Car buying tips: getting ready for the face-off

Stuff most experienced car buyers know.

You’re at the local car dealership. You find a car you like. You find a salesperson you kinda like. It’s time to make a deal. You ask them how low they are willing to go. This is when the face-off begins. Time stands still. The salesperson doesn’t blink. You don’t back down; you don’t blink either. Everyone in the dealership seems to be watching you. Your friends are waiting in the DMs. Then, you hear it… “I’ll be back. I have to check with my manager for a second.” It’s been like 20+ minutes? What are they doing back there? Getting approvals? Their income tax revisions? A quick game of Putt-Putt? What are they up to? What should you do?

Yep, it’s time for some sales negotiation jiu jitsu and a few key car buying secrets that every car buyer should know. They say buying a car is the second biggest purchase you’ll ever make. So read on for our collection of advanced-level car buying tips that every car buying pro knows.

woman handing key to mechanicPhoto by PeopleImages

Why Mondays and Tuesdays are money.

According to data from the car shopping experts at, there are specific times when you may find the best car deals. Here is what they found:

Mondays and Tuesdays are usually the best days of the week for car deals. Car dealerships are generally quieter earlier in the week, so you can spend more time with the salespeople negotiating the price of a car. They want the commission. You want the price. And you’ve got nothing but time to haggle.

The best time of the month to buy a car is at the end. Behind the scenes, car dealers are chasing monthly sales quotas and the bonuses that accompany meeting them. Show up late in the month and they may be willing to lose a little money on a car or two if it means reaching that bonus.

Finally, they noted the best months to buy a car (at the end of them, obviously). They are October, November, and December. This is because the end of the year is when dealerships are trying to clear the floor to make room for next year's inventory.

So the car dealership savings trifecta to remember is the beginning of the week, at the end of the month, and at the end of the year. Checking around town will uncover the trifecta, and you may even find less competition topped with manufacturers’ incentives to clear the floor.

It’s good to keep in mind that the trifecta has worked this way, somewhat reliably, for years. But things can change. Trends can fluctuate. Pandemics and chip shortages can pop up. You know, macroeconomic stuff that screws up the formula. So do your research and hunt wisely.

Toggle-blog__0000_Stocksy_txpb648eec1Tge300_Medium_4115860Photo by Alto Images

Research is car buying jiu jitsu.

Knowledge is power, so geek out. It pays off. It’s amazing how easy it is to save money with a laptop, some time, and copious amounts of caffeine. The first thing you gotta figure out is the money part. Knowing your “number,” or the maximum budget for this deal, is a key pillar of power for you. Total all your monthly expenses, then add the monthly costs of a car, including payment, fuel, parking, maintenance, and auto insurance (we can help you with the last one with an auto insurance quote at There are also plenty of online car payment calculators to help you get a handle on your monthly car payment.

You really have to lock in on what you can spend first, so you can zero in on vehicles that fit your needs and lifestyle while not wasting time dreaming outside your budget. Next, it’s time for rankings and reviews. This is where you’ll find the opinions of auto journalists merged with data on things like reliability, safety, cost of ownership, fuel economy, and more.

Once you’ve done all the book research, get more empirical online. Dig through Reddit and Twitter. See what others are actually saying about this dream car. People love to tell all, especially when their only identifier is a screen name.

Toggle-blog__0003_microsoft-edge-5bM6nLQ9Qv0-unsplashPhoto by Microsoft Edge on Unsplash

Negotiation: harness the powers inside you.

Car buying negotiation tips are great. But there’s an ancient art to working with a car salesperson who negotiates for their living. Relax. Take a deep breath. Remember your research. Focus on your budget. And remember this: it’s way easier to buy a car than it is to sell one. So, you have more power than you think. Stand tall. Poker face engaged. Offer ready to drop. One car buying jiu jitsu secret is you have to act like you’re willing to walk away from the car if the seller doesn’t meet your price. Even if it’s a bluff move, the worst that usually can happen is the price doesn’t move. Strut on into the dealership. Be strong. Let’s do this.

Visualize this: you have an imaginary “eject” button you can hit at any time if the deal doesn’t feel good to you. They can’t see it, but we both know it’s there. Saying, “I dunno. I gotta think about it,” is the key. The salesperson will know you’re about to hit eject and it’s their turn to barter.

