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The Slickdeals Approach to Negotiating the Price of a New Car (Updated July 22, 2010)

thelnel52 2,505 March 26, 2010 at 02:29 PM

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Last Edited by thelnel52 July 22, 2010 at 12:44 PM


By: Alex Craig (SD User: thelnel52)

Preface: There have been numerous threads in the past (on this site and on others) that have dealt with the topic of buying a new car. The approach that follows is the author's (who worked as a car salesman for all of a summer) suggestion, based on personal experience, advice from elsewhere on the web, and basic econ theory. We plan to update this article periodically if users have suggestions for improvement. Although it is a work in progress, it has been verified to work and is more effective than what the majority of new car shoppers end up doing. Also, stay tuned, as more "Slickdeals Approach to..." posts are coming, covering other auto topics (selling/buying a used car, financing a car) as well as other general financial topics...

March 26, 2010
Updated July 22, 2010

NOTE: The article originally featured as the first source for information. A user pointed out that actually does a better job- I gave the site a try and found that (1) the prices seem to be lower for a number of different cars and (2) there is much more information, including holdbacks, average prices paid, etc. That's why, in the update, I changed the links. Also, I reached out to and a representative of the company will be here, in this thread, starting Friday the 23rd of July to answer any questions that you guys might have about TrueCar specifically or car buying in general.

Some people know offhand how many lb-ft. of torque a Mustang GT has and how long the Prius' battery is under warranty. Without even thinking, they know the tissue on a 3-series, what a money factor of .00015 translates to in terms of APR, and when the Hyundai Genesis is due for a redesign. They know how to find if a dealer is close to a volume bonus or if he's struggling to pay his lease, and they know how to figure out how many days a particular car has been on the lot. Armed with this information (and tons more), these people can walk into a dealership, stare into the dealer's soul, and get the absolute best price. If you're one of these people, skip to the end of this post, because it will bore you, but please stay around to answer some questions below.

For the rest of us, the Slickdeals approach to negotiating the price of a car, although not as effective as the soul-reading approach, is beautiful in its simplicity. I worked as a car salesman, and about 95% of the people who bought from me could have done better if they had followed the approach outlined below. The overriding goal is to get the dealers competing with one another for your business; there are only three steps.

1. Find a Starting Point
Once you know the model and the options you desire, go to, build the car, and SAVE THE PRINTOUT (this will be handy for the rest of the negotiation)

2. Get Them Bidding
Send a message to every dealer of that make within a 100-mile radius (this can be done by going to the brand's website and searching, most of the time there is a "contact us" button) that includes:

a salutation (better if you can find a specific name, but "Fleet Sales Manager" is ok)
the specific model and options you desire,
the date you will purchase the car,
an indication that you are soliciting "bids" for two days
an indication that bids should not include taxes or dmv fees, but should include everything from the dealership (including destination charges, etc.)
the TrueCar price,
your phone number and email address,
your name
(use the letter below as a guide):

Dear Fleet Sales Manager,

I am planning on purchasing a new '10 Ford Edsel EX, with the comfort package. I am indifferent to the color. For the next two days, I am taking bids- please contact me with your price for this car, with these options, inclusive of the all fees except for tax and dmv fees. If you have the lowest bid, I will come in on Monday morning at 11:00 to take delivery. As a starting point, I have a bid from TrueCar of $21,324 on a car with an MSRP of $24,333, including destination charges.

I can be reached at 909.234.5678 or by responding to this email.


Mr. Slickdeals

3. Declare a Winner
Wait two days- Save emails, and if a dealer calls, be polite, but as direct as possible. Ask "what is your bid and what is the MSRP of that particular car?" and write the numbers down. Next, ask "what is your name and do you have a direct number?"- write that information down, too. Also note the time and date that the call took place.

Once all of the bids are in, hopefully there's one clear winner. If no one could beat TrueCar, then just go with TrueCar dealer. If you end up going with a dealer, email the fleet manager and say "Your offer of x for y with z options was the lowest. Please let me know the VIN and I would like to come in Monday to take delivery". When you come in, make sure to have a copy of this email and his response (or your notes from the phone conversation), just in case there's a "misunderstanding".

