8 Tips for Buying Your Next Car for Less

It’s a well-known fact that, after a house, a vehicle is probably the biggest purchase you will ever make.

Unfortunately, while your house might gain value over time, your car eventually will turn into a nearly worthless hunk of metal, plastic and upholstery.

Rather than pour oodles of cash into your next purchase, use these eight tips to spend as little as possible on a vehicle that will safely serve you for years.

1. Buy used — usually

You knew this would be the first bit of advice, right?

Drive a car off a dealer’s lot, and it instantly loses a hefty amount of its resale value. So, it almost always makes sense to buy used. Wait two or three years, and you can often get a much cheaper car that is almost as good as one fresh off the assembly line.

However, if you’re planning to get a car that’s only 1 year old, a new car may be cheaper in some cases after dealer and manufacturer incentives are factored in.

2. Do your homework

Regardless of whether you’re buying new or used, do your homework first. Research the going price and available options for the cars you’re eyeing.

Of course, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are good places to start, but don’t stop there. Those sites approximate a car’s market value. But in the end, capitalism rules. Supply and demand dictate actual prices.

Cruise Craigslist and browse the online ads to get a feel for prices in your area. You want to have a good grasp of local prices before you set foot on a dealership lot.

3. Embrace high miles

It used to be that a car with 100,000 miles was living on borrowed time.

How times have changed. Today’s cars are built to last 200,000 miles or more. So why are you freaking out about buying a used car with 110,000 miles on it?

For many models, the price starts dropping through the floor once the mileage goes north of 100,000. By saying no to these high-mileage cars, you’re rejecting a lot of good deals.

Not every high-mileage car is a good buy, but if you find a reliable make and model, you can get good quality at a low price.

4. Time your purchase right

There are two facets to this piece of advice.

The first is to buy on the right day. As you might guess, the end of the month is often a good time to buy a car, particularly if salespeople are trying to meet their quotas or qualify for a monthly bonus.

Be aware of seasonal trends in your area, especially if you’re buying from a private party. Four-wheel-drive trucks may be in demand in the winter but cost less in the summer. Meanwhile, convertibles and some jeeps might be cheaper in the fall.

5. Forget the monthly payment

Sales reps want to talk monthly payments as soon as you walk in the door. If they can get you thinking in terms of a monthly cost rather than a total cost, they’ve increased their odds of selling you more car than you intended to buy.

Remember, the dealer can work some mathematical magic — such as extending the repayment term to six or seven years — to make an overpriced vehicle fit into a meager budget.

Avoid the trap of ending up with reasonable payments for an unreasonable length of time by negotiating the total price rather than a monthly payment amount.

6. Think twice about trade-ins

Don’t mention your trade-in unless it absolutely has to be part of the transaction. Instead, tell the dealer you haven’t decided what to do with your current vehicle.

Once you have haggled over the cost of your new purchase, negotiate the value of your trade-in. This method helps ensure you not only get the best price on your new car, but also that you maximize what you receive for the trade-in.

7. Offer to pay with green

Buying with cash is a strategy that may or may not get you a discount.

New-car dealers make a lot of their income on financing and insurance sales, which means they have little incentive to accept cash.

On the used lot, you might get a little more negotiating power. That is especially likely if there is a smaller financial incentive for the dealer and the salesperson is eager to avoid the hassle of completing financing paperwork.

However, private sales are where you’ll probably see the biggest discount for a cash payment. Sellers may be eager to unload their vehicle, and, if you can offer cash, that’s often all they need to come down on price.

8. Buy from private sellers

Speaking of private sellers, you’re likely to get a better deal from them even if you don’t do any wheeling and dealing. That’s one way Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson found a near mint-condition car for $5,000.

Dealerships have huge overhead expenses, which means they have prices higher than what you find on the private market. Of course, established dealers have a reputation to uphold so they may be more likely to stand behind the cars they sell.

If you’re buying from a private seller, be sure to get a full inspection from a mechanic of your choice before forking over any money.

Do you have your own advice on the subject? Share what you know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On

Here’s what to look for at that overstuffed thrift store — and how you can make money from it.

7 Things That Prove Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

These items can end up costing you more if you try to go the cheap route.

10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments

Here are 10 things that could mean less money in your pocket during retirement.

10 Foods That Can Keep for Years

These are some of the longest-lasting groceries you can buy.

10 Cars That Lose the Most Resale Value After 5 Years

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.