How can I tell if the price a dealer is quoting me is reasonable, and what alternatives do I have to buy?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

We are buying a very popular car, the Honda Accord, and I was wondering what we
should expect to get the car for, based on the fact that they sell so well. I
asked the dealer to sell it to us at invoice. The sales manager did lower the
price from $18,500 to $17,400, but invoice is well below that. We even asked him
to meet us halfway, and he refused, stated that these cars sell at almost full
price because demand for them is so high.
What should we do? Is there a really good on-line service where we can find our
car at a certified rock-bottom price? Thanks. -- Jon

TOM: There are several things you can do, Jon. First, go to the
home page and look up the Honda Accord. When you click on pricing, you'll see
not only the "list price" and "invoice price," but also the "target price."

RAY: The target price is an attempt to combine all of the variables that affect
the real "street price" of a given car. These include the invoice price, any
dealer and customer incentives currently available, customer demand,
manufacturer's supply and other factors. The target price attempts to combine
all of these things and estimate a price that a reasonably good negotiator could
expect to pay for such a car. And guess what? For the Honda Accord four-door LX,
that price is about $17,400 (that's for a 1998 model in September of 1998).

TOM: That target price may vary from region to region, but it should give you an
idea of whether the price you've been given is in the ball park.

RAY: Another thing you can use the Web for is to go straight to the dealers. If
you go to Car Point ( or AutoByTel (, you can
submit your request for the car you're looking for, and that request will be
passed along to the participating dealer or dealers in your area, who will then
contact you with their prices.

TOM: Of course, if you want to give every car dealer within 100 miles your home
phone number or e-mail address, be my guest.

RAY: A better approach might be to use This is the web site
of Car Bargains, a service that seeks bids from at least five dealers in your
area, and presents you with all of the bids. They charge a flat fee of $165 for
this service, and, unlike Car Point and AutoByTel, they are not paid by the
dealers, and operate independently. Car Bargains can also be reached off the Web
at 800-475-7283.

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