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Asking for a quote from a car dealer means you want the price of the vehicle reflecting all the costs — the “out-the-door price” reflecting shipping, incentives, taxes, fees and extras.
Why would you need to ask for a quote? Because comparing prices through dealer websites and car-buying apps has become more difficult. Dealers typically advertise the vehicle’s MSRP, or manufacturer’s suggested retail price, rather than one that reflects dealer extras and markup. Some don't even do that much; you'll see many listings on online car-buying apps that say "Call for price."
Dealers have an incentive to advertise the lowest price they can. Most people search for cars by sorting for price, which means the lowest prices get all the attention — even if you can’t actually buy the car at that number.
If you want the price you’ll actually pay, you’ll either have to contact them online or visit their lot in person.
Give the dealership what it needs for a quote
Most dealerships have an online form prominently placed on their websites, with options for contact via email, phone or text, and many have staff dedicated to responding to those Internet leads. It may be labeled “Contact us” or “Check availability.”
A dealership needs some information to return a detailed price quote:
Your name, an email address and phone number.
Your ZIP code, so they can calculate sales taxes.
The vehicle you are interested in. Provide the VIN — the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number — or stock number if you can.
That’s the minimum, and it may ask for your address as well.
Also, take a quick look at the dealer’s incentives page to see what discounts you may qualify for. Recent college grad, first responder and military service incentives are the most common. If you tell the salesperson that you qualify, the quote should reflect those incentives.
Clearly signal your intent to buy
Most contact forms have a comments field to input your question. Use the comments field to provide a time frame for your purchase and information not included elsewhere.
For example, “I am interested in an out-the-door price on the 2022 Ford F-150 listed on your website. I intend to buy this week if I find the right car and price. My ZIP code is 84608; I am a first responder if that has any effect. If the vehicle is in transit, is there a delivery estimate? Can I put a deposit down on it if we agree on price?”
If you have a trade-in, mention it. Supply the VIN if you can, the mileage and whether it is leased or has a loan outstanding.
If you are months away from buying, say so.
Can you do this without an email? Sometimes
In some cases, dealerships have a “Build your deal” option online that delivers an out-the-door price. In most cases, you can accept that price, establish a value for your trade and apply for financing as well.
Effectively, you can buy the car online at the price shown just by pushing a button. But it’s likely the same response you would get by sending an online quote request.
What to expect once you push the button
You may get no response at all. Many car dealerships have far more buyers than they have cars to sell; an email from someone casually comparing prices may not win the attention that it did in the days before car shortages.
You may get a response that thanks you for your interest and asks you to come for a test drive, without ever mentioning price.
You may get a response that thanks you for your interest and says the car is spoken for. Or that the dealership serves only its local market, not out-of-towners.
Ideally, though, you'll get an itemized total that includes sales taxes, documentary fees and any extras. At that point, you'll respond with either a “Thanks, but no thanks,” or a request for an appointment with the dealership by phone or in person to discuss negotiations and your trade-in.
Don’t leave an email quote hanging. It’s just good manners — and you don’t want to be on the salesman’s call sheet after you've already purchased the right car for your needs.