The Art of Negotiation


When you're making a big purchase-a car, for instance-the most important thing to remember is that there is always room for negotiation.

My husband got into a car accident recently. No one was injured, thankfully, but his car was deemed unfit to drive by the cop on the scene. That 2001 Toyota Corolla had 120,000-plus miles and served us well for a decade—first as my car and then as my husband’s when I decided to lease a new car. Plus, we owned that car.

Car shopping is never a pleasant experience, but to make it worse, it’s really expensive. Going into it this time, I knew the basics. For instance, if you lease a car, the more you put down, the lower the monthly payment. Actually, that’s pretty much all I knew.

What I learned from our recent car-shopping experience is that you should always ask about what rebates are available to help lower your down payment. In particular, you should ask if there’s a college graduate rebate. We did that, and after we had gotten the down payment reduced a few hundred dollars and the monthly payment reduced $100, our seasoned negotiator (my father) pulled out the big guns.

“What’s the best deal you can offer me if I tell you I’m looking to make a deal right now, today?”

Another $25 dropped off the monthly payment. Now, $25 per month may not seem like a lot, but it adds up, especially when we’re paying off 2 sets of student loans—plus, we have to pay the damages suffered by the other car in the accident. (Yep, the accident was my husband’s fault.)

There is never any reason, under any circumstances, to pay the sticker price for a car. That holds regardless of whether or not you actually can pay the sticker price. Dealerships always have rebates and offers in reserve, and there is always room to negotiate a lower price. But if you haven’t really done this sort of thing before, you should definitely enlist the help of a seasoned negotiator, someone who knows their way around a car lot. (Unfortunately, my dad isn’t available.)

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