My short list of negotiating tactics:
1. Don’t negotiate. Tell the salesperson and sales manager that you’ll sign the paperwork the minute they hit your target figure. Politely decline any counter-offers, give them your phone number, and leave. If the price you’ve proposed is within the realm of possibility, they’ll call you at some point.
2. Follow-up on Saturday or Sunday nights an hour before closing time. Call and ask to speak with the salesperson or manager you’ve spoken to before. Remind them you’re a buyer when they meet your figure, but that they shouldn’t waste your time if they won’t.
If your offer is possible, the opportunity to do one more deal before the end of the day might compel them to work with you … especially if the dealership is having a bad weekend.
3. Follow-up on the last day of the month. Again, salespeople and managers are often under pressure to find one more deal before the month ends. A deal that didn’t make sense on the 25th might make sense on the 31st if the month hasn’t met expectations.
4. Follow-up on days that have had terrible weather. A major snowstorm, a day of wind and rain, etc. can dramatically affect car sales. Call and remind the salesperson or manager that you’re happy to come down when they meet your offer. Again, the fact that they’re not selling cars might get them to bend in your favor.
5. Rinse, wash, and repeat. Do the same process concurrently with a couple of other dealers in your area. Make sure they have the car you want, and then give them their mission.
6. Know what a car is worth. If you’re buying a new car, Edmunds.com and TrueCar.com provide “true market” estimates that are reasonably accurate. If you’re buying a used car, KBB.com is a great resource, as it will tell you both retail value and wholesale (aka trade-in) value.