The test drive can obviously be done at the local dealership, but in fairness, the dealer who provides a test drive should be given a chance to match or beat any deal you find online. Going in with printouts of the cheapest deals will boost your negotiating clout and help you avoid the hard sell, though you may be pressed to accept a car on the lot that’s not exactly what you want. It will help if you’re not in a desperate hurry.
Also, as mentioned above, ask a person at the dealership for its Internet department, typically one or more sales people assigned to get a hold of vehicles that aren’t already on the lot. Edmunds found that a dealer’s Internet department could provide an identical vehicle for $1,000 less than the same dealer’s traditional sales people.
Edmunds says sticking with the same Internet sales person for the test drive and all paperwork can streamline the process and eliminate additional pressure for financing and unwanted options.
Before signing a contract, though, ask about all fees on top of the sales price, registration and tax. Don’t get stung by an unexpected “documentation fee,” for example. Some dealers charge hundreds of dollars just for filling out paperwork.
Also, Edmunds says, be sure to ask if you will be charged for any after-market add-ons such as mud flaps, tinted windows or a paint-protection package. Sometimes, dealers neglect to mention these until the last minute.