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How To Spot A Great Deal On a New Car

9 minute read

By Devon Taylor

We all want to get a great deal on the next car we buy, whether the vehicle is brand new or used. But how can you be sure that you’ve gotten the best possible bang for our buck? Believe it or not, there are some telltale signs that you can look for to tell you whether or not a vehicle you have your eye on is worth snatching up.

Some of the signs are financial, while others concern the mechanics of the vehicle. Some signs involve human nature and the sales staff where you purchase your next car, truck, van or SUV. Make sure to look for these signs the next time you go car shopping.

11. It’s Less Than Four Years Old

As a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid buying a vehicle that is more than four years old. However, if the car you have your eye on is three years old or less, chances are it’s worth considering. This is because cars that are less than four years old are usually still sound mechanically. In most cases, they don’t have a ton of miles on them.

In other good news, the cost for a car that is one, two or three years old has likely come down significantly, compared to if you bought the vehicle brand new. You can probably expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 less for a car that is a few years old, even though it is still likely to be in tip-top shape. However, once a car is four or five years old, it begins to degrade faster. Mechanical problems are more likely to crop up. Therefore, buying a vehicle before it gets to that point is advisable.


10. Still Covered By The Manufacturer’s Warranty

Another advantage of purchasing a car that is only a couple of years old is that it is still likely to be covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty. Even if the vehicle only has one year of warranty left when you buy it, that’s still 12 months of worry-free driving for you. Then, if anything happens to the car during that year, you can take it back to the dealership for needed repairs without it costing you anything.

Choose a car that is no longer under warranty, however, and it’s buyer beware. Remember that warranty coverage is dependent on the age of a vehicle or its mileage, so be sure to check both before signing on the dotted line. It is always advisable to buy a car that has some warranty coverage left, even if it is only a few months. The last thing you want is for a car you buy to break down on the drive home from the lot.


9. Low Mileage

While a newer car is usually preferable, low mileage is probably more important than the actual age of a car. If your choice is between a five-year-old car that has 30,000 miles on it and a three-year-old car that has 60,000 miles, you’re probably better off taking the vehicle with less mileage. This is simply because there is less wear and tear on cars that haven’t been driven as much.

Mechanically, an older vehicle with low mileage will probably be in better shape than a newer one that has been driven hard and racked up a lot of miles. Cars that are old but have low mileage most likely spent a lot of time sitting in a garage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, provided the car was well maintained. Vehicles that are only a couple of years old but have a ton of miles on the tires, on the other hand, are likely headed for a breakdown soon.


8. The Dealership Is Willing To Negotiate

A lot of salesmen at car dealerships will tell you that they don’t negotiate on the vehicles they sell. You should immediately turn and walk away from those people. Getting a good deal on a car always requires a bit of negotiation. Period. Make sure you find a dealership staffed by people who are willing to answer your questions and negotiate, and not just on the price.

Many other things related to a car you buy should be negotiable, from an extended warranty to having a DVD player installed (or not). If you find yourself speaking with a salesperson who is inflexible, impatient, or just unwilling to meet you halfway on certain things, then bolt. In these cases, you’re basically wasting your time. There’s no good deal to be had.


7. Has Just Arrived On The Lot

If you regularly pass a car lot and notice that a particular vehicle has been sitting there for a long time, chances are there’s a problem with it. Quality cars that are in great shape and meet the criteria on this list don’t tend to sit around for long. They sell pretty quick. It is therefore important to know when vehicles arrive at a car lot near your home or work.

Give the lot a telephone call and ask them what days they tend to get new vehicles. Better yet, tell the car dealership what type of vehicle you’re looking for and your price range. They’ll be more than happy to give you a call back when a vehicle matching your criteria arrives. Another advantage of getting to a car when it first reaches a lot is that you can negotiate a good price. In most instances, the salespeople will be more flexible if they think it means a quick sale for them and a reduction in their inventory.


