Car Shopping Advice

Updated on May 07, 2008
J.R. asks from Fort Worth, TX
10 answers

I am taking my mom car shopping soon for either a new toyota camry or honda. As two women, we are dreading it completely. I want to do my research beforehand so I can know if we are getting a decent deal and not being taken advantage of. How do I start? Are there any websites that let you know how much you should be paying above what the retailer pays? What do I look for in paperwork to make sure they didn't sneak anything in?

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answers from Dallas on

Two websites you should look at:

Kelly bluebook was created for dealers. These other two websites are more for the consumer. Good luck.

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answers from Dallas on

Hi J.,

If you're buying new, please know that invoice price is NOT dealer cost. The salesman will try to make you think getting the vehicle slightly above or at invoice is a GREAT deal. That still can be thousands over dealer cost.

Whenever I get ready to buy a car, I check the car ads for several weeks ahead of time to see where the "loss leaders" fall on the car that I want. That way I know at some time in the not so distant past what the least selling price was for the car that I wanted. I even save those ads and take them with me for reference sometimes. If there is an exceptional deal on the car you want, but you get there and they say that car is gone, don't be afraid to ask if they will give you the same discount on another vehicle. A "good" dealership will do that.

Shop for the car you want ahead of time, but don't buy until the last day of the month if you can manage it. Every time I've done that, on the closing table, something has come up like if I want the extended warranty, but after I've haggled them all the way down to close to their cost, the price is still more than I want to pay, I've gotten them to knock several hundred more dollars off the price of the vehicle to make up for the "unexpected" expense of the warranty because I'll say something like "Well, I budgeted for this amount so I guess we won't be able to buy the car." They look shocked and say "So you won't do the deal if we can't give you an extra $300 off the price of the warranty?" and I'll say "No, I have a budget and I have to stick to it so I guess not." Very quickly thereafter, they are knocking that $300 or whatever off that so-called "rock bottom price" on the vehicle. This might not happen on any other day than the last day of the month though so keep that in mind.

In terms of price, if there are no good "sales" on the car that I want being advertised, my general rule is to never pay more than $3000 under sticker. So if a Toyota Camry stickers at $25,000, I won't pay more than $22,000 regardless of "invoice". Furthermore, if they only have a model that has more features than I actually want, I subtract the cost for those additional features in my offer. So, if my $25000 Camry has $1000 in features that I don't want, my offer is then $21,000. This "cash price" offer is BEFORE any rebates or other incentives that are offered. So, if there is a $1500 rebate on that Camry, the price would then be $19,500.

Also, I never tell them I have a trade until I work out the "cash price". Then I bring up a trade if I have one. You should know the trade-in value of your car, which you can get on NADA or KBB, and don't let them try to give you less than trade-in value. If they do, be prepared to walk away from the deal.

In terms of financing, I have always found it best to get my financing outside of the dealership. You can go through your bank or credit union or even Costco or Sams on-line and get a better rate than the dealership will offer you initially. The last time we bought a car, we told them we were paying cash. Then, at the closing table, we told them we were actually going to finance it through our credit union and I had a letter from the credit union with all the info they needed to fund the car. The dealership asked me the rate they were giving me and said they couldn't beat that. On a previous vehicle purchase when I used a check I'd gotten from an on-line car loan deal, the dealership said they didn't take that type of check but could finance it for a quarter percent more than the rate I had gotten with the on-line deal but that's the best they could do. I said no, that if they couldn't match it, I would stick with the deal I had gotten with the on-line lender. The dealership magically matched the rate.

Most car companies are hurting right now so if you're diligent, you should be able to get the deal you want. Using and to get average pricing for the area is a good start, and in general, the people who've said do most of your work on the Internet before you even go into the dealership are right.

My friend was looking to buy a Camry, contacted the on-line sales manager through the website, we went in, did all the things I mentioned above, and she not only got the car for about $3500 less than sticker, they also threw in a sun roof on top of that.

