Ten years from now, I believe that at least 75% of all new cars will be purchased over the Internet. Right now it is less than 20%. The reason is simply that that Internet price is usually your lowest price and more and more car buyers are figuring that out every day. Dealers must give their best price to a prospect inquiring over the Internet because that dealer probably will have only that one chance to sell the car. If they try “the old negotiating game” the Internet prospect will simply choose the lowest price from several other quotes he gets. When my friends ask me to advise them on how to get the best price on a new car, I always tell them to use the Internet. If they ask me for the best price on my product, Toyota, I give them my Internet price.
I am not suggesting that you don’t visit your local dealer to see, touch, smell, and drive the new vehicles you are considering. This is very important. You can’t make a valid, final decision on which new vehicle is best for you by solely reading data and looking at pictures on the Internet, Consumer Reports, or any other source. Research of that nature is important, but you should finalize your decision with visits to the dealers to actually experience the vehicle.
Once you have made your final decision on the year, make, model, color, and accessories, you are ready to sit down at your PC and choose the dealer from whom you will buy this specific vehicle. If you are not handy with a PC, ask a friend or relative who is. First, go to the manufacturer’s Web site like www.ford.com, www.toyota.com, www.chevrolet.com, etc. You will be able to type in your zip code to find all of the dealers of that make within a given radius, usually about 40 miles, giving you 3 or 4 dealers. To expand the radius, choose another zip code further from yours. The dealers within your radius will show their Web site addresses. Click on their Web site and ask for a quote on the specific car you have selected. Most Web sites have a page for what is called a “quick quote”. You type in the year, make, model, color, and accessories. It will also ask you for your name, telephone number, address, if you have a trade (check “no”), whether you are ready to buy now (yes), and other questions. All you really need to fill out is year, make, model, and accessories and your email address. If you prefer not to be contacted by phone, don’t fill in the phone number. If they require it before you can submit your request, type in any 10 digits so that the Web page will allow you to. If you can’t find a “quick quote” page, just email your request to their Internet sales department.
Depending on your PC and typing skills this whole process should take less than half an hour. Think of all the time, gasoline, shoe leather, and especially aggravation you are saving compared to visiting as many dealerships in person. The time it will take to get back quotes varies from dealership to dealership. You may get some back within a few minutes, some will take a few hours, and some may take a day or two. Believe it or not, some might not respond at all. There are even a few dealers who will not quote a price on the Internet, but try to lure you into their store with false promises. Ignore them. I recommend that you get a minimum of 3 valid price quotes on your specific vehicle. It’s so easy to get quotes, why not get a half dozen or so? You are not necessarily even limited by driving distances. If the best price is from a dealer who is too far away, show that quote to a dealer nearer you and ask him if he will match it.
There are some things that you must be careful about. Be sure that that the price you get is an “out the door” price. That is a price which excludes only federal, state, and local fees and taxes which are usually just for tax and tag. Most dealers in Florida tack on a fee or fees of their own which are variously referred to as “dealer fee”, “delivery fee”, “documentary fee”, etc. This is illegal in many states, but not in Florida. These fees vary from around $500 to $900. Be sure that this fee which is just profit to the dealer is included in your “out the door” price. Also be absolutely certain that you are comparing “apples and apples”. When you select your low bid, double check that this dealer is quoting you on the same year, make, model, and accessories as the other dealers. A good double-check is to compare the MSRP. The MSRP, manufacturer’s suggested retail price, will be identical on identically equipped cars of the same model and year. Also, be sure that the car you have the price on will be there when you come in. Give them deposit on your credit card to hold the car for you.
Internet car buyers are the wave of the future. The retail car business is going through rapid changes and the old fashioned, price-haggling way of buying cars is slowly but surely becoming obsolete. If you haven’t already, now is the time to join the ranks of the smart, sophisticated car buyers.