6. Little Extras Thrown In

Most people are surprised at what they can get thrown in when negotiating a car deal. A remote starter, a set of winter tires, floor mats, satellite radio, you name it. It might be on the table. A lot of times, sales staff are more willing to throw in these little extras rather than lower the price too dramatically. If the car lot has things laying around that don’t come standard (but that could be useful to you), then dealers will often include them in an effort to appease you.

The key is that you have to actually ask for these extras. Don’t expect the salesperson to just offer them to you. But if you do ask, and are persistent, you may be surprised at what you can have thrown in to sweeten the pot as you decide whether to buy a car or not.


5. A Cheap Or Free Extended Warranty

Speaking of negotiating for extras, how about an extended warranty? An extended warranty can be extremely valuable for a second hand vehicle, especially if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired or is about to expire. Chances are, you’re going to end up sitting in the office of the business manager listening to them trying to sell you on an extended warranty.

This is when you want to bargain with them, and try to get the price of the extended warranty lowered. Best case scenario, you might even get the extended warranty for free. Trust us when we say that the price of extended warranties is always negotiable. Just watch how fast the price drops when you reject the first price quoted by the business manager.


4. Zero Interest Payments

There are many ways to finance the purchase of a vehicle. However you go about it, getting financing that has zero percent interest is always preferred. Often times, dealerships will offer zero percent interest as a way to drive sales. If you are going to finance through the dealership where you buy the car, then be sure that they aren’t charging you any extra interest. This will keep the total cost of the vehicle lower and likely save you thousands of dollars.

Beware of tricks car dealers play with their no interest offers, though. Many will offer no interest for two or three years, but then apply an extremely high interest rate in the final years of a finance agreement, sometimes as high as 7.5% or more. By doing this, the dealer ends up recovering the interest you didn’t pay in the first years of the financing deal. It could actually cost you more over the life of your car payments. Zero interest financing is great, provided you make sure to read the fine print.


3. A Detailed History

If you’re not buying a brand new car, your potential used vehicle comes with some unknowns. You may never get an honest account of how many owners its had or well it was taken care of. The good new, though, is that there are services you can use to fill in those blanks.

The most well-known one is CarFax. Using the vehicles unique VIN number, CarFax can provide a wide variety of information about the car you’re potentially buying. You’ll get service history, accident or damage reports, all previous registrations, recalls, plus any indicators the car is stolen or has current liens against it.

This is a fairly inexpensive way to make sure your used car doesn’t come with any unwelcome surprises. Some dealers will even offer to pull the CarFax report for you, in an effort to prove the car is in great condition.


2. One All-In Price

The best thing to negotiate at any car dealership is an all-in price. This means that you pay one price for the vehicle, and it includes taxes and any other applicable licensing or administrative fees. Far too often car dealerships will quote you one price, only to see that price rise significantly at the last minute. It’s those pesky taxes and other fees, which they conveniently neglected to mention earlier.

When you make an offer on a car you want, be sure to add the words “all in” after it. This will tell the salesperson that you’re serious, experienced, and only willing to pay so much money for the vehicle. Always be ready to walk away if the sales staff play games around the total price of the car.


1. The Look On The Salesperson’s Face

All of the aforementioned signs will help to tell you if you got a good deal on the car. However, nothing will drive the point home more than the look on the face of the salesperson you just finished haggling with. If the salesperson looks stressed, exhausted, and upset it is because you just got yourself a great deal.

On the other hand, if they look smug, self-satisfied, and happy, chances are they feel that they pulled a fast one over on you. Remember that human nature plays a part in any negotiation. Salespeople are merely human like the rest of us. If you got a steal on a vehicle, they’ll let you know. You’ll see it in their eyes.


The Bottom Line

Even as supply chain issues continue to make new models scarce (and used models cost more), it’s still perfectly possible to find a good deal on a vehicle. You just need to have a bit of patience and know what to look for.

Don’t make any snap buying decisions, no matter how much pressure a salesperson might try to apply. Instead, just be confident in your research and stand firm on your budget. The right car — at the right price — is out there for you. You just might need to dig around a bit in order to find it.


Devon Taylor

Managing Editor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, running, camping with his family, and playing video games.



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