There are few things that elicit as much excitement for many people as does getting a brand new car. Paradoxically, even those who share that excitement almost universally dislike the experience of dealing with a car salesperson. The primary reason for our disdain is that we fully expect car salespeople to lie to us and do their best to take advantage of us and get us to pay more than we should have to pay.

Realising that it is a salesperson’s job to make as much profit as possible on every sale, perhaps we can set aside our animosity and even use the salesperson’s agenda to help us get a better deal. The following are a few tips to help you better position yourself before you are sitting across the desk from the salesman.

Check online and at different dealerships for deals on the model you like

By doing so, you can get a better idea of a realistic selling price with the features and accessories you want. The better informed you are when you go to the dealership, the better your chances of getting a good deal on your new car. Websites such as Carbuyer are a good place to start, by providing easy-to-use online tools with which you can compare the prices and features of different makes and models of cars before you start browsing the dealers’ showrooms.

Ignore the “low-ball” prices you see in some adverts

Promotions touting new cars at prices well below the competition’s are published with the sole purpose of getting buyers to rush into the dealership and get the fantastic deal before anyone else does. When the excited customers get there, ready to buy, the low-ball unit will somehow no longer be available, even if they are the first customers in the door since the advert was made public. The salesperson will then begin showing them alternative models, all of which will be priced significantly higher than the one in the advert.

Avoid the car dealer shell game

Car buyers are concerned with three things: the price of the new car, how much their monthly payments will be, and the allowance they will get for their trade-in, not necessarily in that order. The salesperson, as noted at the beginning, is concerned only with one. He or she will focus on whichever number is most important to you, and juggle the numbers in the other categories as needed to make the sale. This juggling will never be to your advantage, so watch for and put a stop to it.

Be patient, but be firm

When you have found a car you want to buy, be prepared for the process to take awhile. The negotiation is a game of back and forth that you have little option save to sit and play. The salesperson will assume the role of your friend, ready to do battle with the sales manager to get you what you want. That salesperson will present your initial offer to the sales manager, who will refuse it and send the salesperson back with a counter offer. Don’t be afraid to say no to an offer. Regardless of what the salesperson says, you really do have the upper hand in the negotiations, so long as you are aware of what each of you are doing.

If the two sides don’t seem to be getting anywhere, simply stand up and state as much, and politely announce that you’ll continue shopping elsewhere. This simple act is probably the most powerful tool at your disposal. The absolute last thing a dealer wants is for a customer to walk out the door without buying, especially at the end of the week or month, or in the month approaching release of new models. At those times especially, dealers will actually let some cars go at a loss, just to move them out of inventory and increase their sales numbers.

So be firm. All you have to lose is not getting the deal you want. And even if the salesperson tells you the offer is time-limited, take that for the common bluff it is. You can pretty well assume that the offer will still be on the table, should you not find a better deal elsewhere.

Arrange financing before you start shopping

Many car buyers make the mistake of entering the dealership as the first step in buying a new car, and most pay dearly for their error. Before you ever darken a dealer’s doorway, make preliminary arrangements with your bank or other preferred lending institution by which to finance the car you choose. Even better, take a bit more time to shop around for the best financing deals, as well as the best purchase prices. Car dealers often make as much or even more profit from financing than they do on the car itself. Sales people know this; that is why they typically push in-house financing during negotiations with customers.

The salesman or woman sitting across the desk from you knows that he or she can make up for a discounted sale price by getting you to agree to the dealer’s financing program. When you are going through your back and forth with the salesperson, allow them the luxury of thinking you are inclined to avail yourself of their finance plan, and focus instead upon getting the dealer to lower the sale price. When they ultimately offer the car at a price you are comfortable with, you let them know that you’ve obtained your own financing. You won’t be the most popular person on the salesman’s or sales manager’s lists, but you will save some money, potentially quite a bit.

Get an idea for the total cost of the car, not just the selling price

Just as the price on the window sticker doesn’t reflect the price a smart buyer will pay, neither does the actual sale price reflect how much the car will actually cost to insure, maintain, and operate. Once you have narrowed your search down to a specific model, check with your insurance agent to find what it will cost to insure, and check online for the model’s reliability history, actual fuel mileage, and projected maintenance costs. The Automobile Association offers an online guide that provides estimated costs in these areas, which can assist in your preliminary search.

As in any other game, it is impossible to win if you don’t know and play by the rules. By familiarising yourself with how the game is played, and playing to the seller’s agenda, you could save more money purchasing and operating a car than you had ever thought possible.