Getting an Auto Quote? Read This First

March 9, 2012

Learn what to look for in an auto quote, understand the terms used, determine whether it's too high, and use it as a platform to further negotiation.

An auto quote is the price a dealer asks for a new or used vehicle. The car pricing a dealer offers changes a lot between different dealerships, so it's best for a car shopper to understand some of the factors that go into an auto quote.

MSRP or Sticker Price
The MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) or sticker price is a kind of price control set by the manufacturer. It is not a hard and fast sale price, but just a kind of guideline.

Dealer Costs
The dealer will often factor costs into a car quote. These include the cost of buying from the auto maker, as well as shipping and preparing the vehicle for sale. The dealer also factors in overhead, in order to keep a profit margin.

Extra costs that might be added to a car quote include taxes, transport costs and warranties. Dealers value items like warranties to help them keep a profit margin on the sale of a vehicle.

Another area where a dealer might make a profit is in financing a car. If you do not have the money to pay up front in cash, you might arrange for a loan through the dealer. In exchange for the convenience of financing, as part of a final quote price, the dealer may make a markup, sometimes called dealer reserve.

Dealers might factor in manufacturer rebates, warranties, financing or extra services into a final auto quote. This means the quote may be either under or above MSRP. Talk to dealer reps about an itemized auto quote to see what is included and at what price.

Finding an Auto Quote Online

Online auto quotes are quick and easy to get, which means you can get many different car dealer quotes to comparison shop from the comfort of your home.

Auto Quotes at CarsDirect
Getting an auto quote online has never been simpler than it is today, thanks to CarsDirect's online quote features. CarsDirect allows customers in the market for a new car to compare the various car choices, utilizing an auto quote comparison, auto quote sheet, or their auto quote calculator. Regardless of a consumer's need, they have a quote mechanism that will work.

  • Auto Quote Sheet. The auto quote sheet is a way for you to understand how the price quoted for a car is derived. The sheet consists of all the features for the car that have to do with the actual price. This way, you can see exactly how adding a specific feature to a car, or looking for a used car in a given mileage range can actually affect the bottom line price on their vehicle. This is a good place to start when you are first searching for a new car, as you can see which features are actually worth paying extra for and which are not. To utilize this sheet, simply fill in the auto quote form on the main page of CarsDirect and then click the "Get Price" button.
  • Auto Quote Calculator. The auto quote calculator calculates the cost of an existing car that you potentially are thinking of buying. If you were to visit a dealer and get a price quote on a particular model of car, you could then bring the specifications of the car back to and see if that is a reasonable quote based on the car specifics. This is a way to avoid auto quote scams, as you can get a very accurate idea of the worth of the car based on national information, adjusted for your local region.
  • Auto Quote Comparison. The auto quote comparison is perhaps the most powerful feature offered by CarsDirect, as it actually allows side by side comparisons of vehicles you are interested in. Simply log on to the CarsDirect website and click "Comparison." An online quote form pops up in which you enter the specifics of two or more types of car you are thinking of buying. The comparison chart then pops up, showing what each car is worth, with what types of accessories and mileage. This makes it extremely easy to make a choice based on actual features and pricing.

Find Dealership Websites
You should already have some local used car dealers in mind if you're thinking of buying a used car. Visit their websites and find their online quote request forms. Follow their instructions to fill out and submit the forms with your preferred contact information and the vehicle or vehicles you're interested in. The dealerships should respond quickly, depending on their business hours.

Comparison Shop
Once you have your auto quotes, you can do some comparison shopping. Take the lowest quote you get for a specific model and ask the other dealerships who responded to beat that price. If they beat that price, you can take the new lowest price and ask the first dealer to beat it. By going back and forth, you can negotiate online to find the lowest available price.

Tips for Getting Online Quotes

  • Get quotes from as many dealerships as possible. Even if they're not local, they may provide you with ammunition to comparison shop.
  • Don't limit your shopping to car dealerships. Sites like can help you in your search.
  • Don't be afraid to try to negotiate the price. When you walk into the store after getting an online quote, drive the negations to a lower price. The worst they can say is "No."
  • Get a used car history report. If you are purchasing a used car, no matter the seller, get a report. CARFAX is a great place to get a report.
  • Keep financing out of the picture. Dealers often mark up financing charges. Try to pay most of the vehicle cost up front so that your price advantage doesn't get eaten up by interest.
  • Work with the dealer. A dealer will not sell a car below the cost that the dealer paid for it. All talks should include a reasonable profit margin for the dealer based on the dealer's total cost.

