An ever-increasing number of car shoppers are taking advantage of performing their research online before even setting foot into a dealership to get hammered by a salesperson eager for a commission. And it's smart to do so since there's a wealth of information out there. So, what happens if you find the car you're looking for (used or new), and you see the price listed online? Is that price firm, or can you talk them down lower? 

web2carz honda cr-v quote screenshot
It might be a great price, but it's always worth seeing if they can do better.

Oftentimes buyers will accept the price listed, and that's not always a bad idea. If you call the dealership that posted the ad and talk to the internet sales manager (or another similar title), they typically tell you that you can't negotiate and that the price listed is the lowest they can do, but is that the truth? Let's take a closer look.

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Is the Internet Price Better Than at the Dealership?

2018 GMC denali monroney

Online car shopping isn't a totally new game, but pricing from dealer to dealer can vary sometimes by thousands of dollars. Most of the time, though, dealers have to stay competitive, so they price accordingly. It's pretty easy to compare new car prices, of course. You can look at the MSRP on the manufacturer site, and then you can shop around to see what new models are going for online, as well as on the actual Monroney sticker (as seen above) on the new car that's for sale.

2012 toyota rav4 blue
FIguring out a good price on a used car like this Toyota RAV4 takes a bit of research.

But used car prices are a bit harder to decipher. Much of the pricing depends on year, mileage, options, condition, market desirability, etc. Internet prices aren't always the best, but you can count on the fact that dealers will at least make an effort to be competitive with what's out there. Just don't tacitly accept that it's the best, and do your homework when you shop.

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Don't Be Afraid to Make That Phone Call

samuel l jackson siri phone call
Even Samuel L. has to use the actual phone sometimes. Maybe he got a great price.

There's typically a phone number listed on every ad, as well as a place to submit an inquiry via email. You can easily contact the dealership and talk to the Internet Sales Manager to ask if they can do better than their posted price. Chances are, he or she will tell you that this is the rock bottom price or they'll tell you that you can come in and talk to them. Rarely will they actually send you a price before they get you in the door because they know you will shop other dealerships. Dealers don't like it when you pit another dealership against them to get the lowest price, but they do realize it happens. 

internet car price ad cadillac escalade
The ad says it's a great deal, and it just might be, but don't give up. Make the call.

It's ideal to talk to them directly on the phone and tell them what you're looking for. Don't be afraid to tell them that their price is good, as well, but get the conversation to continue by letting them know you're serious about buying if they're willing to be flexible on price. Set an appointment if they can confirm they're open to talking, and make sure they have the car you want. Some dealers will try to get you in and then let you know the car has been sold. 

A Lot Can Happen When You Show Up

car dealership negotiation
You'll likely get your best price if your willing to go in and deal after talking on the phone first.

Once you've talked on the phone with the Internet Sales Manager and agreed to meet to discuss price, set an appointment and keep it. Dress decently without overdressing, and they'll know you're serious. Go in having done your homework about the car, what they've typically been selling for online. Talk to the salesperson or Internet Sales Manager to finalize things. Follow these tips when you're negotiating.

  • Bring your pre-approved financing in.
  • Show them that you've done your homework. 
  • Always be friendly and don't act like a jerk. You'll get pushback since no one wants to help an impolite customer no matter how much they need the sale.
  • Know what price you're willing to stay for and what you'll walk out for without buying the car.
  • Rarely, will the price reduction be drastic unless you're purchasing a vehicle that has low demand. After all, most online ads will factor this in, anyway.
  • Know what the various categories when it comes to final pricing at the Finance & Insurance department. Realize that there are other costs related to the out-the-door price, depending on your state, even if you don't purchase anything additional like extended warranties or window VIN etching. 

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