smart spending

Email your way to a cheaper car

While the idea of getting a new car is exciting, the actual process of searching for one makes riding a bike on your highway commute seem like a reasonable alternative. Not many of us are fans of spending their weekends at dealerships with an irrepressible hunch that dealers can see the word "SUCKER" stamped on our foreheads in bold, red letters. Fortunately, this month's Frugal $ense winner has found a way to save thousands on a new car from the comfort of your own computer chair.

June's Frugal $ense Winner: Marlon Ribunal
Marlon RibunalMarlon Ribunal won $100 for submitting the following tip:

"When buying a new car, make sure to do your research on the car you want. That way you can get an idea of how much everybody else is paying for that particular model. Once you have an idea of how much the car costs, submit your quote request to at least six car dealers -- 10 or more is better. Use the dealers' Internet quotes instead of driving to their showrooms or calling them on the phone. If they express that they want to call you over the phone, insist on receiving a quote via email. Do not let them call you. The email has a purpose: documentation. Pick the top five -- or three, depending on your preference -- with the lowest quotes. Negotiate with the dealers through email and make them commit to what they said -- at least through their words. Pick one and make the other beat the price. From that, pick the winner and use that again to negotiate with another dealer on your list. Repeat this step. You get the idea. At the end of the process, your last quote standing should be at least close to, or lower than, your ideal price. I purchased my 2011 Honda Pilot EX-L with the DVD rear entertainment system last December for below invoice price using the methods I just described. And don't forget timing and promotions. I made a point of waiting until a Sunday evening in December to get my car. Dealers are more willing to negotiate under certain circumstances (year-end inventory, etc.)." -- Marlon Ribunal

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Bankrate.com: Where did you get the idea for your tip?

Marlon Ribunal: I'd been driving an old car that wasn't from a dealer. As my family was growing, I realized we needed a bigger car and didn't want it to have the same problem the old car does with its higher maintenance costs, so we decided to buy a new one. I'd been reading around and did research to find out what works.

Bankrate.com: Was this the first time you've done this?

Marlon Ribunal: Yeah, it was the first time. A few years ago when we bought my wife's car, we didn't do anything like this and we ended up paying more than we should have. This time doing advance research worked to our advantage.

Bankrate.com: How long does the process take you?

Marlon Ribunal: It only took about one week because it was December, and the dealers wanted to sell their cars. Plus, it's easier and quicker for dealerships to get back to you when you send them the inquiry through the Internet.

Bankrate.com: What was the market value for your Honda Pilot?

Marlon Ribunal: Online, it was like $36,000 for the configuration I had.

Bankrate.com: How much did you get it for?

Marlon Ribunal: $32,000, so we saved $4,000.

Bankrate.com: You mentioned timing and promotions in your tip. How do you track those down?

Marlon Ribunal: Mainly we watched commercials to see when the best deals were. It's the end of the year, and dealerships have old inventory they want to get rid of. I read in one article that Sunday evening is the best time to get a car from the dealer, and obviously it worked for me because the buying process only took us about one hour.

Bankrate.com: Is there any other sort of purchase you can apply this tip to?

Marlon Ribunal: Aside from cars, maybe with appliances? We just try to bargain wherever we can. Even when buying a house, you can try to bargain.

Bankrate.com: Do you have any other frugal tips? Maybe ones for other car buyers?

Marlon Ribunal: Just the general advice, you know, you have to do your research. You have to have the patience to research -- looking through all the tips online, asking your friends, those basic things. Just do your homework before making any big purchases.

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