Now, in regards to your question about making sure they don't sneak anything in on the paperwork, the way I check is I bring my own business calculator to the deal. I have a $30 TI business calculator and I just input the present value, the interest rate, the length of the loan and determine both payment amount and future value. If their numbers are not almost exactly like mine, I know something is up. I've done that with almost every deal I've ever worked and in all but maybe one case, I've found mistakes. One time the finance manager argued with me that my little cheap calculator couldn't match up to their expensive computer system, but when he took off the stuff that wasn't supposed to be on there, it matched exactly. He never apologized for being condescending or trying to sneak in that other stuff either. If you get a business calculator, or have one, and want to know how to determine those values, just PM me and I'll give you step by step instructions.

Here's my most important piece of advice, I WOULD NEVER BUY FROM VANDERGRIFF TOYOTA IN ARLINGTON AGAIN. I had a terrible experience with them that ended up in the hands of the BBB and was never resolved. They have a LOT of complaints against them through the BBB and while the report states "the dealership has been responsive to all complaints", I spoke with the BBB manager directly and stated they needed to change that wording because they were far from RESPONSIVE. They may have responded to all complaints, but they were definitely not RESPONSIVE. The manager agreed with me and was going to look into changing the wording on the report. So, please do not buy from VANDERGRIFF TOYOTA in Arlington.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have been in the car business for 8 years (on the finance side). I also recently purchased a Toyota Camry, so I feel your pain. First things first...don't discuss down payment or trade in vehicles until you have established a sale price for the car you want to buy (the dlr will just use it against you).

Ask the dealer to show you the vehicle invoice (that's what the Toyota manufacturer gives to the dealership when the dlr gets the car from the factory). They are not legally obligated to show you the invoice, but it can't hurt to ask. At least then you will know what the dealer paid for the car.

Once you establish a sale price, then you can tell the dlr how much money you want to put down, or if you have a trade in. If you are trading in a vehicle, know the value before you go. Try to get them to pay entire balance (if you still owe on it) or more, that way your new loan doesn't start off in the red.

As for "add ons", the only extra you need to purchase is Gap insurance. This pays the balance you owe if you wreck the vehicle. Say you owe $25,000. You total the car and insurance pays $20,000. Gap insurance will pay the remaining $5,000, no questions asked. Gap is very inexpensive (usually less than $400). In my opinion, there is no need to purchase an extended warranty, credit life, or disability insurance. They are (usually) an unnecessary expense. Toyotas are very reliable. You shouldn't have to buy an extended warranty. The dlrs inflate those prices so much, your monthly payment can go up by $100/mo just by adding these warranties. The dlr will try to wear you down and send in several salespeople to get you to change your mind. Just threaten to walk out. They don't want to lose your business, so once you show them you are willing to leave, they'll bend and give in.

When discussing interest rate, ask what the finance company is offering. Ask the dlrshp if they added points on to it. Yes, the dlr is allowed to up the interest rate! Example-- Toyota Financial Services says you qualify for a 5.00% interest rate. The dealer tells you your interest rate is 7.00%. Toyota Financial Services gets 5% and the dlr gets 2%. So make sure you know how the interest rate is broken down. Most people don't know that interest rate is negotiable. Ask to see the decisions from each bank the dlr submitted your application to. That way you can see what the bank itself is offering.

Bottom line...don't be afraid to walk out of the dlrshp. When I bought my Camry, I went to three Toyota dealerships (Toyota of Grapevine, Toyota in Plano, and finally Toyota of Richardson). What one dlrshp won't do, another will. When they see they can't bully you, you will get more respect and they won't try to get over on you. I went in and told them I was not going to put any money down, I wanted full payoff on my trade (a 05 Camry) and I wanted my monthly payment to stay the same ($425). Toyota of Grapevine said it was impossible. Toyota in Plano laughed at me. Toyota in Richardson did it and I got financing with Toyota Financial Services. You can get exactly what you want if you are willing to take the time to get it. You may have to walk out of some dlrshps, but in the end you will get what you want. The best time to car shop is the end of the month, preferably the end of the year. That is when they are most desperate. Look all month long, but don't try to buy until the last week of the month. Everyone is scrambling to meet their numbers at that point. DON'T let them tell you your requests are impossible. What they can't/won't do, SOMEONE ELSE WILL!! The dealerships I recommend are Toyota of Grapevine and Toyota of Richardson. The one in Plano is awful, don't go there. I haven't been to the one in McKinney, so I'm not sure about that one. Good luck!!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on


