The Art of the Deal - How to Get the Best Deal on a Vehicle

Posted on October 1, 2003 by Neil Weiss, LCT staff editor

Getting the best on a new car takes an understanding of the process and a little bit of homework. According to one Web site,, five key factors influence the cost of a purchase or lease:

  1. Trade-in value,
  2. Selling price,
  3. Interest rate,
  4. Add-ons, and
  5. Special fees. Dealer or buyer incentives and the length of your financial obligation are also factors that should be considered.

Keep in mind that the dealer looks at all these elements when striking a deal. If you focus on only some of them, the dealer will try to make up his profits by increasing the ones that you failed to take into account.

This article offers a brief look at 10 points to address when buying or leasing your next vehicle.

1) Know your realistic trade-in value: Part of what will be your final trade-in value was decided when you purchased the vehicle. If you owe more than your trade-in is worth, it will not serve as a decent down payment.

2) Don’t overlook incentive possibilities: Lincoln and Cadillac offer discounts in the hundreds or thousands of dollars per vehicle based on how large a fleet is and how many cars are purchased in a year.

“Look for incentives that apply during the period in which you are buying a car. If there are incentives offered to retail customers that you do not qualify for, the manufacturer may give them to you once you speak up,” advises Jacob Salem, owner of Boston’s Chauffeured Services International.

3) Get the facts behind the selling price: “First you ask for the factory-generated invoice,” adds Salem. “It will show you below invoice but not below ‘true’ dealer cost. Call the manufacturer’s fleet office and ask about promotions and incentive levels for a vehicle. Tell the dealers to give you their best price. Tell them that if you don’t get their best price you are not coming back. It should work.”

Factory-to-dealer incentives can completely change the nature of a negotiation. These incentives are often valued at thousands of dollars and area pure profit to dealers.

4) Don’t get stuck with a long financial loan: A loan of more than 36 months on a typical livery vehicle is almost always a mistake because the wear and tear is often excessive three years after it rolls off the dealer’s lot.

Barry Trabb, vice president of Universal Limousine Distributors in Wayne, N.J. warns of dealers who will recommend payment terms that last four or five years.

“[A dealer] is hurting you if he is putting you into a 60-month payment because you are never going to get out of your car.”

5) Confirm after your purchase that you got the best deal: Shopping around with other dealers after you’ve done a deal clarifies whether your dealer is someone you want to do business with in the future. Find out if there are any new incentives or changes that you might have benefited from. “You might be able to shame the dealer into giving you those incentives retroactively,” Salem says.

6) Work to obtain the best interest rate that your credit rating will allow: Operators need to start by being honest with their salesperson or financial consultant, according to Toni Trabb president of Universal Limousine Distributors. Once a person submits a credit application, he or she agrees to have a credit report run and reviewed by the salesperson and the bank. Explaining derogatory notations on a credit rating up front allows the salesperson to instruct the purchaser on how to approach the bank.

Additional documents may be required, including bank statements, financials, proof of income, etc. This gives the salesperson more ammunition to fight for a better rate.

Operators should get a copy of their credit report prior to making a purchase or ask to review the one run by their salesperson. Remove anything that is incorrectly listed. Go through the records, find proof of incorrectly recorded information and submit the proper information to credit bureau companies.

If a person has poor credit, lenders are likely to charge a higher interest rate and may require more money down, a shorter term, a co-signer or even a less expensive car.

7) Match the potential costs of extras vs. a fully loaded vehicle: Fortunately, the vehicles that livery operators are buying typically include many amenities. But knowing the full product range will prevent buyers from adding individual amenities to the base model to the point that the vehicle costs more than one with a fully loaded package.

Knowing the pricing of aftermarket suppliers can also help differentiate between a good and bad deal.

8) Watch out for “special fees:” These are charges that get added on after the deal seems to be concluded. Many of them are legitimate, others are not. There is an extensive list of valid and bogus fees in chapter 3 of the car-buying guide at

9) Consult the Kelly Blue Book for additional incentive information: Check out for the incentive programs offered to dealers and consumers on all type of vehicles by year and model. The site does not refer specifically to livery vehicles, but you can get a rundown on any specialty deals that might be available.

10) Know the other signs of bad financing: Be cautious of a dealer who is willing to falsify documents, explains Trabb.

Also, lenders must disclose and explain all documents. Operators must take the time to read them carefully, particularly if information is not being properly explained.

Bad financing occurs when:

  • A salesperson falsifies a down payment by raising the price of the car.
  • A salesperson tells the buyer it’s okay to take rebates off the purchase price to save tax—this is unlawful.
  • A salesperson or buyer does not disclose to a lender that the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes, often trying to hide that fact by putting it under a personal name instead of a business. Banks can demand that a buyer immediately pay off a loan if “commercial use” is not disclosed.
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