Car Buying

Buying a Car: How Many Dealerships Should You Visit?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

If you're interested in buying a car, you might be wondering exactly how thorough -- or how quick -- you should be. Specifically, you might be wondering about the right number of dealerships you should visit during your car-buying process. After all, nobody wants to miss out by not checking out enough options -- especially if there's money to be saved. But you also shouldn't waste your time by going to too many dealers, either. So what's the magic number? We have some ideas.

Depends on How Far You Are in the Process

The answer to our question depends on exactly how far along you are in the car-buying process. If you've just started looking for a car, there's no maximum number of dealerships you should visit because you'll want to test drive as many of your options as you can. If your shopping list contains 12 different vehicles, it's completely within reason to visit 12 different dealerships to test drive them all. You won't be wasting the salesperson's time, as automotive salespeople know that many shoppers are still in the early stages of the car-buying process.

Once You've Decided on a Car

You won't want to visit as many dealers once you've made a decision on the brand and model of the car you want. After all, there probably aren't more than a few dealers in your area that sell the brand you're considering -- and that alone will limit you to just a handful of local options. If you're looking for a used car, you probably won't find your vehicle of choice at more than a few local dealers.

So should you pick one dealership and stick to it? Sometimes, we think that's a good strategy -- but not always. If there are two to three dealers in your area who are carrying the car of your choice, you'll probably want to visit each of them to find out what their best possible deal is. It can even be a smart strategy to tell one dealer that you're also thinking about buying a car from a rival dealer. This will likely make the dealer lower their price to try to secure your business.

When to Stop Looking

If you've visited each of your local dealers and you've found that none of them are willing to discount their cars any further, you've probably reached the end of the road. You'll usually discover that this has happened after visiting two or three dealerships, giving you little extra reason to see even more dealers. Once it's clear that you can't get a better deal anywhere else, the only thing left to do is sign the papers at the dealer that's offering you the best price -- or the most impressive customer service.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: How Many Dealerships Should You Visit? - Autotrader