I just bought a Nissan Rogue and it was a very tough and stressful decision as I was going back and forth among Nissan Rogue, Toyota Rav4, and Honda CRV. They’re all excellent cars and practically identical vehicles. All three received excellent reviews, not only by Edmunds and Consumer Reports, but also by customers themselves. So, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with whatever choice I made. My main goal was to achieve the lowest monthly payment I could get. Options were secondary to the final price. I also planned on trading in my 2003 Mazda6 with 138,500 miles on it. In this buying experience, there are some things I wish I had done differently and there are some things I thought I did great.

Have A Backup Plan

I was not in a hurry to buy the car. My Mazda6 still ran OK and I could’ve driven it probably 6 more months without any problems. What instigated shopping around for a new car was the repair cost estimate I received when I took my car in for a flat tire. I had a check engine light on, and my tires and brakes were almost at their life’s end. Total repair and maintenance cost was estimated at over $3,000. But still, I was not desperate and this gave me an option of not buying a new car. It gave me an opportunity to shop around and bargain for the very best deal in town. If I was desperate for a new car and needed one the very next day, it would’ve been hard to shop around as freely.

Have Different Cars To Choose From

It’s not smart to go into a particular dealership with the intent of buying your car. You should definitely go there prepared to make that purchase, but always have enough leverage so you can walk away from the offer they provide. For me, not only did I have 3 different vehicles to choose from, I told them in advance that I had more appointments with other dealerships. As soon as I told them that, they let their guards down a little and did everything they can to keep me from leaving their dealership. When the manager comes out and tells you that the offer is the best they can do, don’t believe it. They can do better, trust me. Even if they let you go, you can always go to another dealership and have them at least match the offer.

Get Trade-In Value From Carmax

I stopped by Carmax to get a quick appraisal value on my Mazda6. It came out to $3,000. When I took it to the dealer, they offered $2,500 to trade in the car. I told them about Carmax and they matched it to $3,000. When negotiating, it’s a always a good idea to have something in writing that you can use as negotiating tool. Even if it’s something as simple as a flyer from other dealerships, bring that in and show it to them. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

Know What You Want Before Visiting Any Dealerships

If you don’t know what you want before you go in, you might be coerced into buying a car you really weren’t interested in buying in the first place. I visited a Toyota dealership, interested in looking at a base model Rav4. When I called them, they told me they had one available in their lot so I naturally made an appointment. When I got there, they showed me an upgrade model that was about $4,000 more than what I wanted to pay. I told them I wasn’t interested but they tried their best to sell me that car. And they were close. If I wasn’t adamant about what I wanted before visiting this dealership, I might have ended up with a car I didn’t want.

Do Your Homework

There are so many resources on the web these days that it’s virtually impossible for dealers to scam customers for more money. Edmunds.com and Cars.com are great websites that provide everything you need to know about any make and model. They even provide invoice and msrp prices. Invoice prices are what the dealer pays for the vehicle. But trust me, they can sell you the car below invoice and still make money off of you. Read consumer reports review the car you’re interested in and also read reviews on similar cars to compare. Also read reviews from real customers who have actually bought the vehicle themselves. In my opinion, their opinions are more valuable than any reviews out there. Read up on any outstanding recalls that may have been issued and ask your dealer about them. Talk to them about potential problems other customers are dealing with. Get good answers from your dealer and use these questions and concerns as a leverage to drop the price even lower.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Maryland law states that I have 30 days to update my insurance policy with Allstate with the new vehicle, as long as I have full coverage on my other vehicle I traded in for. But if you’re buying a new vehicle, it’s smart to contact your insurance company to at least receive a quote and have your policy ready to be updated. That way, after you sign the contract, you can call your insurance company again and make it official. This will allow you do drive your new car out on the same day. The law might be different with each state, so check your state laws first.

Total price I paid for my new Rogue was $20,750 which was very close to the invoice price. MSRP was at $22,430. I could have gotten additional $1000 off but I opted for special 1.9% financing instead. Total out-the-door price I paid was $22,202. I think I definitely could have received additional discounts, but my negotiating skills are not up to par just yet.