almost 22% off MSRP then added half back on fees. Not sure you can negotiate well on the fees or not.
We showed up 30 minutes before closing and they had to curb the extra sales. If it was for me I might have tried to get better deal or waited till pandemic was over, which I guess is straight good advice but my wife felt she needed a car , she had enough of the 2008 mini van.
I don’t know if there is such a thing unless you are buying actual classic cars and you know your stuff. A good used car is the second best deal.
But this year I stumbled onto the best car deal I’ll ever get. I was going to pay cash for a new car from my 401K but they were offering 0.0% for 83 months. After doing the math and checking around at other dealers on the prices, I figured if I just withdraw enough money for my car payments every six months and leave the balance of the car loan invested that I could make an additional $4k-$5k in my 401K. If the ROR is above average then great, otherwise I am still paying 0%.
I figured this will be as close as a great deal on a new as I’ll ever get.
It has been since 9/11 that there has been low car interest rates. I fear inflation is going to come back fast and hard and the days of <4% interest rates will be gone. (my first car loan in 1982 was at 18%)
First off, only buy one every 10 years or so. “Time heals all wounds” including your not quite perfect pricing strategy.
I prepare in advance, know what I want to buy, and have looked at new or used cars online before I show up at a dealer. I generally test drive several cars/models at more than one dealer to see how they feel and handle.
I haven’t tried Costco yet but might give that a try yet!
I have in past decades enjoyed showing up at a dealer with a little kid or two or three in tow. Knocks the sales staff off their everyday game. Plus you can see if there’s really enough room in the back or the way back for everyone on a test drive. A little kid is sure to press every button (literally) in the sales office.
I also like to shop on rainy Sundays, preferably near the end of the month, preferably when there’s a big game on the schedule. Anything to increase the interest of the sales staff to operate efficiently. This also allows me to see how cars handle bad weather.
I’ve had success on Craigslist buying and selling inexpensive, small cars. My current vehicle is a 2008 Yaris I bought for $4200 5 years ago. Still runs like a champ and I haven’t put significant money into it. With the run-up in used car prices, I wonder what it is valued at right now (but I digress).
I think it’s worth it to check your local Craigslist to see if you can find a great deal. Often, people look to get rid of their old wheels quickly on there, but you have to have a discerning eye for quality. Having it checked out by a mechanic is a wise move. Knowing how to transfer the title, register the care in your name, and getting your plates timely is important. And don’t play games with taxes – pay your sales tax!
My folks recently used Carvana for a quick dump of their old car and drop-off of the new vehicle. The process was actually a little clunky in that Carvana canceled the order once or twice, so it could have been smoother. But I imagine that method will get better when inventories improve.
We use the Costco auto buying program (which handles new and used vehicles). In the past we saved about 8-10 off the sticker price, with no obligation to buy or get financing from a dealer. We have a credit union that has very favorable rates (like 1.99 per cent for 60 months) if we need it.
The thing I like about the Costco program is once you pick the vehicle, they will give you a price with no negotiation – take it or leave it. The dealer also offers a trade in price if you need that.
Costco can also refer you to dealers outside your area if you are looking for a special model.
Read up on the models you’re interested in and then spend a day test driving them. Now you’re in a position to decide on the one you want, and which colors and options are acceptable. Do the rest entirely by email (I don’t negotiate by phone—too lengthy and unpleasant—and try to avoid even giving out our phone number).
Contact (via email) a bunch of dealers, including ones located out-of-town but within a manageable drive, and tell them what you want and ask for a price quote. You will have plenty of back-and-forth as you narrow it down to the most aggressive on their pricing. This process will take a week or more, so give yourself some time.
I’ve found that there’s a big difference between prices among dealers, and it is definitely worth going through this process. And the fact that you can do the whole thing on your laptop and avoid all the dealer visits (after the initial test drive) makes all the difference.