How to Stay Calm, Hang on to Your Religion, and Drive Away Happy

  • Allow plenty of time. If you’re rushed, you’ll be more likely to make a bad decision. Make sure you understand everything, from the options to the service plan to the interest rate and length of your loan (if applicable). Take a book or something to do during those long stretches where the salesman goes off to “discuss” your deal with some invisible colleague.
  • Eat before you go. It may sound silly, but if you’re not hungry you’ll be better able to concentrate and you’ll be more inclined to stick to your guns through the negotiating process. You might even want to take a little snack in case things drag on longer than expected.
  • Pray. Naturally, you discussed your options with Him during the research phase, but now that you’re in battle you’ll want an open line. I had quiet (but intense) convos with God before every offer/counter offer and several times in between.
  • Stick to your budget. At this point you’ve done your research. You know the going rate for the car. You know how much you are comfortable paying, which should be a reasonable offer for your desired vehicle. They’ll throw out a number. You’ll counter with something like, “I’m just not comfortable with that. I’d be comfortable with…” Be nice but firm. Repeat as needed. You can start low and leave wiggle room or begin with your final offer, but whatever you do, do not go past your comfort zone. It’s just a car. It’s not worth ruining your financial future over.
  • Be prepared to walk away. Yes, you may love that particular vehicle with all your heart—but don’t let your heart rule your head. There are always more cars out there; manufacturers make these things in bulk. This dealership is not the only game in town. You are not obligated to buy from them, no matter how nice your salesperson may be. (And they almost always are very nice indeed; getting people to like them is their job.)

“You have to work with us here” the finance guy said. “No,” I sweetly replied, “I really don’t.  You’re certainly under no obligation to sell me the car for that price, but I don’t have to do anything. It’s my money and my budget and that’s as far as I’m willing to go.” He left for a “consultation.” I pondered where to shop next. Then he returned with those magic words, “We have a deal.”

To Learn More …

There’s a lot more to buying a car than I could fit in this space, so below are the online sources I found most helpful. Happy driving!

Susan EllingburgSusan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at