Standing eyeball-to-eyeball with a dealer, if they sense that you’re actually, secretly, hopelessly in love with this particular car and you can’t imagine living without it, your potential deal can tank. Do the opposite. Mention your immense research. Don’t forget you’ve compared prices all around the internet, because it’s true. This strengthens your position and may scare them a bit. In a good way.

Akin to your dating life, remember that there are a lot of options out there for you, whether you believe it or not. In fact, it’s a great idea to find a couple of good car dealerships that are selling the same car and let them fight for your love (i.e. business).

You should also use resources like car valuation sites and online car marketplaces to find out what people in your area are paying for the make, model, and year of the car you want to buy so you know what a good price is.

Toggle-blog__0004_iStock-1436783449Photo by fotostorm 

Buying used? Get that history report.

Used cars are a different animal. Buying a used car involves detective work. After all, you don’t want one that was “refurbished” after slowly sliding beneath the waves lapping at its side mirrors during the rising tide of a storm surge in some faraway, tropical state. You may not notice the fish smell until it’s too late. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) stops this from happening. You find the VIN stamped on a plate mounted to the dashboard in front of the steering wheel or printed on a sticker inside the door jamb. This is the car’s fingerprint and birth certificate, and it never changes, ever. If it’s not there, request the VIN from the seller or use a vehicle history database site to research the car’s history. Free reports will alert you to any major red flags and previous swimming expeditions, while paid reports will give you even more comprehensive information. It’s like doing a background check on a dating app match before the first date. In this case, stalking is critical. 

Toggle-blog__0008_christian-wiediger-dfenPyYXCLs-unsplashPhoto by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

How to test drive a used car like a mechanic.

The first thing a mechanic does? They look over a used car’s tires. If you buy a used car and need to replace the tires right away, it’s like adding hundreds more to the price of the vehicle. According to the United States Department of Transportation, one tool to use is the penny test where you place Abe Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you in the grooves of the tire tread. If you can see the very top of Lincoln’s head, the tires don’t have much tread left.

Examine the windows, body panels, and doors for cracks, scratches, rust, dings, and places where touch-up paint was applied. Open and close every door. Notice how easy it would be to get in and out from all angles. Check the lights, mechanical features, AC, and heating. Start up the car and listen for any rattling, ticking, or anything else that just sounds off. You don’t have to know what the noise means. You just have to notice it. It should not sound like a one-man band.

Assess the driver’s seat. Comfy? Also, check the brakes. Get to highway speed and test. If the car vibrates or you hear squealing, it could mean they need to be replaced. You can also ask to take the vehicle to your own mechanic or ask for an extended test drive where you can live with the vehicle overnight or for the weekend.

Toggle-blog__0001_Stocksy_txpb648eec1Tge300_Medium_3394479Photo by Matt and Tish

A quick word on car buying sites.

You can always buy a car online and have it arrive at your driveway. Just know that you’ll probably lose some negotiation power here. There’s almost no way to haggle.

That’s it. You’re ready. Toggle® Auto has the deals on customizable modern auto insurance; you have car buying jiu jitsu. Have fun car shopping, and don’t forget to try shopping on weekdays.

Once you find your dream whip, make sure to take a look at the “Auto & Transportation” perks all Togglers have access to on our Perks page. If you have a pet who is helping you car shop, also read our Harness the open road: pet car safety basics blog and protect them further in the car with Pet Passenger™ coverage. They will appreciate you looking out for them.

Toggle-blog__0002_Stocksy_txpb648eec1Tge300_Medium_893896Photo by Dimitrije Tanaskovic

The information included in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional or expert advice. It is based on research and the collective experiences of the Toggle Team and has not been verified by any academic institutions, government organizations, or world-renowned scholars, but it does make a lot of sense and we do hope you find it useful.  We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what’s appropriate for you.

Links to third-party websites are provided for your convenience only. Toggle has not independently verified any of the information provided therein and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of such information or any content.

Related Articles

11 Car Safety Tips for Wintertime- Toggle Car Insurance

A crash-less course in winter driving to help you keep your cool once the white stuff starts coming down — no roadside assistance required.

Reimagining self-care through DIY car-care

Car maintenance is a beautiful act of self-care. Incorporate self-car-care into your routine for sustained automated wellness.

6 dog-friendly car features pups love

Car shopping? Your canine companion would like to have some input too. The best cars for dogs have these terrific features.