Car Buying Cheat Sheet: Former Dealer Shares How to Negotiate Car Prices Confidently

October 28, 2022

Our team of YAA Auto Experts combines decades of experience in the automotive industry to help you, the consumer, buy a car without the hassle. That’s why we created this must-have resource for buying a new or used car at a dealership, whether in person or through the internet sales department. This car buying cheat sheet will help you negotiate car prices confidently, so you can drive away feeling proud of what you’ve accomplished.

Thank you to YAA’s Ray Shefska (former dealership sales manager) and Kimberly Kline (former dealership finance manager) for putting this together for car buyers everywhere!

How to Negotiate Car Prices with a Salesperson

Use this cheat sheet to negotiate the best auto loan rates on new or used cars!

The best way to learn how to negotiate car prices effectively is to prepare for the situations and conversations you’re likely to encounter with the salesperson and finance manager. Feel free to print off this cheat sheet and bring it with you! Without further ado, here’s how an informed, prepared car buyer can expertly negotiate.

Salesperson: What do you want your monthly payment to be?

You: I’m not concerned with the monthly payment, I am only focused on the total out-the-door price.

Salesperson: So you’re paying cash?

You: I haven’t determined exactly how I plan to pay for it. I am only concerned about the total out-the-door price.

Salesperson: So you have a monthly budget in mind?

You: I have a total out-the-door price in mind, so I would only like to discuss that at the present time.

Salesperson: OK, how much cash will you be putting down?

You: I haven’t decided that yet and I won’t until we establish an acceptable total out-the-door price.

Notice a trend here? You really really want to stay laser-focused on the only number that matters this early in the game: the out-the-door price. Salespeople will try hard to learn more about how much money you’re willing to spend. If that can get you to talk about monthly payments, they immediately have an advantage over you. That gives them leverage to play with higher interest rates, longer loan terms, and lower trade-in offers. None of those are good for you, the buyer.

Salesperson: What are going to do with the car that drove here, will you be trading it?

You: I haven’t decided yet. We can discuss that as a possibility after we agree to an out-the-door price.

Salesperson: Now that we have agreed to the out-the-door price, what about the car you drove here, will you be trading that in?

You: I might, it depends on whether or not you can match or beat these written offers that I have already received. 

Salesperson: Now that we have agreed to the out-the-door price and agreed to the value of your trade, what do you want your monthly payment to be?

You: I’ll only discuss that with the Finance Manager.

Salesperson: Will you be putting any cash down?

You: I’ll be more than happy to discuss all of that with the Finance Manager. If you provide me with a credit application I’ll be more than happy to fill that out for the Finance Manager.

Salesperson: The Finance Manager will be with you shortly.

How to Negotiate the Best Auto Loan Rate with the Finance Office

Use this cheat sheet to negotiate the best auto loan rates on new or used cars!

Finance Manager: I assume that you have given some thought to a monthly payment and loan term that will be comfortable to you.

You: I have indeed and I have also secured a pre-approval from my credit union as a possibility for my loan.

Finance Manager: Would you consider financing through us?

You: I would assuming that you can beat the pre-approved rate that I have. Here is the pre-approval terms sheet from my credit union with all the particulars.

Finance Manager: So if I beat the rate you will finance with us?

You: Yes, if you beat it by at least ¼ of a percent. And I promise to at least listen to any finance and protection packages that are available.

Finance Manager: So you are open to some of our programs?

You: Possibly, if we can agree to a reasonable selling price on any items that I think have value. Oh, and if I do buy any products I would at least expect you to give me the buy rate from the bank on my loan. Once again though, you will need to beat my credit union rate by at least ¼ of a percent for me to even consider it.

Finance Manager: Great, let’s get started.

You: I’m all ears.

Finance Manager shares the MENU with additional products.

You: But first, before we go over product benefits, where is my base payment, amount financed, term and interest rate?

Finance Manager shows them to you.

You: Is there a prepayment penalty if I finance with you?

If there is no prepayment penalty, proceed with considering their menu options.

These are products you might see on the menu, and questions to ask:

  • Vehicle Service Contract (also known as an extended warranty)
    • Are you getting a fair deal? Remember, YAA brings you the LOWEST prices for extended warranties. Get a free quote here!
  • GAP coverage – In the event of an accident, GAP covers the difference between what a vehicle is currently worth and the amount you actually owe on it.
    • Does this GAP coverage pay 150% and my deductible?
  • Maintenance plan – Does this plan cover the major, expensive services or is this basic oil, filter & tire rotations?
  • Electronics Warranty – Your new car IS a computer on wheels, but be wary of dealer pricing on electronics warranties.
    • YAA offers a low cost Electronics Warranty with all the coverage you need. Get a free quote!
  • Tire/wheel coverage – Does this also cover cosmetic damage?
  • Paintless dent repair/windshield repair – Where on the vehicle and how large can the dent/crack be? How many are covered under the policy?
  • Paint and interior coverage 
  • Key care – Is this 5 years and unlimited keys?

Finance Manager shows you payments

You: (If you don’t see actual product price) Please write the actual product price next to each one.

Finance Manager: It just changes your payment by this much.

You: I see that, but I want to see the actual price of each product to help me make a good decision. 

At this point, negotiate prices down on any products you want.

Finance Manager: OK, sign here and here and here.

You: Please print my Bank Contract and Purchase Order first so I can go over them.

Go over each line of your itemized Purchase Order and make sure the bottom line (amount financed) on both documents match!  

YAA Is Here to Empower Consumers

Looking for more car buying resources? Search our free guides, and join the YAA Community today! We’re here to help you negotiate car prices confidently. When it comes to car buying, knowledge certainly is power.

Check us out on YouTube at the YAA main channel and our daily Ray and Zach LIVE SHOW.

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    • Justin Fischer

      Hi James, you can print out this entire webpage. We’re glad you find it useful!

      • Joseph Vidro

        Hello James can you please email me the script for when I do purchase a vehicle. Thank you.

        • Justin Fischer

          Hello, you can simply print out the whole page and use it. We’re happy to hear you find it helpful.

    • Tom Harrison

      I also never found the cheat sheet print out. Please let me know where to look on the YAA website. Thanks!

      • Justin Fischer

        Hello! If you right-click on your computer, you will have the option to print, and to select which pages you want to print.


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