My hubby has this car thing down to a T. First of all, go to consumer reports and pay the small fee for a car pricing report that will tell you the dealer cost, what you should pay (no more than 1-2% over dealer cost!!!) and any rebates, etc that are available for the car. Then, do what my hubby does and rather than go in and deal with these salesmen that will just mess you around for 5 hours trying to wear you down, BUY YOUR CAR ONLINE!!! All dealers now have online buying/internet departments. Email three different dealers (one at a time) and tell them exactly what you want on the car and the price you want. See what they do. Take that price and email the second dealer and explain you got a quote of XXX, and so on. They will each try to beat the other. When we got our last one, it was 1% over dealer cost plus we got free regular maintenance and some other perks thrown in...Dealers will do this when they work on volume. You can also try to use dealers in outskirt areas...for instance, we got our last one in McKinney...usually outlying areas have better prices and deals and you can take the car to any dealer locally because it is the same manufacturer. Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hey J. R
My name is B. Anderson and my dad is a terrific Christian salesman that will give you the facts even if you choose not to buy from him! He lives in Austin but its worth the drive when you save hundreds of dollars!!! Anyway his name is
JJ Jackson and has been in the business for 25 years! Drop my name - I'm his favorite daughter!



answers from Dallas on

I just bought my second Honda at Lute Riley Honda; I purchased there both times. My experience was terrific and much better than the 3 times I previously purchased new cars at other places. I am a member of the Advancial Credit Union (anyone can join) and through the credit union I was able to get fleet pricing. I worked directly with the fleet sales manager. I used Kelley Blue Book and CarMaxx to comparison shop and determine the price I thought was reasonable, emailed the manager to see if he could do that; he could, and I went in the next day and bought the car. To me, Hondas are easier to comparison shop because they have so many features that are standard on the several different versions of the autos. Email me if you have questions about Hondas; I drove an Accord for 11 years and now have the Odyssey Van. good luck.



answers from Dallas on

I spent a while in the Honda of Richardson while my hubby took a test drive with the kids--we couldn't fit everyone in the car along with the salesman. I sort of got a fly on the wall experience of the place, and they were awful. The salesmen were arrogant and made rude jokes about customers. One described a couple who wanted to buy a car for invoice price, and he thought it was the most outrageous thing he'd ever heard of because OBVIOUSLY Honda's go for hundreds over sticker. Our own salesman was inexperienced and wasted a lot of our time. In the end I just wanted to find out what the hybrid version of the car I drove would retail for, and this involved him going back and forth with the sales manager, and someone wanting to sit down and talk numbers & contracts....I wasn't at that stage of car buying, hadn't decided on a Honda, and just wanted a basic idea of the cost difference. Eventually I couldn't get rid of him--he didn't want to "let" me leave and my kids were shocked when I finally just walked away while he was still talking.

Toyota of Richardson seemed much better. Wherever you go, just deal wiith the internet sales managers because they can get you a better deal. They hate it when people comparsion shop online, but still want to get your business.



answers from Dallas on

Always tell them you need a day to think about it, and the price will come down!



answers from Dallas on

Ditto the recommendation to buy your car online. That's how we bought my last car - a Honda minivan. A sales consultant is involved in the end, but ours was great - no pressure for add-ons at all, etc. We ended up getting the van at John Eagle Honda. Check out their website for all the details on their Internet purchase plan: under the New Inventory pulldown. It was the most pleasant car buying experience we've ever had. And, I will also add that we didn't find going to the outskirts helped at all. The Honda dealer in McKinney wanted a several thousand dollar premium on the van (above sticker price). We ended up buying for sticker price at John Eagle.



answers from Dallas on

Check out Kelly Bluebook at It will give you the sticker and the invoice price of the cars you will be looking at and about what you can expect to pay in this area. My husband and I used it extensively when looking for my car and now that we are looking for him a car.

They will try to sneak in additions, that's the nature of the beast. Just go in with the mindset that you will not purchase these additional items and let them know it up front. When we bought our Honda these were brought up after we made the deal and were filling out the paperwork.

You are doing the right thing by doing your research before you go. GOod luck!!

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