How We Bought (and Negotiated for) Our Car

The following is a post by staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Her blog covers living expenses, saving for your future, and the fun stuff along the way.

When I asked my husband what personal finance experience sticks out in his mind, he immediately said “buying my car.” That was indeed a memorable deal. I’m also happy to talk about it since I was amazing, lol.

The Beginning

It all started when my husband decided that he needed a new car. Specifically, he wanted a small SUV that could easily handle all of his school supplies as a science teacher and sports officiating equipment at the same time. I physically cringed at the idea of owning an SUV since gas 2 1/2 years ago was reaching $4 a gallon around here!

Thankfully, he saw a Prius in our Kroger’s parking lot and was able to get a great look at its storage room in the back. He was hooked. That’s when I started looking into cost.

The Toyota Prius did not cost as much as I first guessed, but it was only a few thousand cheaper than the small SUV’s that were on our list. I never thought that I would ever need or want to buy any vehicle that cost more than $25,000, but he did need room and we do use his car for the majority of our driving. So I said nothing and continued looking up prices online.

The Purchase

By the time he had a free evening to test drive a Prius for the first time ever, I knew exactly what they were selling for ($26,000-$28,000), the Kelley Blue Book values of the 2008 models (about $26,000), what price I would be shooting for when he decided to buy ($26,500), and the APR we could get from my old credit union (4.5%). I thought I was fully armed.

I was not prepared for the fact that the 2008 Prius had a 200 person waiting list at that point. We were just lucky that a local dealer even had one to test drive. Sadly, it was a fully loaded model that they wanted $32,000 for after all the fees. It was also the ugliest reddish brown color that I had ever seen. It was supremely icky.

Once I figured out that they wouldn’t even negotiate due to high demand, I was ready to go. The salesmen scrambled to come up with something we might be willing to buy. They lucked out and found a 2007 silver Prius in the used car lot next door.

It was awesome. It had the same design, a few extras (like a back-up camera), and was still sparkly and clean despite it’s 30,000 miles. That was the rub. I had not researched used cars. I had no idea what it was really worth and Mr. BFS did not want to leave without that car. Of course, we should have left at that point and come back after doing a little research, but that wouldn’t have made such a good story, would it? :-)

The Negotiation

Yes, we stayed. I offered something laughably low in that high demand environment – $16,000. They countered with $26,000. I rolled my eyes and suggested they actually work with me and offered $18,000. They came down to $24,500. I said I could absolutely go no higher than $21,000 (honestly, I would have gone for $23,000). They made their “final” offer of $21,500. All of that took about 2 hours and we finally were sent to the Finance and Insurance department.

That guy was awful. He tried to sell us on a 7% interest rate and a $2400 extended warranty. The Certified Pre-Owned beauty was already well-warrantied for another 70,000 miles, but I wanted to see if the interest rate had any wiggle room. I asked how low he could go on the APR if we bought the warranty. He knocked it down to 4.1%. I then asked for him to remove the warranty from the works. When he went back to adjust the APR, I explained that I knew that the APR wasn’t actually effected by warranties and that I’d like it to stay at 4.1%.

Needless to say, we didn’t make friends with that guy, but we did leave with a great rate at the time for a used car. :-)

Results

When we finally were able to drive our “new” car home, I was dying to see how good of a deal I really made. When I frantically typed in all the relevant data into Kelley Blue Book, I was happily surprised to see that I paid $500 less than its “going rate” and a quick look at our credit report and a check-in with our credit union showed that our APR was pretty awesome too. I felt like I won the lottery until I realized we just signed away at least $23,000 in car costs and interest rate charges. Yuck.

In the end, we paid off the Prius by mid-2010 and ended up spending $23,400 total. It is still driving just like new and makes 50-52 miles per gallon, so I’m more than satisfied overall. My husband loves it and even said, “Cars are more fun to drive when they are affordable.” He has no idea how many hours I put into that, lol.

Tips for the Future

Here’s what I would keep in mind for my next car purchase:

  • Research the price, options, and APR for new AND used just to keep your options open.
  • Everything is negotiable, even APR and warranty costs. Keep that in mind.
  • Don’t let your spouse ever say the words “Oh, I really like that one”. :-)
  • Sometimes luck is better than skill, hahaha.

Have you ever gotten lucky on a big deal? Do you have any car buying experiences to share?

