Black Friday has become one of the single best days of the year to buy a car. According to Edmunds research, 15 percent of total November car sales take place on Black Friday weekend.
Big-box retailers get most of the Black Friday attention. But just like them, car dealerships may be open longer, offer enticing perks and advertise some serious discounts, all in hopes of stealing your attention from other retail competition.
But with Black Friday deals come Black Friday crowds, which can turn a process that has never been especially speedy into a painstakingly slow affair.
To make sure you get the most of your time and money, here's a Black Friday car-buying strategy.
DO YOUR ON-THE-GROUND WORK NOW
Though Black Friday is great for buying, it isn't the best time to try to gather information or comparison shop at the dealership. There probably will be little time for detailed questions, in-depth negotiations or lengthy vehicle demonstrations at dealerships that day. With an above-average number of shoppers on the lot, you can expect salespeople and managers to be stretched thin.
The smarter move is to take test drives and seek trade-in appraisals before Black Friday. If you're planning to finance your purchase, this would also be a good time to get preapproved by your bank or the dealership, so you can avoid any potential interest rate surprises. The slow days leading up to Thanksgiving present a great opportunity to visit dealerships to get the legwork done.
If you do your research early, you'll be free to simply close your deal on the big day.
START PRICE SHOPPING EARLY, TOO
Once you've decided on the right car, start price shopping in the days leading up to Black Friday. Don't forget to look for rebates and incentives. This research will help you understand what your selected car would normally cost and give you a baseline for comparing the Black Friday deals.
Many makes and models will likely see steep discounts, but not all will. Hot or hard to find vehicles may have little, if any, price drop for Black Friday. And shopping for a regular deal on Black Friday may not be worth the trouble
While many carmakers will be offering national or regional deals and specials, the real savings will likely come from individual dealerships. Browse car dealer websites to see what they're offering. Most dealerships will post their Black Friday deals the day before Thanksgiving, if not earlier.
If you're serious about the getting the best deal possible, reach out soon to somebody in the dealership's internet sales department and ask to be notified about Black Friday specials.
Don't focus strictly on vehicle pricing. Instead, pay attention to the total deal being offered. Some dealerships include lifetime warranties during Black Friday sales. Others give away service packages and zero-percent interest loans on vehicles that normally wouldn't qualify for rates that low. You also might get a television or the latest iPad if you buy on Black Friday.
GET OUT FASTER
Most shoppers want to spend as little time in a dealership as possible. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
— Get to the dealership as early as you can. This strategy will help you beat the crowds, which can really speed up your deal. And since you've already decided on the car and know the pricing, chances are good you can be in and out of the dealership quickly.
— Do sales paperwork from home on Thanksgiving Eve. Find out how much of the sales process you can do online or over the phone. Having the dealership prepare some or all of the paperwork for you the night before the holiday will drastically reduce wait time at the dealership on Black Friday.
— Ask for the vehicle to be prepped before you arrive. If you know the exact model, package and color of the car you intend to buy, ask your salesperson to have it washed and ready to go when you arrive Friday.
— Have your paperwork in order. You'll need your driver's license, a copy of your current auto insurance card, the title or payment bill for your trade-in, and your down payment to buy the car. If you have preapproval paperwork for a loan, bring that too. If you forget any of these items, the deal will take longer.
— Ask about delivery. Some dealerships will deliver a car and the sales or lease documents to the buyer's home, saving a trip to the dealership. Ask your dealership if it's willing to do that for you. If you want home delivery, you probably won't get the car until after Thanksgiving weekend because the dealership probably won't have staff to spare until then.
EDMUNDS SAYS: With a little planning, you can take advantage of Black Friday car sales and save yourself some serious cash.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Matt Jones is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Twitter @supermattjones.