THREE THINGS about cars: 1) I don’t consider myself a car maniac, 2) people love cars. Want a proof? My LinkedIn post “Which car for a negotiation trainer?” attracted thousands of viewers in just a few days. And 3) for many people, buying a car is the second biggest private investment in life after buying a house.
So, if you are in the market for a new car, you better know what you’re doing. Having just gone through this painful experience, what is my recommendation to get the best deal?
1. Rent & test drive as much as you can. After I started renting a car for business purposes, I started comparing and contrasting car brands for fun. And I got to understand what it is I want from a car. Automatic gearshift, for example, became a must, although it’s something I wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t experienced it repeatedly.
2. Play high. Negotiation research repeatedly reports the impact of the power perception on the result. Simply, if you feel powerful, you’re going to get a better result. What is the added value of a car dealership? Some say a car dealership is nothing more than a fancy vending machine: except what you get is not a bottle of Pepsi but a car - the exact same car which you could order elsewhere, because it was made in the factory, not in the dealership. So the person in control is you. You have the money in your pocket.
3. Don’t fall in love. After some time, you’ll shortlist a few cars – let’s say two or three. I urge you not to fall in love with one brand/make (“Oh my god, the new Skoda Kodiaq is such a great car, I need to be the first in town to have it”). Once you start feeling emotionally involved, it’s hard to find room for negotiation.
Even more importantly, refrain from telling all your friends about buying one of your shortlisted cars once they come out. By telling everyone, you are actually putting pressure on yourself to be consistent with your words. Without realising it, you are making it more difficult for yourself to say no: “What will they think next time we talk? They will be sure to ask if I’ve made my decision.”
4. Buy the one in stock. It’s much better to buy a car the dealer has in stock. It’s because once it sits in their parking lot, it costs them money and they need to get rid of it. If you’re buying on a waiting list, you won’t get the best discount and you lose the one important leverage point of being able to drive away in the new car that day. (Not that you’d do that, of course.)
5. Visit several dealers. You don’t want to have the first test drive on the day you’re buying the car, you want to know the car’s behaviour. Plus, different dealerships will have different equipment on the car so you can compare if the difference is worth the money. And your brain will be less busy processing all the positive feelings associated with the product once you’ve driven it for the third time.
By the time you visit the third dealership, you will also most likely be offered some “special offer”, so you will get a feel for what is the realistic range for a discount. So after the first visit at a dealership, get a quote in writing, tell them your estimated deadline for a decision, leave them your phone number or e-mail and walk away.
6. Tame their arrogance. I had a test drive in the brand new Mercedes Benz E-class in November 2016. The car was just launched on the market, and all the other competitors hadn’t released their updates yet. So naturally, the salesperson behaved with absolute self-assurance. Somehow I knew there would be very limited room for any discount.
Six months later, BMW came out with their new 5 series and Skoda Kodiaq appeared in dealerships. And guess what? Mercedes Benz competes with strong rivals for your business. Competition has real financial consequences. Just be patient and wait for at least six months after the product launch.
7. Avoid financing at the dealership. Avoid selling your old car there. Avoid the insurance too. Research other finance options and try the best you can to avoid the financial services of the dealership. Car dealers can really make up for the discount on the base model once your guard is down (I’ve negotiated the sticker price of the base model). Simply tender all parts of the deal: insurance, selling you previous car, and financing.
8. Understand when the negotiation starts. It is not during the process of deciding which engine, colour and equipment you want. The negotiation starts once you know exactly what you want from your car and you have selected at least three alternative cars in stock that match your criteria. At that point, you can discuss the final price or negotiate the extras. And if you do this at the end of a month, your dealer will be even more willing to meet you halfway.
To summarize: “A Rolls for the price of Fiesta” is a typical short-cut when it comes to car negotiations. But two other aspects are even more important: choosing the right car for your needs, and the purchasing process itself. Doing those two well results in making a better choice and getting a better deal.
ABOUT PAVEL NOVÁK Pavel Novak’s truly unique negotiation coaching helps you consistently achieve profitable agreements while also strengthening your professional relationships. Working at the cutting-edge of behavioural psychology, Pavel has studied closely with the leading authorities, including world-renowned American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication, with Bruce Patton, Distinguished Fellow at the Harvard Negotiating Project, and with Tim Cullen, MBE, Director of the Oxford University Programme on Negotiation. Pavel helps you implement current negotiation trends so that you can confidently use your skills in any context.