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Car Buying Guide: 5 Questions to Ask Your Dealer

Edmunds.com expert Phil Reede recommends asking these five "deal-tester" questions before agreeing to a purchase price for your new ride.

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Once you agree to a deal, you've lost most of your negotiating leverage. So, before you say 'yes', make sure the deal is solid, and that there are no landmines in it that can blow up in your face once you sign the contract. Here is what I think of as five deal testers-- ways that you can verify the sale before you put it in print. It's absolutely essential that you ask "What other fees will I be charged?" or simply just ask, "What's my out-the-door price?" Dealers like to build in extra profit with hidden fees, and the sooner you find out about these, the sooner you can negotiate the amount of the deal, or just take your business elsewhere. The answer you'd like to get to this question is "You're just gonna pay for four things: the price of the car, sales tax, a documentation fee, and registry costs." So, your next question is gonna be, "What is your documentation fee?" All dealers will charge a doc fee, and this is just for filling out the contract. I know that's weird, but it's true. The thing is this, that some states regulate it at about $100, and other dealers, where they don't regulate it, can charge you up to 600 bucks. It's also a really good idea to ask, "Are there any after-market parts or add-ons on the car?" You see, dealers like to boost their profit by adding extra things, and these can be mud flaps, chrome wheels, or even the ever popular paint protection package. These dealer add-ons are things that you may not find until you're just about to sign the contract. I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy these things, but these are high-profit items, and you should negotiate accordingly. Here's a really important question for internet shoppers that might not actually see the car. You need to ask, "How many miles are on the vehicle?" That's because it could have gone on lots of test drives, or it could have been driven to the dealership on a dealership trade. So, if there are more than 300 miles, you need to negotiate the price down. Another great question for the internet shopper is if everything looks good, ask them, "Can you deliver this car to me?" There's a lot of benefits to this. For one thing, you don't have to hang around the dealership while they wash and gas it, and print the contracts. But really, the best thing is it protects you from the F&I salesman who's gonna give you the hard sell on a lot of after-market products. It might sound kinda weird, but here's one more question for you to ask. Ask, "Is the car on your lot?" And that's because a lots of times, a car salesman will say, "We can get you this car." When what they're really intending to do is to do a dealership trade. Now, this isn't automatically a bad thing, but it means the car isn't there, and the terms of the deal could change. So, by using these questions, you might get a little something extra. But mainly, you'll be confident that the deal really is as good as it looks. So, good luck, and happy shopping. For more car buying tips, visit edmunds.com.