18 Responses to How We Bought (and Negotiated for) Our Car

  1. You did very well for yourself. I hate cars, but they are a necessity in a place as spread out as Dallas, Texas. I hope when my lease is up in two years and I am looking for my next car, I find a deal as good as yours.

  2. It sounds like you did a great job with your negotiations! Sometimes those things are a bit hair-raising, but if you go in there armed with numbers (like you did, sorta) usually you can get some good deals! I got my car when the dealers were HURTING – and even though I had a ‘real’ job for 2 weeks at the time, I still got a 1.9% rate and 3500 cash back!

  3. We bought a new car a couple of years ago. I had done research on the price of new and used cars. As Costco members we checked out the negotiated prices they had as well as the rates AAA was offering their members with selected new car dealers in the area. In the end, we went with a new car because at the time, new car dealers were giving away cars to make some sales (ie. August/September 2008). We got $2000 off the negotiated rate that Costco members were getting and a lower rate from the dealership than the rate my credit union was offering. I definitely felt like we scored with this purchase.

    • @Felicia Gopaul @ College Savings, I love it when things work out that well! I usually prefer new cars simply so I don’t have to deal with problems other drivers caused, but I will go either way if I can get a great deal!

  4. Aloysa says:

    This post reminded me of our dealership experience. We spent about three hours negotiating about the price. We were exhausted but we got a good deal. I did most of the talking because my husband doesn’t know and doesn’t like to bargain. I usually enjoy bargaining but not in a dealership. Great job, Crystal!

  5. Crystal, you of course hit my sweet spot with this post!

    So during negotiations, did you let it slip that you work very closely with dealerships and know their profit margins? Was anyone bleeding when you left the finance office?

    • Crystal says:

      @Car Negotiation Coach, lol, towards the end of the deal with the finance and insurance guy I did mention that if he switched to the company I work for, their forms would line up better in their printer and their deal software would look nicer. :-) No one was bleeding but he was shooting daggers at me for that APR thing…hehehe…

  6. krantcents says:

    Your tips are good! I would take it a step further, create a situation where you can go to the Fleet Manager. I do that when I buy a car! Your article reminds me why I have not bought a car i 16 years!

  7. LifeAndMyFinances says:

    My wife and I recently had our car die on us, and since we only owned one vehicle to begin with, we desperately needed to replace it.

    We found a Jeep Liberty that had a sticker price of $7500 on it. After some negociations, we got them down to $7200, including tax (so more like $6800). We decided to walk away from the deal since we really hadn’t researched the vehicle, and we wanted to pay with cash (we only had about $6600 saved).

    We went home and I decided to see what the dealership had the vehicle selling for online. Sure enough, the online price was only $6700! We went in the next day, showed them the printout and were able to get the Jeep for $6000 plus tax ($6400 total). It was a great deal, and I’m glad we walked away and did our research!

  8. DoNotWait says:

    Amazing job Crystal! Better than what I did! But I am still happy because you got the price we wanted. When we decided to change car earlier this summer, we too wanted a small SUV. We did not want to buy new though. I think there are much more good deals for used one out there. Sometimes just a year or two can make a huge difference. I checked out the prices of used 2008 and 2009 with low meters. There were quite expensive. Plus, I wanted the “bling bling” stuff!! I mean, leather and all that. But they all seemed to not have that. The spouse thought I was crazy. I said: If we look carefully and are patient, we will find one at the same price but with all features. And, well… we did! A “limited” edition, full equipped, a nice color (silver), low meter and the price we wanted. We did not negotiate that much, which I regret a little. But I love driving it and it feels good knowing I paid the exact price I wanted to pay.

    • @DoNotWait, being happy with your final price is all that really matters. I am sure I could have gotten them down another $500 if I really dug in, but I am happy with the final results too. I’m glad you enjoy your ride! :-)

      • Daniel says:

        @Crystal @ BFS, I love that, really it’s not the price that matters, but if you’re happy with it, you’re better off than stressing out and spending all that time to save a little more. You might save more, but if you aren’t as happy after, is it worth it?

  9. Josh says:

    Just great information here. Buying a car is just filled with stress and distrust. I love going to a dealership to drive and compare cars, but the actual buying process is a huge headache. Doing so much of it online can alleviate a lot of the aggravation.

Get Income and Money Saving Tips To Your Inbox

Get Income and Money Saving Tips To Your Inbox

Want more tips on how to make more money each month? Sign up to receive the great tips and tricks to boost your income and save more!

You have Successfully Subscribed!