No matter how much research you do, car dealers will nearly always have more experience buying and selling vehicles than you. Sellers have many strategies for tricking you into a less-than-ideal deal. These tips will help you keep an upper hand and stay in control of the car-buying process.

Get Your Own Loan

If you use the dealer for financing, you can quickly lose sight of the price of the car in light of all the other figures you’re looking at. The dealer will try to entice you with a lower down payment or monthly payment while increasing the overall price of the vehicle. It’s easy to get gummed up in the math, especially when you’re working against a professional who uses tricky loopholes and confusing wording every day.

You can avoid this trap completely by getting your own loan before you even set foot on the lot. Your bank or credit union is a great place to start. Financial institutions like these will often offer you better deals than dealerships. Having a loan in hand when you walk in the door helps you start your negotiations with you in complete control.

Pick the Car You Want, Not the Car on Sale

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Image via Flickr by Ingy the Wingy

Research vehicles ahead of time and decide what you really want in a car. The dealer will most likely try to change your mind and steer you toward a different vehicle with many exciting offers. Don’t let this tactic sway you from your path. Keep a clear head and focus on the car you wanted before you walked on the lot.

Don’t Rely on the Trade-In

Trading in your existing vehicle at the same dealership where you’re buying a new one is another way to muddy the waters when it comes to your negotiations. This provides an opening for the dealer to lure you in with either a great trade-in or a great price on the car, offering one at the expense of the other. If you’re getting rid of your existing car, your best option is to sell it on your own before you go shopping for a new one.

If you absolutely must trade in your vehicle, don’t let the dealer know that this is your plan until you’ve found a car and negotiated a price. Opening with this point puts you at a distinct disadvantage.

Email Competitors

Before you settle on a price, email at least three competitors and get their offers in writing for the same or similar vehicles. This will give you excellent ammunition for your negotiations. While you can expect those other dealerships to try to negotiate on this price when you show up in person, this tactic will still give you valuable information. While an online search can tell you how much a car is worth in general, contacting sellers around your city will tell you what the car is worth in your area.

No matter how often you’ve purchased vehicles, it’s always a good idea to research the market and brush up on your knowledge before you buy. Mindful preparation will help you keep up with dealers and avoid common traps.