The key is to read over the paperwork before you sign to make sure no extra charges have been added

Handing Over Keys / How to Buy a New Car: Wheeling and Dealing with Dealership Managers
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Updated: February 14, 2017

You did your research before going to the dealership. You evaluated your trade-in beforehand. You got through the sales process with as little pain as possible. Now it's time to deal with the final hurdle, the last obstacle standing between you and your new car: the managers.

  1. Find Out About the Trip to the Manager
  2. You've negotiated an offer that you think is good, and the salesperson has left the room to ask the manager "for approval" on something. But is that really what's happening?

    Probably not. It is more likely that the salesperson is letting the manager know how much you're willing to shell out and how difficult a customer you'll be. Salespeople know what they are and are not allowed to do, so there is no reason to go speak to the manager unless you have a question.

  3. Bring In the Trade
  4. Hopefully you have not mentioned the car you are trading in before this point. If you have not, now is the time to bring it into the discussion. Dealers don't like for trade-ins to be brought in at this time because it makes it harder for them to hide fees and charges in the "trade-off figures" after you have been given a solid price for your car. Bringing it up now will give you more leverage, since you will then simply have to compare the final figures and make the best choice.

    Even if you brought up the trade-in before, make sure to keep in mind the "out-of-door" price, the total price of the vehicle, plus all taxes, tags, rebates, and fees, plus and/or minus your trade-in. It is extremely important that you remember this number now because your next stop is the finance manager.

  5. Haggling with the Finance Manager
  6. The finance manager is the dealership's big gun that it brings out in the last stage of the process to make sure that you pay as much as they can possibly convince you to. If you rejected extra options, charges, and fees earlier, the finance manager is going to bring them back up, providing different scenarios for you to think over and running all kinds of figures. If you aren't careful, rebates will disappear, fees will hop on, a transferred tag will become a new tag, and the value of your trade-in will fall.

    Why? Finance managers expect you to be so eager to get out of there after all those long hours that you will just sign the paperwork and be done with it all. After all, who reads the fine print?

    You do if you want to save money.

    Yes, carefully reading through all of the paperwork before signing is a huge hassle, but you owe it to yourself to make sure one last time that you don't get taken in and have to shell out much more than you want (or can).

Bottom line: the total price you negotiated minus the amount you're getting for your trade-in should equal the final price on the paperwork. If it isn't, walk away.

In the end, wasted time is better than wasted money.