How to Negotiate a Used Car Price: Strategy and Tactics

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negotiation tips

Negotiating a used car price is easier than you think. You must know the process, prepare the plan, and follow through with it. Generally, there are three stages of negotiation. Research and preparation. First contact with the seller and inspection of the car. And haggling phase.

Before we start, I want you to remember one thing. Negotiating a price is a natural thing to do. At a dealership all prices are bigger, to have space for negotiations. If you are not negotiating, you are making the dealership extremely happy. If you do negotiate, you have a chance to get a better deal.

Prepare Before Meeting the Seller

To successfully haggle for a used car, you need information. In negotiations information and arguments are power.

  • Research cars online. Know what kind of car you want: model, age, technical features. Be specific. If you don’t know what you want to buy, the salesman will sell you what they want to sell. In many cases, it will not be to your advantage.
  • Compare prices on the internet. When you have a car or few in mind, research their price range. Check different used cars on the internet. Compare prices. See how different mileage, tech features, damage influence the price.
  • Know your maximum price. Think about the price before the negotiation starts. Keep in mind that is your maximum. It’s the end of negotiations, not the start. This way you will have firm ground under your feet. And will be resistant to the seller’s arguments and magic. You won’t find a seller that will agree to your price right away. That’s why you must tell the price that is lower than your maximum price.
  • Make a list of cars. When you know what car you want, check its competitors. Make a list of a few cars. It will be a useful tool during negotiations. 
  • See the car’s history report. Get its VIN, go to websites car history check carVertical, and get that bargaining tool. It will reveal much useful and important information: real mileage, number of owners, damage, was it a taxi car. You can find many arguments for negotiations there.
  • Make a list of arguments. Prepare your arguments in advance, before you see the seller and the car. Get more information on the model that you are looking up. What its flaws, common problems, how expensive are maintenance and repairs. At what mileage, certain parts start to break down.

First Contact with the Salesman: What Not to Do

First, relax and get yourself into a positive mindset. It’s not a war for survival. You are just checking a car and trying to get a good deal. Try to look at this experience as a game that doesn’t have to involve negative emotions. You don’t have to make a deal right now. There are many other cars and many other dealerships. Even if you desperately need a car right now, you better not show it. Or you can forget the discount. 

  • Try not to show that you love the car. If the seller will see that you are in love with the car, you can forget about the discount.
  • Never say that you looked for such a car for a long time. Don’t say that it is your favorite model or favorite brand.
  • Don’t say that you are not sure if you will buy a car. The seller could think that it’s not worth it to spend time negotiating and would not talk about the discount at all. The seller could offer you another car. Maybe a cheaper one.
  • Never tell the seller how much money you have. Or how much money you are prepared to spend. The seller will do everything in their power to get all that money.

First Contact with the Salesman: What to Do

  • Know when to come. All dealerships have the same tendencies. The slowest time of the week: Mondays and Tuesdays. The slowest time of the year: January and February. Come at the end of the month. If a dealer hadn’t met their sales plan or it was a slow month, you’ll be in an advantage. 
  • Tell them that you are ready to buy today. But show them that you have alternatives. Tell them that this is the first dealership you visit today. It shows that you have alternatives. But it’s also tempting to the seller because you are prepared to buy today. 
  • Tell them what cars you want to see. It shows that you know what you want, and you are ready for action. Also, it shows that you are looking for a good deal. Not for a love-of-your-life-car. 

How to Haggle for a Used Car 

When you find a car that interests you, inspect it. Examine the exterior of the car: look for rust, scratches, dents. Sit inside, feel the car, inspect its interior, check electronics. When you find any, small or big, disadvantages, remember them. Those are your additional arguments in negotiations.

Then test-drive the car, feel it. See how it operates at a different speed. Check electronic features, air conditioner, sound system. Don’t listen to music too much when test-driving. You want to hear all the sounds of the vehicle. Maybe something is wrong.

If you like the car after test-driving, it’s time to start official negotiations:

  • Tell them that you love the car. You love everything about it. Just one or two things that you hate. Maybe a color. Maybe there is no glass roof. You are not very excited but ask them to show you the numbers. They get you to the office and show you the numbers.
  • You are not impressed. You are not happy. You begin to talk about other options. They try to give you other options. But you look at cars from your list only. Remember your script. Tell them that it’s the first place that day. You prepared to buy a car but maybe you need to see other options.
  • Then you can tell them: Make me an offer I can’t refuse. If they won’t give you an offer it’s ok. Remember, it’s a game. You can take a smaller discount. Or you can come back after a month and check maybe that car is still there. In such a case, they’ll definitely give you a good offer.

How to Know That You Are Getting a Good Deal

Before signing a deal, be sure that you are getting what you are paying for. Check the car’s VIN and look at its history report. You can get a detailed report at car history check sites like carVertical or CARFAX. Such a report can become one of the best negotiation tools for you. It shows lots of useful information:

  • Real mileage.
  • A number of owners.
  • A number of accidents and damage sustained.
  • Reveals if it was a taxi or rental car.

Remember, the dealer won’t sell you a car for a price that they are not comfortable selling it for. That’s just it. You won’t rob them if you negotiate. So just get at it. Play the game and get the best deal you can.

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