How to Make an Offer on a Car

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After much research and time spent agonizing over the perfect new or used car, you finally have the car of your dreams in sight. But you want to be a smart car shopper and get the absolute best deal. How, exactly, do you go about making an offer on a car and ensure you walk away a winner?
Making an offer on a car may seem overwhelming, but with a few simple tips, you’ll be a car buying pro in no time. Here are tips on how to prepare before you make an offer, plus tips on buying a car at a dealership or through a private party.

Tips for making an offer on car

  • Research first. Before you make an offer on a car, research its value. For new or used cars check out vehicle valuation sites such as Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book so you know just how much the car you want is actually worth and how much negotiating room there may be in the price. Some sites, such as True Car, can also tell you what people have paid for the exact same vehicle, so you negotiate more effectively.
  • Negotiate. Don’t take the first price provided on a car, but be sure you are making a reasonable counter offer. Dealerships are in the business of making a profit and will only be willing or able to negotiate a price to a certain extent.
  • ** Don’t forget the add-ons.** Once you have negotiated the price down or if it is firm but acceptable, see what additional perks can possibly be added in. Some dealerships may be willing to add in car washes, service discounts, or accessories at no cost to close the deal.
  • Read everything. Once your offer is accepted and before you sign any paperwork, read through everything, including the fine print.
  • Understand the final price. Interest, fees, and other miscellaneous costs can add up. Ask questions about any additional fees you see and be sure you know how they affect your car’s final price.
If you’ll be making monthly payments, ask what the final payoff amount will be for each option so you are fully aware of how fees and interest will impact the final price of your car.
  • Know when to leave. When you are making an offer on a car, know when to walk away. Being prepared to leave means you are less likely to make a bad decision. If the price isn’t matching your expectations, find another dealer or seller.

How to make an offer on a car at a dealership

If looking to purchase a car at a dealership, find as many possible dealers in your area that have the vehicle you need. Shop around and find a dealership that is offering the lowest initial purchase price. Be prepared to visit multiple dealerships to negotiate and make offers and find the best deal.
When you purchase a new or used car from a dealership, don’t forget the trade-in. If you are making an offer on a new or used car at a dealership and have a current vehicle, you may be able to negotiate a lower purchase price based on the value of your trade-in vehicle. It is recommended to request and negotiate the best purchase price you can get without it first, then negotiate in your trade-in vehicle value.

How to make an offer to a private party

If making an offer on a vehicle from a private seller, it’s recommended to some additional research. Utilize vehicle history report providers such as Carfax to find out about any possible accidents the car may have been in as well as to see its maintenance history.
When you purchase a vehicle through a dealership, there are a number of contracts and guarantees that are made regarding the vehicle, such as whether it can be returned and under what circumstances, payment arrangements, and other legal responsibilities.
It’s important to have a contract or agreement between yourself and a private seller that covers these same details to cover both parties in the case of a legal dispute. It’s also recommended to have any contracts or agreements notarized to ensure the documents are legally enforceable.

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