Finding a Compact Car in Today’s Market

Even though today is a buyer’s market for cars, not all models are easily found, and when they are, they’re not easily discounted. While you can get 5-figures knocked off the price of a Hummer H2, and maybe even a Hummer H3 (it’s sitting on the lot over 200 days average), you can’t expect the same for the other end of the auto spectrum.

Getting a Discount on a Compact Car

While I must admit that your results will vary depending on your location and market, generally all small cars, such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Mazda3 and even domestics like the Chevy Aveo and the Korean Hyundai Accent are selling for MSRP. At best, but still possible, you can negotiate down close to dealer invoice on these vehicles, but again it really depends on your market.

For example, if you’re looking for a Mazda3 sedan or hatchback, you’ll have more luck in an area like mine where there are 4-5 nearby Mazda dealerships than in Nowhere, Pennsylvania where the closest dealer is 30 miles away. I can pit the salesman against each other because they know I can more easily travel to the competitor.

Best Bet for Getting Discount

Other than going for an outgoing model year, your best bet on getting a discount on a highly sought-after car is to shop via the internet. These days almost every car dealer has an “Internet Sales Department” that negotiates vehicle prices via email. It’s a win-win because the dealer can negotiate with dozens of customers at once and YOU can collect prices from multiple dealers and on multiple cars. You don’t need to visit 4 Mazda dealers, and if you wanted to test out a VW Rabbit too, then just shoot an email to the local Volkswagen internet sales department.

You do all the research and negotiations from the comfort of your couch, kitchen table or toilet (hey, I’m not knocking how you browse!).

Checking Realistic Auto Prices

There are dozens of sites and services out there that are dedicated to helping you, the auto buyer, get the lowest price in the fastest and easiest way possible, but many require you to pay them first, or be a member of Costco/Sam’s Club/etc. or the local credit union. If you’re just testing the waters, I suggest checking out the pricing tools at Edmunds.com.

Edmunds provides the ability to price a new vehicle with options and then see what others are paying in your area. One problem with the options picker, though, is that it lists out the options, but some option configurations aren’t available anywhere, or you might pick an option (like heated seats) that is already contained in another option (winter package) and get a misleading price. You do, therefore, need to do a bit of your own research through the manufacturer’s website first to see what options are compatible, then go to Edmunds.

For example, I priced out a 2008 Mazda 3 with A/C, 6-disc changer and fog lights.  Here are the results:

MSRP: $16,210

Invoice: $15,054

TMV (what others are paying): $15,850

So you see that you CAN get a discount, just don’t expect to talk them down to their invoice price. It’s not a buyer’s market all-around; just on the bigger vehicles. And then you need to figure out financing which, in today’s economic climate, might prove more tricky than even negotiating the price! Hopefully you can just pay in cash…

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