Note 1: The 100 mile radius suggestion is applicable if you life in an area that isn't particularly densely populated, such as the central valley of California. If you live in an area with car dealers every five miles, then you can probably reduce that number. If you live in North Dakota, then you might expand it to 250 miles.

Note 2: You can also include more than one make/model with your note. In fact, it's preferable that you do. Just think- if you're buying a 52" LCD tv, you don't just go out looking only at Samsungs. You probably find prices for a Samsung, a Sony, a Panasonic, an LG, and a Vizio. It's tough to tell what the best deal is until you know what the prices are relative to one another.

If you have a better method, or suggestions to make this method better, please post below.

Thank you Andy Newson for the image above

Image: Andy Newson /


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Oooh that sucks!!

Unfortunately there's no way to prevent that, but cross that dealer off of your list & don't talk to them again. I would say there's a very high chance that they did that on purpose. I mean, it's POSSSIBLE that it was a mistake, but I doubt it.

All of this "manager" versus "salesguy" talk is 99.9% BS. Salesguys know the price of everything on the floor; they know what they can sell it for & they know what their profit margin is. Managers do not magically set or approve any prices. The sales guy likes to make you think that there's this secret deal he's making in the back room with the manager, but he's really just getting coffee or taking a smoke break.

Read this, if you haven't already:
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Quote from mrdd View Post :
Is there any way to avoid this from happening. I had this email conversation today and it wasted my entire evening


I asked him for a timetable for when that price would no longer be available (it was well below any other price i had seen so i was skeptical)

he responded

this was quite a drive (2 hours away), but the deal was great. on the way we were in touch over the phone multiple times, he started filling out the paperwork with our information so we could get it right when we got there, because it would be close to closing. about 30 minutes out (around 7pm) we get a call from him telling us that he made a mistake and it was really going to be 28k+ and when i spoke to the manager he said that his employee was wrong and that wasnt the price and there is no way he is going to honor it
That is really a bummer. I would try a little higher on the food chain, though. It might be worth your time to try to determine who the owner is and write a polite, concise email outlining the situation. Something like:

Dear Mr. Owner,

This weekend, I was in contact with the internet sales department at your X dealership, regarding the purchase of car A. Via email (see attached conversation), your salesperson and I agreed upon a reasonable price. After agreeing on the price, I made the two hour drive from A to B. When I reached your store, I was told by your manager on duty that he would not honor that price, and he tried to sell me the car for nearly $x more.

The reason I'm reaching out to you, though, isn't because I immediately plan on trying to enforce that agreement, claim "bait and switch", or anything in that arena. More than that, I wanted you to be aware of this incident because I can't imagine that is how you want your dealership to run. Finally, I know that my perspective of the situation is obviously biased, so I wanted to give you a heads-up that once I "cool down" a bit, I plan to share my version of this story on Yelp,, and If you would like, I can send you a link to each of these so your team has an opportunity to share their version of the story with your future customers.


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Thanks for your feedback. I was going through the chain of events and I think i know the tipping point. I think it was the financing, we were doing the paperwork over the phone and giving them necessary information and finally got to financing, this is when we let them know we would be paying cash. A couple of communications later about possible problems that had to settled was when they called back and said "no deal"
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Dear All,

First and foremost, this thread helped a lot and Thanx to all the contributors. I would like to add my experience and hope it helps. I discovered a new way they try to cheat you when you have a vehicle to Trade-In.

I went to a big car dealer in South Jersey with an intent to buy Nissan Rouge and trade-in my old car. As explained here and other places, I had done most of my negotiations for the new car already and knew the price at which I was going to bite the bullet. When I was there, inevitably, i had to do two more rounds and finally the sales person came back with $X for the new car and $Y for my trade in (best possible from their end). During this time, I received another quote by a nearby dealer for much lesser OTD price. SO told the sales person that they have to match this or else i am walking out. He gave me the B.S about how the other dealer will not pay the trade in price that he is offering etc. etc. I told him thats my headache and not to worry bout it. And just to tell me if he can match it or not. This triggered the "Manager" and some more attempts to convince me. When they saw I won't budge, the manager asked the sales guy to get my old car appraised (which they didn't do till then).

