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Black Friday Deals Are Not Necessarily Deals When It Comes to Car Shopping

“Black Friday” in 2019 was one thing. Black Friday in 2020 is something else. It’s still the Friday after Thanksgiving and it’s still the official unofficial start of the holiday shopping nuttiness. Have you heard about the COVID-19 pandemic? That changes a lot.



a person in a green room: Don't lose your head falling for the hype. This year, even during the pandemic, if you follow these four simple strategies you can get a great deal.


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Don’t lose your head falling for the hype. This year, even during the pandemic, if you follow these four simple strategies you can get a great deal.

Forget all the usual dealer come-ons. Yes, there will still be ads in the papers (if you can find a paper), and all sorts of pop-up ads will arise when you do a Google search for any car. But the big change is that, even amid Black Friday hysteria, your best strategy in 2020 may not be to go into a dealership at all.

Social distancing and all the precautions that go with avoiding the virus mean that dealers should come to you. See some car on sale that’s intriguing? Call the dealer and tell them to come to your abode with one for a test drive. Take control of the transaction by working on your own territory.

It’s best if you line up more than one test drive in a day. That will give you the ability to resist any sales pitch by claiming (honestly) that there are other cars on their way over.

It’s also late in the year, when dealers are looking at their leftover 2020 models and plotting ways to clear out that soon-to-die inventory, and soon you’ll be drowning in “December to Remember” promotions.

So it’s a convergence of timing and holiday for car buyers. But don’t go nuts. This isn’t Presidents Day in February when people start getting their tax refunds and dealers want to soak up that free-floating cash. Nope, as always, the best thing to do is get serious while everyone else is giddy.

You’ll often find that the link that screams about Black Friday Deals leads to a website that’s silent about the day. Instead they’re featuring promotions built around the entire holiday season. There’s no urgency to sign a deal on Black Friday, because the next day is Saturday, and the offers aren’t likely to change. Even if dealers are offering, say, 40 percent off on a car you want if you buy on Black Friday, you can ask for that same deal the next day or the next week and stand a good chance of getting it. Their deadline doesn’t have to be yours.

Dealers are playing the long game. They’ve been in the business a while and are keenly aware of how buying patterns vary during the year. After all, there was a Thanksgiving and a Black Friday last year, too.

Gallery: End of the Year Sales Tricks Car Dealers Use (The Family Handyman)

Remain calm, relax, and apply a few simple strategies for getting a good deal.

Look in the Back

First, it is late in the year. So, inquire about vehicles that have been in dealer inventory a while. Don’t expect these to be the hot sellers like the Hyundai Palisade or specialty beasts like the Audi RS7. These are the forlorn kittens hanging out in the back of the lot, but don’t let that dissuade you: they may be just what you need. The trick here is the information sticker found on the driver’s-side door jamb—if you’re on the lot, shoot a cellphone photo for reference. It shows the month of manufacture, and if that’s extended out five or six months, that vehicle has been lingering on the lot way too long. Make a lowball offer; there’s no shame in asking.

Do Your Research

Second, there may be some real deals buried in all the hype. Scour the web, maybe look at one of those anachronistic newspapers, and pay attention to the big signs hanging over dealerships and their websites. You’re more likely to find a great deal if you’re out looking than you are just to stumble across one.

Get Financing in Order

Third, shop for your financing before you enter a dealership. Interest rates at the moment are low. So, don’t get sucked into paying more than you should for the money to buy your next vehicle. Call a bank, ask at your credit union, and know your credit rating. Then go to the dealer and let them try to top your best offer. Right now, many manufacturers are backing zero-interest financing. And when you get to zero percent, there’s no reason not to take out the loan even if you have cash to buy the car outright. Think back to your economics class and the principle of net present value.

That noted, don’t let the financing distract you away from finding the lowest price. If you’re paying too much for a vehicle, what’s the point of low financing? You need to aim for both a low price and cheap money. If you don’t get both, walk out of the dealership and call an Uber.

Understand Your Own Negotiating Style

And finally, always be mindful of your own limitations. You can be fooled, you can be irrationally exuberant at times, you can do something stupid. Self-awareness is always your most precious asset in any negotiation.

Yeah, those four tips aren’t much different from the advice you’ll get the rest of the year. That’s because Black Friday isn’t that much different from the rest of the year. If you want to get a real Black Friday deal, go to Walmart and buy a cheap flat-screen TV. It may not be as fun as getting a new car, but at least you can be sure the deal is a real one. Or better yet, buy it online and let them bring that to you, too.

Happy Thanksgiving. There are vaccines on the way. Now calm down and make the dealers fight for your business.

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