I recently purchased a Hyundai Elantra from a dealership in Georgia. I did all negotiations online. Once I agreed on the price with a dealer via e-mail, all I had to do was go to the dealership, sign the paperwork, write a check, and take the keys. The purchase contract was already drawn up and there were no surprises. I wanted to share some lessons learned. Obviously there’s a lot to buying a new car. This is not meant to be all encompassing (separate trade in from purchase price, discuss price before trade in, etc). Please note many of these lessons may be specific to Hyundai or the location.
- Start requesting quotes about two weeks before you want to make the purchase. Any earlier and the dealers will either not be able to give you an accurate quote or will not be able to predict their inventory. Any later and the dealer doesn’t have time to make trades with another dealer to get your specific request, if necessary.
- Be clear and concise in your initial e-mail. Give an extremely precise description of what specs you want. If you aren’t specific enough, dealers will try to counter with vehicles/features that you aren’t interested in and you’ve wasted time for the both of you. You need to know exactly what you want if you are going to negotiate online. You should have already done a test drive and made your decision as to which vehicle you desire. Once you get initial quotes, you can ask how much certain features would add. This allows you to start off with a baseline so you can easily compare apples to apples across dealers.
- Ask for the out the door price in your quote. Most will send you a breakdown of each line item, but some will just give you the final price after all fees. The line item breakdown really doesn’t matter, but it’s interesting to see that the name of the fees and the way the dealers distribute them varies greatly. Ensure that you provide the dealer the county you plan to register in so he/she can calculate the correct sales tax.
- Don’t get bogged down in the accessories (floor mats, etc). Don’t mention them when requesting the quote. They are best used as “add-ins” once you get close to a final deal. You can usually find some of them on Ebay cheaper.
- Be cognizant of when the new year’s models will arrive. I ran into some confusion because the 2013 models started arriving on the lot and I was still negotiating 2012 models. This forced me to get another round of quotes and clarify the years offered. This could work in your favor if you’re looking for an end of year model discount, but that didn’t really apply to the Elantra because it’s so popular. There was no discount for the 2012, but the 2013 was about $300-500 more on average.
- Stay in touch with all the dealers, even if their initial quotes are not competitive. Some dealers will give you a competitive price out the gate, while others will give you a high ball quote. You can politely reply to them that their offer was not competitive, but that you would like to stay in contact. This worked for me as the dealer I purchased from had one of the highest initial quotes, but ended up dropping about $700 over three days once he realized that I had a firm grasp on the market. Every morning for three days, as the dealer looked at the vehicle still on the lot, he sent me another quote with a lower price until he finally reached my target price. This included one offer after the “final” offer. The only caveat to this is stop negotiating with anyone who you think is BSing you. For example, one dealer boasted of offering me a great discount on the “Paint and Fabric Protection,” which none of the other 10+ dealers I was talking to had ever even mentioned.
- Stay organized. I created a separate e-mail account. You will start getting a lot of e-mails and it was easier for me to organize the information in a separate account. I also made a spreadsheet to track all the different quotes. Once I had ten different quotes, I had a great feeling for the market.
The bottom line is to be patient and you will guarantee yourself a good deal. You’ll have some transparency in a very convoluted market. Get the dealers e-mail addresses directly from the dealer websites and don’t be afraid to contact dealers outside of your desired driving range. It’s good to know as many prices as you can and then use the information to better negotiate with local dealers. You can’t always go with the lowest quote. Some dealers will give you a quote, but will also let you know that they don’t have the specific vehicle on the lot. If you are dead set on a certain color, you may have to pay a little more to the dealer who actually has the car on the lot or see if the dealers will trade. Obviously, flexibility will save you money.