Most importantly, know what you want. Decide on the size, type, and features you need before you start visiting dealerships.
Once you’ve decided on a car, do some research. Find out what the dealer pays (invoice price) for that car. There are a number of consumer resources available online to help with this research. Do your own research on the value of any trade-ins as well.
Next you’ll need to negotiate with car dealers. By finding the invoice cost of your desired vehicle, you can effectively negotiate a lower mark-up. When negotiating, remember that you’ll have a relationship with the dealer for a number of years. You’ll likely have to service the car at the dealership. So, if you’re not comfortable with the dealership, find a different one.
Look into financing before you approach the dealership. If you know what banks are charging, you can more effectively negotiate financing through the dealer.
Make sure the dealer knows that you know exactly which car you want and how much the invoice cost of that car is. Make it clear that you are considering multiple dealerships. Don’t discuss financing or mention trade-ins until the dealer has made an offer, and keep shopping even when you’ve found a good price.
Don’t agree to any add-ons by the dealership, like rust-proofing.
Depending on the model’s repair history, you may want to consider a long-term warranty.