Finding a good deal on a new vehicle has always been a challenge and the Internet has only made things more complicated. OK, now you can research the invoice price of any vehicle, but when you try three separate websites, you’ll probably get three different invoice amounts. And you may still have to do some bargaining over you’re trade-in.
I researched this topic extensively and came up with the following action plan. It may not be decisive, but may change the odds a bit in my favor and improve my chances on a good deal. I’ll use it to buy my new cargo van, but it applies to your vehicle too.
Certain Deals Are More Likely At Certain Times
|Winter Months||Offer the best discounts.|
|Avoid Springtime||Tax refunds allow for increased car sales.|
|Year-End Deals||To meet year-end sales quotas and limit year-end inventory.|
|End of the Month|
End of the Quarter
|At the end of each month or quarter, increased sales may lead to a better bonus.|
|Negotiate Early in the Week||Fewer customers means more attention of the sales person.|
|Buy Late in the Day||The sales person will make it a quick deal, so he/she can go home instead of spending hours to make a sale.|
I would have preferred to buy at the end of the year, but I can’t wait that long. It is now early May and according to the above schedule the end of the quarter (June 30th) should be the best time to buy, with late in the day on Monday/Tuesday June 29th/30th as the preferable time.
Now that I know WHEN to buy, I have to start doing some research on the dealerships.
- Locate all nearby dealerships – Go to the manufacturers website and locate at least 5 dealers, but many more if possible. I found approx. 20 dealerships.
- Include out-of-town car dealerships.
- Check up on the salesperson and dealership – The reviews at Yelp.com work well to weed out any bad apples. Use your own judgment, not every review should be taken seriously!
I made a spreadsheet with all the steps in this buying process that includes a place to store your dealer information and a list to calculate the REAL dealer cost. You can download it at the end of this article.
- To order your cargo van from the factory, should cost you the same or less than off the lot.
- Good deals only happen when the circumstances favor you – Price should be under invoice and that happens only when the manufacturer has special dealer/customer incentives.
- On-line buying is certainly a good option – Using an Internet or Fleet sales manager tend to result in a lower purchase price, as they typically work on a regular salary plus a bonus, based on volume.
- Expensive vehicles may produce thousands in profit to the dealer, yet with budget cars, the profit may only be in the hundreds.
- With a factory order, your actual customer rebate may not be the same incentive that was offered at the time you placed your order. Incentives are applied when the car is delivered.
- Know the out-the-door price before you sign the buyer’s order.
- Now find the invoice price of the car and enter the information in the included spreadsheet.
Many websites offer that service for free, some ask for a small fee. In the end, I found edmunds.com to be most accurate. Input your vehicle and options at several different websites; each will return different numbers, but soon you’ll be able to collect the right info.
With the included spreadsheet I can calculate the real dealer cost and subsequently the OTD (out-the-door) price. This final price includes tax, title and insurance.
You should already have researched your vehicle, but now is time for a test drive.
- Decide whether to do the negotiations with a sales person or primarily by email with an Internet or Fleet manager.
- Trade-in: Try to get the best deal for the new vehicle first and only then focus on my trade-in.
- Walk away, if necessary! You have the right to stand up and leave the negotiations at any time and doing so may generate the last effort and best offer from the dealer, just before you go.
- Do not make the first offer.
- Do not negotiate with yourself. Let the dealer make a counter offer first.
- Always be light-hearted when haggling; make a joke, even though it may be a lousy one. Don’t be combative.
- Be silent at the appropriate time or pause and make clear, that you’re not in a hurry and that you have other alternatives.
- Make sure the deposit is refundable.
The Email Conversation
Contact the Internet or Fleet manager at all dealerships on my list.
First Email With Your First Bid
As previously discussed, I want to buy a Ford Transit 250 Medium Roof Cargo Van with a 3.7L V6 FFV engine, 6-speed Automatic w/148″ WB, Sliding Passenger Side Door as soon as possible. I have done the research on the vehicle and decided to do a factory order. I’m getting price offers from multiple local dealers and will take the best deal offered to me. To make the decision based on the same perimeters, please bid on the OTD (out-the-door) amount.
