As many of Consumer Reports’ regular test-car buyers have found, e-mail and the telephone can be effective aids in speeding up the negotiating process. This works best for buyers who have no trade-in and are either paying cash or have financing approved through another source.
The key is to determine the vehicle and exact configuration you want, scout out which dealerships have it in stock, and do a thorough walk-around and test drive of any vehicles you’re considering buying before you initiate telephone negotiations.
When you contact the dealer-ships, set the same ground rules you would if you were there in person. Tell the salesperson that you know what the dealership paid for the vehicle, have a reasonable target price in mind, want that price or the lowest markup over that price, intend to buy as soon as possible, are prepared to call him or her with your credit-card number (never e-mail your credit card number) for a deposit if you get the price you want, and if not, intend to call other dealerships.
Resist pitches for you to come into the showroom to get the best price. Point out that you don’t want to spend a lot of time going back and forth.
To get the price as low as possible, our buyers often need to call or e-mail several dealerships and then play one off the others.
One reason this method works is that the salesperson and dealership staff have so little time invested in this transaction that even if the dealership makes only a marginal profit, it still may be worth it.
Before you hand over your credit-card number, however, it’s important to have the dealership fax or e-mail the final contract to you so you can review it and make sure everything is correct, including the model, trim, and any options.
You can avoid the hassle by using the Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service to get competitive prices from local dealers who are held accountable for high customer satisfaction.