Buying a car can be a stressful time for many, particularly those who are not prepared for the process. Car salespeople and sales managers are trained professionals, and although many in the business use that training to help you find the best possible car for your needs at a fair price, others use their skills to prey on unaware buyers. You should approach the auto purchase with some caution, but you shouldn't treat everyone who you encounter in the process as a crook. Writing a bid proposal to several dealerships can help ease you into the process.

1. Visit Multiple Dealers

Visit multiple dealers to look at vehicles and test drive different models that you are interested in. Take careful notes, or use your smart phone to take video of the vehicles and dictate notes about each car you look at. When you are home later, thinking about the cars, it may be difficult for you to remember the exact features of each car, or what you liked the most about it. Note the colors that you would like, and any special equipment that you want. Use the salesman at the dealerships as a source of information, but make it clear that you are just looking.

2. Do Your Research

Consult auto buying magazines about the vehicles that you are interested in. Narrow your choice down to one car that you would like to purchase. Get the names of several dealers that are within a distance from you that you would not mind driving to complete the sale. Consult websites which show the price that the dealer pays for a vehicle, as this is a good starting point for negotiations.

3. Write a Sample Letter of Intent to Purchase the Vehicle

Write a letter to the sales manager of each dealership. Say in the letter which model you are interested in purchasing, along with any options or equipment that you want. Be specific. If you do not present what you are looking for in detail, don't expect a dealership to find the right vehicle. Ask the dealership if they can present any option packages that would be a better deal as a separate bid, so you can compare prices on similarly equipped vehicles.

4. Name Your Price

State the price that you are willing to pay for the vehicle in the letter. And add one to five percent to the dealer cost as your starting point, depending on the demand for that particular model. Specify that the financing will be a separate transaction, and locked in by you within a certain number of days of the agreement to purchase. Give contact information, such as a fax number or email address for responses. Set a date that your proposal will expire.


Give contact information in case the dealer has any questions about the proposal. Even if you are very clear, the dealer may have more questions in order to find the best vehicle and the best pricing.


Beware of any dealership that quotes payments only, and not the complete price. Also be careful of dealers which reply simply asking for you to come in and talk without quoting a price. It is OK for a dealer to ask you to come in and look, but not quoting you a price as you requested means that they ignored the nature of your request.