Arizona Attorney General

Mark Brnovich

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Negotiating The Deal

Everything is negotiable – no matter what the salesperson says.

  • Never buy a new car in a hurry. Visit several dealerships to look at inventory and prices before talking to any salesperson. Be prepared to take as long as several weeks to find and negotiate the deal you want.
  • Be cautious when the dealership takes your car keys to “evaluate your trade-in” or for any other purpose.  It is often difficult to retrieve your keys and car.  This strategy may be used to pressure you to purchase a new car.  You may have to be very insistent about getting your keys back and leaving.
  • Take someone with you. They can take notes while you ask questions. Two people are also better able to withstand high-pressure sales tactics than a person alone.
  • Consider selling your paid off used car on your own, rather than trading it in at a dealership, where it can add to the complexity of the deal.
  • Make buying your new car, selling your old car, and financing your new car three separate transactions.
  • Always make the dealer’s invoice price the starting point for your negotiations. Don’t start with the car’s MSRP.
  • Don’t assume salespeople are your friends, no matter how friendly they act. Their job is to sell you a car. Most are paid on a commission basis, so their compensation increases the more you spend.
  • Take a notebook, calculator, and pen or pencil. Use them!
  • You do not have to agree to pay for after-market add-ons or treatments offered by the dealer, such as window etchings, fabric protection or rust-proofing, even if they are already on the vehicle you wish to purchase. Examine the cost and need for such extras and whether you can afford it. Some add-ons are unnecessary or are significantly overpriced, and they may greatly increase the price or cost of your overall financing.
  • Negotiate on an “out-the-door” basis. Explain that you want to know the dealer’s total price and the total cost to you.  If you don’t, you’ll likely agree on a price and learn later that it’s the dealer’s “policy” to add fees for “document processing,” weatherproofing, safety inspections, dealer “prep,” destination charges, etc.
  • Remember, if you still owe money on your trade-in, the amount that you still owe will most likely be included in the financing for the new car, and this will raise the overall cost of the vehicle you are buying.
  • Once you have agreed on a price with a dealer, make written notes of what the agreement is and compare your number to the figures that appear on the contract. Make sure your notes include the cost of each item. Some dealers will try to change the deal later without you noticing.

Closing the Deal

  • At every point in the negotiations, be prepared to walk away. It’s your ultimate (and often your only) weapon.
  • Give yourself at least 24 hours to think about a deal before signing a contract. You will not lose a new car deal, and there is only a remote chance you will lose a used car deal. If you do, there are lots of similar deals out there.
  • Make sure that ALL promises made by the salesperson or dealership are in writing.
  • Do not let a salesperson rush you to sign paperwork without reviewing the contract terms. Read all documents and understand all terms before signing on the bottom line.
  • If a contract has terms substantially different from what the salesperson initially promised, do not sign the contract unless you are willing to accept the new terms.
  • DO NOT allow false information on any forms and beware of a salesperson who suggests putting false information on your finance application, such as stating a higher income. While financing may be approved, the payments may be difficult for you to make. If something goes wrong, the false information could be held against you.
  • After you’ve agreed on a deal with the sales department, you’ll be taken by the salesperson to the finance representative and told that he or she will “fill out the paperwork.” Watch out – in some dealerships the finance representative will not use the price you agreed to with the salesperson and will almost always attempt to sell you additional costly products and services.
  • Be very careful what you sign. Don’t sign anything that contains blank spaces – especially on any contracts or credit applications. Draw a line through all blanks on documents you sign.
  • You may be encouraged to take the new or used car home before financing is approved. This practice is called “spot delivery” and is designed to “lock you in” to a purchase.  It is legal, but can result in problems later if the financing is not approved.
  • Never buy life or disability insurance from a dealer without comparison shopping with an insurance agent first.

Financing Through The Dealer

  • When financing through a dealer, always negotiate the car price separately from the financing. Once the price is settled, then negotiate the monthly payment amount, term of the loan and interest rate.
  • Always ask the dealer if the interest rate being offered is the lowest rate he or she can offer and whether it includes a profit for the dealer.
  • A dealer may let you take the car before financing is approved, a method often referred to as “spot-delivery.”  Beware, if the dealer cannot get the financing approved on the agreed upon terms, they may ask you to re-sign the contract for a higher rate or longer term.  Arizona law provides that you may reject the change in terms and the dealership must return your trade-in to you.  It may not be made clear why the dealer needs you to “re-sign” documents. Pay close attention to any change in the contract or financing terms.  Arizona’s spot-delivery law may be found at A.R.S. § 44-1371.