Buying a Car Doesn’t Have to Feel Like a Crisis

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Today I want to share the story of how I recently identified and successfully negotiated for my new car. It’s something I was feeling pretty nervous about ahead of time, and I was really happy with the outcome. I want to share my takeaways, both about buying a new car and about the difficult conversations you have to navigate when do that, some of which can probably be applied to other kinds of difficult conversations that you might be facing. 

I began by listing out the criteria I was seeking in my new car, such as 4 doors, all-wheel drive, a certain kind of seats, moon roof, Apple Car Play, good pickup for the highway, and big enough for my family members who are 6 foot 2” tall to sit comfortably, etc.

Then I delegated to my virtual assistant creating and filling out a matrix of all the possible models that fit my criteria. She did all the research online. The matrix helped me really narrow down the options for the years, makes and models that I thought that might appeal to me. We narrowed it down to the 2022 Toyota Rav4 and the 2022 Subaru Forester Touring. After that research was done, I went to test drive both cars, which helped me decide I’d really prefer the Subaru.

Next, I started researching dealerships in my area. I tried to figure out if anybody I knew had experience with any of the dealerships.  I knew that the best time to buy a car is the end of the month, ideally at the end of the year.

So toward the end of November, near the end of 2022, I contacted each of the dealerships that I was considering, let them know exactly what model I was interested in, and asked them if they had that available. I asked the ones who did to email me a written quote with their best offer and the VIN number (aka a draft purchase and sale agreement). They were all willing to do that when I asked for it. 

When I spoke with each dealer, I was really specific with what I wanted. And I was very genuine. I said, “I’d like to do business with you if we can come to the best deal… Here’s what would make it possible for me.” Some of the dealership said, “Oh, no way, that’s not a deal we’re interested in. We can’t do that.” And I said, “That’s fine, thank you very much for your time.”

Then other dealerships said they were interested in working with me. So it was a process that I went through. The elapsed time from the day I test drove the 2 cars to the day I actually signed the purchase and sale to buy the Subaru was five days. 

I was super proud of myself, because, as you’ve probably heard before, you have to be willing to walk away from the deal that’s not right for you. I did walk away many times! I ended up with a few different dealerships bidding against each other, to make me the offer that I would find best based on what I was looking for. 

I ended up getting a specific Subaru Forester Touring that was not my favorite color, but was a $1,000 cheaper than the one that was my favorite color at the next dealership.  My #3 dealership in terms of the price called me just as I was about to walk into the #1 dealership to sign the paperwork. He asked whether I’d made a deal yet. I said I was just about to go into a dealership to do that.  He said, “Let me know what we need to do to earn your business.”

I said, “Well, since you have one in my ideal color, if you could match the price this dealership gave me on a different color, I would do business with you.  He said, “Oh, that’s an interesting price. Break it down for me in terms of the amount of equity you’re getting for your trade-in and all the different pieces of the deal.”  I did, and he responded, “Oh, I’m sorry to tell you this bad news, but that dealership is selling you a used car.” 

I responded, “No, they’re selling me a brand-new car. It only has 30 miles on it. I test-drove it myself.” 

He said, “Wow! I haven’t heard of anyone getting that much off a sticker price on a brand-new Forester for at least 3 years. If you can really get that deal, more power to you.”

And that’s when I knew I had been truly successful in my negotiations. I walked into the #1 dealership, signed the paperwork to buy the car, and I’ve been really happy with it! 

So here are some takeaways I wanted to share with you.  First, the car-specific ones: 

  • Get the draft P&S with the VIN in writing from each dealership that has a decent offer. (By the way, I did all this research over the phone after going in person to 2 dealerships to test drive.)  

  • Buy your car at the end of the month, ideally at the end of the year.

  • I highly recommend Josh Geller at MetroWest Subaru in Natick, MA. He was fantastic. After I signed the deal, I told him “This deal ended up being so much better than what I could have gotten elsewhere.”  He said, “Yeah, that’s because we have a different strategy than a lot of other dealers… our strategy is to sell every car on our lot…. theirs is to make as much money as possible.”  The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was all about relationship building: really listening to the customer, knowing that when he makes good deals and provides excellent service, customers will walk away singing his praises, which I’ve absolutely done. Their strategy absolutely worked! 

In terms of succeeding at the difficult conversations, my strategy was to do my homework, get as much information as possible in advance, be respectful of the sales process, be genuine, be specific about what I wanted, and walk away from deals that weren’t a good fit for me. I listened carefully in each of the conversations I had, which helped me with all my future iterations of negotiations. The combination of all of that helped me get a great deal on the car that had what I wanted the most.  And I’m just thrilled with it!

So that’s my little story of the day. As a postscript, most of us have to learn the skills of having difficult conversations, absolutely including me. I didn’t really begin to feel very confident with my ability to have those until about 5 years ago. Then last year I rolled everything I’ve learned into an online video course called How To Win-Win Any Difficult Conversation. It’s about an hour’s worth of content. You can listen to it in segments and go back and review whatever information you want, whenever you need it. Check it out if you’re interested!

And of course, you can always reach out to me for more information about my car-buying story,  any upcoming difficult conversations you’re preparing for, or any questions you have about any of my offerings, including the video course.  And I invite you to share below any comments on this post.

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1 Comment

  1. Amy Asch

    Brava, Debra! So happy for you that you got what you wanted. And so happy for me (and the wider public) to learn exactly how you did it and the takeaways that are relevant to all difficult or dreaded negotiations!