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Throughout Canada, car buyers are finding that used car dealerships are not the Shangri-la of great deals that they used to be. Because of the economic downturn, the demand for pre-owned vehicles has gone through the roof, giving dealers the unique opportunity to drive up prices and raise their expectations for a quality trade. While the best solution may be to wait a year or two for prices to drop again, you may not have the luxury. If you need a great deal now, here are some tips to take with you to the dealer.

Fuel Economy

Petrol prices fluctuate up and down, but a long term graph shows that the overall trend is upwards. We’re never going to see the prices of the 90s again, certainly, even when factoring inflation into the equation. For this reason, smaller cars and hybrids are in high demand and used car dealerships are placing high markups on their economical vehicles. You’ll pay more for gas if you buy an SUV or even a full-size truck, but you may be able to get a better deal at the point of purchase.

Start Shopping Online

Don’t head out to the lot until you’ve done some research online. There are some fantastic websites that can help you narrow your choices, find out what the average price for a vehicle is in your community, and learn which cars the experts recommend. The more information you’re armed with when you talk to a salesman, the more leverage you’ll have.

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Walk Away

Every car buyer should remember their right to walk away. Some of the savviest shoppers enter into negotiations without any intention of buying on that first day. It’s funny how often the “rock bottom, lowest price we can offer” changes when the floor manager sees that you really mean to get in your car and drive away. But this strategy is powerful for reasons other than negotiation leverage. Taking a break lets you go online and check out some of the things the salesperson may have told you about the deal and the car in question. If you’ve been lied to, it’s better to find out now than after you’ve written a check.

Stay Flexible

Many car buyers walk onto the lot with very specific desires. While this can certainly speed along the process, it puts you at a distinct disadvantage. The moment you get married to a particular color or style, you’re going to eliminate many of your pricing options. There’s nothing wrong with having a list of “wants”, but don’t let these get in the way of a good deal.

Get an Independent Inspection

This is a step so many used car buyers skip, to their own detriment. Have a local mechanic you trust give your prospective purchase a once-over after you’ve decided that—barring a major problem—this is the one you’re going to buy. Not only will this help you avoid buying a lemon, it may give you extra ammunition to use in the negotiations. If the seller doesn’t want you to do the inspection, you should feel good about walking away.

Rob Sanders is a Toronto based blogger and he suggests Menzies Chrysler dealership for those looking to get a good deal on used vehickles.