After 10 mins, the guy comes back with my registration and says "You can go anywhere but you won't get the price you want because there is a front frame damage on CarFax report". I had checked the carfax thoroughly when i bought the vehicle 2 Yrs back. Though I was pretty sure it was an absolute lie, I was taken aback by this (and honestly started doubting that something had gone wrong wit the car/its history). So I just walked out of there and drove away. After 5 mins, the same guy calls me and says, they can do it but only if i can finance through them for 4.99% APR. So that was another of their techniques to cheat. Beware if you have a trade in and carry a CarFax report yourself, if you have one.
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I encountered the same problem when I bought a car a few years ago. I ended up financing with the dealer and paying the entire amount when my first payment was due. All I lost was one months interest.

Quote from mrdd View Post :
Thanks for your feedback. I was going through the chain of events and I think i know the tipping point. I think it was the financing, we were doing the paperwork over the phone and giving them necessary information and finally got to financing, this is when we let them know we would be paying cash. A couple of communications later about possible problems that had to settled was when they called back and said "no deal"
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has anyone bought a car through truecar recently?
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I did 2 things before negotiating for the price of the car I wanted via Internet sales departments of most of the larger dealerships in the area: I secured a pre-authorization letter for my financing (6 years at 1.9%) from my credit union and I got a written offer from CarMax to buy my car (good for 7 days). That took those 2 things out of the equation (plus CarMax will pay twice what the dealerships will for your trade-in so it provides good ammunition for bargaining).

Then I emailed maybe the largest 20 Toyota dealerships around here, plus two very high volume dealerships a little further away that I had read offer the lowest prices in the state, and found one that offered the car I wanted with the features I wanted for the lowest price. Turns out it was local. But I had been planning on taking an emailed offer from dealerships that were located a little further away to my local dealerships to ask them to match the price (and they almost certainly would have done so). I checked out what people were paying for a similarly equipped vehicle on Edmunds forums and on ToyotaNation's forums, and I checked out Edmunds' and TrueCar's estimates of what people were actually paying for a car equipped the way I wanted it to be. I figured out that you sometimes get better prices on better equipped cars if the dealers have a lot of cars equipped that way on the lot, rather than customizing the upgrades so much that there may only be one car equipped like that for miles around (one car = no competition = higher price). IOW a package of upgrades may turn out to actually be cheaper in the long run than trying to find a car that has just one feature from that package of upgrades.

Once I narrowed the candidates, chose the dealer I'd buy from and we agreed on the price, only then I went to the dealership. I had used my first initial and last name only, and never spoke on the telephone with them, so they didn't know I was a woman until I walked in. (I KNOW I wouldn't have been offered nearly as good a price had I walked onto the lot rather than negotiating price by email).

Took the car for a relaxed drive with the salesman and did the paperwork. Was a very relaxed and fast transaction because we'd already done our negotiating.

When it came time for financing to be offered, I pulled out my pre-authorization letter and told them sure I was interested in financing - IF they could beat what the credit union was giving me rate-wise. They hummed and hawed and finally offered to match it, but I declined and said that I already was authorized for the loan with my credit union and there was no benefit for me to have a bunch more credit inquiries if they couldn't offer anything better. So then we got to the trade-in.

They offered half of what CarMax had offered me, so I pulled out my CarMax quote and said that I'd be happy to trade-in my car if they could beat or at least meet the CarMax price (honestly I was alone so there was value to me in being able to leave my old car there and drive my new car home, rather than having to figure out how to get both cars home). I already knew the CarMax price was fair. They agreed to match it.

