When I realized my time with my beloved 2001 Honda Civic was nearly over, I started to think about buying or leasing a car.
I walked into a dealership over the weekend knowing I wasn't going to buy anything that day but wanting to test drive a specific car and practice my negotiating skills.
If you've ever shopped for a car, you know that the internet offers an overwhelming amount of information as to how to do it. You can find countless tips and tricks to help you get the best deal. I did some research and decided to follow one key rule: Never accept the first offer, whether it's the sticker price or whatever deal the salesman puts before you.
That guideline served me well, but, based on my own successful experience, I came away with a lesson that was just as simple, and equally useful, for getting a great price: Don't mention money.
Strange, right? But it works. If you act like money doesn't matter and instead keep the focus on your ambivalence about the car, you turn the normal situation around. The salesperson must strive to convince you of the merits of their product using every tool at their disposal, including lowering the price.
Here's how you get there.
Use your first time at the negotiation rodeo as a rehearsal, even if it means test-driving a car you're not even interested in.
That way, when it comes time for you to sign a piece of paper, you won't doubt yourself and wonder if you could have done better.
2. Act unenthusiastic, even unconvinced, about the product
I walked into the dealership and asked to test drive the 2017 Honda Fit. After I'd gone a few blocks, I made no sign that I was won over by the car. I appeared ambivalent.
When we went back inside the dealership, the salesman sat me down and handed me a piece of paper. It said they could offer me a lease of $250 a month for 36 months and the ability to put 15,000 miles on the car every year.
As I had been told to do, I asked if that was the best he could do on the price, and he immediately brought it down from $250 to $229.
It's a salesperson's job to sell you a car, and they have two ways to do it: Convince you that the price is great or convince you that the car is great. Shifting the conversation to the car itself puts you in a more powerful position.