Following these steps and tips may help you find the best auto quote online when shopping for your new car.

How to Tell If an Auto Quote Is Too High

Auto quotes often span the full range, from the ultra-reasonable to the downright ridiculous. Dealers might load up a final asking price with warranty services, surcharges and fees and much more.

Take a Look at the MSRP
The MSRP is a general guideline for what a new vehicle is worth. That's not to say that you will always get a car or truck for sticker price, but you can spot a bad deal by its lack of proximity to what the manufacturer has suggested as an overall value. When an auto quote towers over the MSRP make sure there's a reason for that gap. Talk to reps about why they might charge more than MSRP for a vehicle.

Use Standard Auto Valuations Online
Lots of parties offer free car value information online. One is the Kelley Blue Book company. At the Kelley web site, you can see what a new car would generally cost. Compare these to dealer auto quotes, and, if necessary, ask your dealer why their quote might be more. You can also use other car value sites like CarsDirect to get estimates on car or truck value.

Get Itemization for a Quote
Arrange for an itemized bill. You can start by simply asking the dealer's rep why the price is so high. If he or she comes back with an answer about taxes, fees or extras, break down the bill and go over it with a fine toothed comb. You may find some areas where changing what has been included in the package can get you some cost savings and guide your auto quote back down into the realm of the possible.

Apply Pressure
The best way to negotiate prices downward is to find out what other shops are offering—and then tell your dealer. Dealers will cry poor over shipping costs, lot costs and much more, but the bottom line is that no offer should be wildly higher than another without some specific added value thrown into the package. It's in your best interests, not just to shop around, but to use price research findings in negotiations.

Negotiating with the Dealer for the Best Auto Quote

Negotiating with a car dealer for an auto quote is not a simple process, and there's no one magic solution for getting the best deal. However, there are some solid guidelines you can use to avoid getting taken advantage of.

Start Under the Sticker Price
Negotiate based on what the car cost the dealer. You will find you need to start low to avoid going too high when the dealer factors in taxes, tags and other extras.

Skip or Limit Financing
One of the big steps in getting a fair auto quote is disentangling that price from any financing that may take place. Dealers notoriously use financing as a means to pad a bill. First of all, don't make an agreement according to a "low monthly payment," as that will often result in a much bigger price over time. You should be able to see what you will pay in total for a vehicle, and evaluate the deal accordingly. If you do have to finance, finance as little of the car cost as possible, and think about going through a third party lender for pre-approval rather than financing through the dealer. Make the largest down payment you can afford.

Question Items on an Itemized Quote
Ask the dealer's rep what you are paying for, and then tell them you don't want certain extras. Take a look at warranties, etc, and try to negotiate a lower price by dropping some of the dealer offered services. This strategy can sometimes help a buyer get a better deal.

Get into a Bidding Situation
Ask for quotes from various dealerships, in order to pressure the average sale price downward. If the dealership wants the sale, that representative will adjust the price accordingly. Make sure the multiple shops are independent of one another, and document any special offers you see, asking dealers to match or exceed those desirable prices. You may be amazed at how willing a sales rep is to drop a price when faced with a concrete counter-offer, or even one that doesn't include a whole lot of detail.

Include Manufacturer's Rebates
Another way customers lose out is to lose the value of rebates on vehicles in a soup of financing and extra charges. Ask a dealer to take out the rebate at the end of negotiations. This strategy also works with any trade-in value that you may be bringing to the table.

Does Your Credit Score Affect Your Auto Quote?

Bad credit definitely will have an impact on your attempt to get a loan on your new car and your interest rate. Understanding how this process works and why is important.

Credit ratings are determined by a number called your FICO score, somewhere between 300 and 850. Late payments, credit defaults, bankruptcy or collections all impact your FICO rating. The higher your number, the better for you. Buyers with FICO numbers over 700 can expect the best terms on auto loans. But what if your number is less than that?

Buyers with lower credit scores can still get loans, but generally interest rates are going to be higher, as you are considered more risky to loan money too. Higher interest rates in turn lead to a higher total price of the car. A larger down payment or a trade in can help offset this to some extent.

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