Shopping for financing and getting a trade-in offer ahead of time makes a huge difference. That way all you need to focus on is getting the very best price you can for the new car. You can deal with the financing and trade-in afterwards as separate transactions. Or leave them out of the discussion completely if you want.
Last edited by SeaJay June 4, 2013 at 12:03 PM
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Quote from acesmuzic View Post :
has anyone bought a car through truecar recently?
What they offer to do for you for a fee you can easily do on your own for free. And probably get lower quotes too since the dealers don't have to pay a 3rd party (i.e., Truecar) a referral fee.
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I've used truecar as a bargaining tool to find the base price of the car I wanted and worked it down from there. I wouldn't use it though, in my experience you can get a lower price.
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i ended up ~$400 under invoice on a new accord (at a dealership that offers free lifetime oil changes + loaner cars), and including the destination/handling fee, primarily thanks to internet negotiating with 7 dealers within 30 miles of me. i also got quotes through edmunds & truecar.

i took the quote from the lowest price dealer to my 1st choice dealer to give them an opportunity to match/beat. i would have been happy with a match, but they were honest with me and said they couldn't do it. overall a very pleasant experience (but not enough to spend ~1K more!); they didn't waste my time and i left with a favorable impression.

the other dealer was ~35 min away and it was a completely different experience. the saving grace was that i had the low quote, and they *really* didn't want me to leave. the salesman pulled a lot of the typical tricks: he disappeared for long stretches of time, took me for a test drive in the "only car they had left with the options i wanted", tried to convince me to pick another color, and only then *finally* said they couldn't honor the quote (was only good through 7/1). the new quote was $400 more, but i got him down another $200 thanks to his slipup when i had no real leverage left, since no one else would have come anywhere close to that in price ("what would it take for you to close the deal today? what if we split the difference").

they sent the finance guy to try to convince me to finance through them (i had already been approved for the amount i needed through my credit union), and my uncle had already agreed to purchase my current vehicle for a fair price for his two young adult kids (neither of whom have a license yet) so once we agreed on a price, the rest was "easy".

having a bottom line price in mind before ever walking in the door and getting some quotes to get a feel for what things were *really* going for in my area in advance are what made the difference.
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Going to be buying a Mazda CX-9 in the next few weeks. I am going to be trying this [] which is similar to the slickdeals method. Hoping to get the Touring for under 30k OTD. If I can get the tech package at that price it would be a real coup.

It looks like the only incentive offered right now is if I finance through mazda. Annoying since I will be paying cash. I guess I could pay it off with the first payment.
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I bought my last car using Truecar. Got 3 offers which were similar, and I narrowed down to one salesman that was most eager. Then I told him my OTD price that was about $1,000 below the "invoice", which was initially countered. I said no, and proceeded to wait.. and wait...and wait.. occasionally checking with him and he would check with me. By day 25 or so which was the last day of the month (February), he relented and I got the car at approximately $1,200 below invoice.

The key is to be patience, and work with the salesman. They want to sell as much as you want to buy, but stand your ground.
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You have to do "some" emailing and calling ...then I simply walk in and say " I'm here to buy a car and I want to let you know that I always get the lowest price anyone paid on the same vehicle.. Let me talk to the guy who can give me that price."

Then you just don't play games ask for the OTD price and buy it. Be direct, tell then you dion't wnat to waste their time and to just make it happen.

Simply state I see no reason to pay anymore than the lowest price someone got here and I'm willing to wait if you can't make it happen... your loss.
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Hi Guys,

I wish I found this thread before I purchased my new car, but my particular dealer said if I find a better deal within 3 days they would refund/match it.

I purchased a 2013 Camry LE last weekend, with addon services from the dealer (tinted windows + backup camera). The total including tax and these addons came down to about $24,100 and the base price (not including tax) before the addons is $20,300.

I did mention TrueCar to the dealer but they said that after delivery fee etc. I believe the sales person said truecar's fee is $500, and the dealer said that their price would come down to be about the same of the TrueCar price for the Camry LE. Unfortunately, the dealer I went to wasn't the truecar certified one I think, I wasn't exactly sure how to use truecar and how it worked.

Can someone who has more experience in this let me know if I got a good deal or not, and if there is a better deal out there?

PS: I paid in cash.
Last edited by DamianL July 22, 2013 at 08:44 PM
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^^^I think you paid too much. I helped my brother buy the 2013 Camry SE 4 cylinder with Navigation, partial leather seats, sunroof, door edge guards, all weather mats, power seats, lifetime powertrain warranty, trunk mats for $24,000 out the door with 0% 60 month financing.
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