The options, I want are as follows:
KT Color: Lunar Sky Metallic
X7L 3.73 Limited Slip Axle Ratio
18D Exterior Upgrade Package
21D Charcoal Cloth Seats
53B Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package
542 Short Arm Power Adjustable Heated Exterior Mirrors w/Turn Signals
59B Trailer Wiring Provisions
60C Cruise Control w/Message Center
63C Heavy-Duty Alternator
647 16″ Styled Aluminum Wheels w/Locking Lug Nuts
67D Trailer Brake Controller
92E Privacy Glass w/Rear Window Defogger
17K All Around Windows w/2nd Row Driver & Passenger Side Flip Open Glass
Please provide the following information:
1. List the OTD (out-the-door) price including taxes, incentives and all fees.
2. Confirm that all options are available.
3. Include the estimated delivery date.
24 Hours later: Email again, if no response was received
Second Round Of Emails
After you have received most bids, reply to these offers as follows:
Thanks for your bid on the Ford Transit 250 Medium Roof Cargo Van with a 3.7L V6 FFV engine, 6-speed Automatic w/148″ WB, Sliding Passenger Side Door. Your OTD (out-the-door) price offer was $00,000. The best bid I received was $00,000.
To be fair, I give you the chance to beat that offer. So what is your best price, if I buy today?
Go For The Best Offer
Then with the best offer in hand, call your contact at the dealership and say you want the buy with them, but you have a bid that is $300 lower and that if they match it, you’ll buy from them today.
This is an attempt to get another few hundred dollars off the best offer. They may counter with $100-$200, but if they don’t, ask for some free service or free products. In my case, I would ask for free front carpet and an additional set of keys with a total value of $69.00. If they still say No, just accept the offer.
Make The Purchase
Go to the dealer, sign all the required documents and get a buyer’s order, which is different from a final sales contract, that includes a description of the make, model, color, options and all the important numbers: MSRP, invoice, OTD (out the door) price and all fees including tax, title, document and registration. If you go with a factory order, the VIN should be supplied to you by the dealer at a later date.
Expect to make a deposit to hold the vehicle (less than $1,000)
First check the new van’s VIN number and then make sure all your options from your buyer’s order are included. Walk around the vehicle, look for damages and then take a test drive. If everything is in order, sign the papers and drive home.
Download How To Buy A Vehicle
I tried something very much like the system you proposed for a MB Sprinter. I ended up with 7 responding dealers, ALL of whom adjusted my wish list to add expenses (backup camera, headlight washing system, etc.) that I did not want, or omitted some preferred details (roof rack channels, side door window, etc.). They were selling what they had on their lot or one that they could get. I understand that.
So then I stressed that I had THE shopping list, and it was not a mere “wish list” more than half dropped out or failed to bother sending a response after I resent (email) the list or even called. I ended up with 3 companies that sent me the EXACT SAME PRICE QUOTE. Mercedes has them well trained. There were differences in the package names, and one offered minor additional components (I now think it’s only how much typing they were willing to do), but the prices were the same. Taxes and fees were not different. In our state you pay the State sales tax regardless of where you buy it.
Lastly, my balancing act shifted between maintenance shop reputation (Yelp, et al), and proximity (how far to drive for service). My selection rationale was also clouded by the thought that a salesperson might make a promise, but a maintenance department …they maintain the promises. I settled on putting a deposit (100% refundable) at a nearby showroom because of their reputation. They have 5 diesel/4×4 Sprinter trained or experienced mechanics in addition to the 12 other mechanics; AND, they offer a loaner vehicles (a sedan, but still a loaner) while in service. Yes, I spoke with the closest MB dealer and they said they’d help with any maintenance, and were sorry that they could not offer the same price & equipment. (I wanted “extra equipment installed” and they could/would not do it.)
In another month or so I will get an email confirming the configuration of all elements for our Sprinter package. After agreeing, hopefully, the vehicle should be ready in 4 months. For some dealers if you just off the street, waiting for a Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter is a 10 month process. However, if they have already sent the MB factory their order list and it includes a 4×4, then the confirmation process from the Mercedes mfr. plant can be adjusted/changed a few months before the build. If you change your mind and back out, the dealer is stuck with buying what “they” ordered for you. From the dealer’s perspective, to fit in with this “early” schedule and to cover their butt, your order can’t be an off the wall color, etc. They want to sell whatever they have, quickly.
Great Story! More or less similar to what I experienced, but likely because you’re dealing with Mercedes Benz, there just may be no wiggle room. You had the same type of email response, that I had; some dealers want to sell you a van and others apperently are not interested. That left you atl;east with a couple of ‘involved’ dealers, that may give you better service long term.
The Sprinter delivery times are incredibly long, but that may be changing with their new factory in the Carolinas.
Thanks for writing about your experience.