Most of us want a special deal when we're car shopping: a price that beats what our neighbor just got and, if we are lucky, one that's lower than our research says we should be able to get.
The good news is that it's not impossible to strike a much-better-than-average deal. The better news is that getting it doesn't require massive amounts of research, shopping or haggling.
Sometimes, the difference between a good and a great deal may simply come down to a few things that you tell your salesperson in the days leading up to your purchase. This does fly in the face of traditional car-shopping advice, which urges shoppers to withhold information or even lie to car dealers. (Indeed, there's an old dealership saying: "Buyers are liars.")
Holding back might have made sense when car dealers had all the information about pricing, incentives and inventory, and shoppers had very little. With the facts and figures available to you at car-shopping sites, the imbalance has largely been corrected. That means you can afford to employ some candor when it will serve you.
The internet notwithstanding, salespeople still know ways to save money that may be hidden to you. The trick is getting a seller to use that insider knowledge for your benefit. And it can be done, probably more easily than you'd expect.
The first step is simple: Be nice to your salesperson. Having a sales pro on your side is key to getting that special deal. And if that salesperson isn't nice back, save these five time- and money-saving statements for someone worthy of your business:
1. I'm ready to buy right now
You've done your research and you know the right price. If that means you're ready to drive a car off the lot immediately, say so. Few things motivate a salesperson quite like offering to do business right now. Sharing your eagerness will move you from average tire kicker to hot prospect. Hot prospects are the ones who get the best discounts.
2. Here are the features I need - no frills
Some people buy a car because they're in love with it. Others just want utility. If you buy cars the way you buy refrigerators, let your salesperson know. There may be a clearance vehicle or a car with a hefty incentive that can do the same job and save you some cash.
3. This is what I can afford
It's not impossible to buy a car if you have bad credit. In fact, it's nearly as common to buy a car with bad credit as it is with good. But poor credit can limit your choices to vehicles that meet certain age, mileage and price limits. Letting your salesperson know your credit and overall affordability situation upfront can save you hours looking at cars for which you won't be approved.
4. I'm in love with this car
Maybe you've heard that you can trick a car dealer into giving you a steep discount by acting uninterested in the vehicle you're considering. This advice doesn't work. Dealers know that most people don't spend hard-earned money on cars they don't like. In fact, this tactic may actually work against you. Car salespeople work hard to get stellar after-sales surveys and reviews. Their compensation may depend on it. It's difficult to get a five-star review from a shopper who isn't happy with the product.
A more effective way to get a better deal is to let the seller know you're excited about the car. A happy buyer is one who will tell friends and family about the car, which may mean more customers, good comments on review sites, and good buzz on social media.
If you've done your research and know what you should pay, you're in little danger of being overcharged because you've told the dealership you really love the car you're planning to buy.
5. Throw this in and we have a deal
During big sales events, motivated dealerships sometimes give away iPads, televisions, cruises and even small fishing boats in hopes of spurring extra business.
Similarly, but on a smaller scale, a dealer may be willing to throw in a little something extra to close a deal, even it isn't a big sales weekend. If you've got your eye on an accessory from the parts department, such as a set of extra-tough floor mats, say so. If you want a few free services, such as oil changes, now's the time to ask.
Use your salesperson's insider knowledge to help you get a deal without hours of haggling and game-playing.
This story was provided by automotive website Edmunds, via the Associated Press. Matt Jones is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.