How to negotiate a December car deal

- If you've got a little more wiggle room to spend this month, this would be the time to get a car. End-of-month and end-of-year deals are here.

CAR BUYING: Price, Financing, Trade In
In December dealers need to make room for the new models. Car buying is a three-part deal: the price of the car, the financing, and your trade-in.  

Let start with the price. You don't know what the price is until you know what you want. Do research before you leave the house. Know exactly which vehicle you want. Stay online and find that car or truck on a site like "Edmund's True Market Value." It's a tool that'll help you figure out what other people are paying. The site will give you roughly what the dealer paid and the MSRP, manufacturer's suggested retail price, or the sticker price. You want to pay somewhere in between. You want a deal, but you also want your salesperson to make money too. That's how they earn a living.

Now to financing. Get that settled before you get to the dealership. Go to your lender first. Now, it doesn't mean you won't entertain a deal your salesperson might have, but if you walk in with an option then you can say "no" if the dealership offer isn't that great.

And finally, there's the trade in. Let's say you have one and you definitely need it to get the car. First, note, that you'll make more if you sell your car yourself. But we all know that's not fun and so many of us don't do that. Here's what you do. Research. Know what it's worth. Be honest about its condition. If you have kids and dogs and it's lived-in, well, then it just is. You can also take your car to a place like Carmax and get a written appraisal of your car's value.  Maybe you'll get a better deal there. Or, maybe you can use that at the dealership.   

Trade In
- Sell or Trade?
- Assess its value
- Get another quote

Now here's where it can get sticky. If the salesperson knows right out of the gate that you want a trade in, she can use this to play one deal against the other.  She's in sales. Why wouldn't she?  But you can keep to yourself the status of the car you drove into the dealership until after you have settled on the price of the new car.

But don't give away your intention either. If you drive up in a newly detailed car, new tires, etc. they might figure it out. Just drive in with some mud on the door. That doesn't impact the trade in.

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