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Car Buying: How to Negotiate the Best Deal

Going to a dealership and negotiating with a salesman may fill you with dread. But it doesn’t have to, according to Angie Anderson of Credit Union Lending Systems. Angie regularly gives Car Buying Seminars for the credit union to prepare potential buyers on the art of negotiation. Some of her highly sought recommendations include:


The key to any big purchase is preparation. Even before stepping into a dealership, do your homework. The Internet has made it easier than ever to find out the dealer’s cost for each vehicle and its options. Set a target price and start comparing rates. If you plan to trade in your current vehicle, find out its value in the NADA Guides or Kelly Blue Book.

It is important to consider the purpose of most of your driving. Is it commuting? Hauling kids? Weekends? Vacations? Finding out how different vehicles were rated in different categories from sites like consumer reports. They will help you distinguish hype from fact.

Personal Inspections

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the entire car buying process, but it is recommended that you thoroughly review the entire vehicle as closely as possible before making any commitments. Everything you discover can be used in your negotiations. Here are things to look for:

  • Check the exterior and the paint for dents and scratches.
  • Check the alignment, shock absorbers, tires, frame, windshield, windows.
  • Check for rust – everywhere, especially tire wells.
  • Check the interior including the seats, pedals, backseat, and trunk.
  • Make sure all the buttons work: the air conditioner, the electric seats — anything that you push, pull, turn, or lever.
  • Check the engine, all gauges, coolant, oil, all fluids, battery, air filter, power steering, and the transmission.
  • Take a test drive. See how the car runs on the highway, up hills, down hills, and backing up.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the dealership mechanic to check out the car.

Never Appear Ready to Buy

Your actions at the dealership matter. Be comfortable and casual, but also be prepared to walk out if you are being pressured. Try to act like you are in a hurry and never sit down. It is important not to complete any paperwork until you are ready to close the deal.

When to Buy

The best time to buy a car is at the end of the month, an hour before the dealership closes. Have your research well prepared before making an offer, possibly even starting your negotiation a few days before going in to close the deal. The advantages of buying at the end of the year are that trades-ins are worth more in December than January.

Additional Coverage Options

  • Extended Warranty shields you from future repair costs – even older used cars with high mileage. No matter where you travel in the U.S., you are protected against major mechanical expenses, with no deductible on covered parts or labor.
  • Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) helps pay off your remaining loan balance if your vehicle is stolen or totaled in an accident – so you can start fresh with a new vehicle purchase. It’s inexpensive and can be rolled into your loan payments.
  • Life and Disability Insurance takes care of your payments or outstanding balance in the event of disability or death. It protects you and your family by removing the financial burden of your loan should something happen to you. No physical exam or medical questionnaire is required.


  • Research! Set your target price, compare rates, and decide on the car you want.
  • Get pre-approved with a financial institution (but don’t mention this in your negotiations with the dealership until a price has been agreed upon).
  • Negotiate the vehicle price, and then discuss your trade-in if applicable.
  • Unless previously decided through your financial institution, negotiate warranty, GAP, and life and disability insurance.
  • Close the deal and drive away in your brand new ride!

When financing a car, you should be certain your lender 
has your best interest in mind. Tigers will work hard to offer you the 
lowest rate possible and monthly payments that fit into your budget. Apply online or call Member Services at 573.443.8462 for more information and happy shopping!

Additional Resources:
See if Your Used Car is a “Lemon”
Find Out a Car’s Complete History at CARFAX 
Visit Enterprise Car Sales for credit union discounts