How to negotiate when buying a car
Whether you’re buying from a car dealership or a private seller, being an able negotiator can make a difference of hundreds or even thousands of pounds when you agree on the final asking price. So it really does pay to take a little time and prepare yourself for the negotiation once you have your sights set on the right car.
General negotiation tips
Demonstrate the right attitude
All too often, buyers will make the mistake of “playing hardball” by trying to browbeat a seller into accepting a lower asking price through aggressive tactics. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, principally because people do not respond well to overt aggression or bullying. Annoying the seller or making them uncomfortable is a sure-fire way to talk yourself out of a good price, or even out of the deal itself. You want to be taken seriously, so stay away from making a derisory offer.
Similarly, most people respond well to being treated with genuine friendliness and respect. Psychologically, humans are conditioned to pleasing others, provided that they trust them. Put simply, your prospective seller is far more likely to agree to a good price if they believe that you’re a decent person who is deserving of a mutually beneficial trade.
The ideal attitude to strike is one of being polite, respectful and firm but not pushy. Demonstrate that you clearly know what you want, what you will accept and what you won’t.
Do your research. Know the accurate value of the car you want
Having knowledge of the car you’re aiming to buy will put you in a much stronger negotiating position as you can speak to the seller with authority. So do your homework, check local dealerships’ asking price for the make and model of your desired car along with utilising some online search tools to complete your knowledge of its historic value. This kind of preparation can be done easily and it can make all the difference when you can present an offer that is properly informed by current market conditions.
Remember, a car with high mileage has more than likely factored this fact into its price, so offering a price that uses the high mileage as part of the negotiation will simply make you look ignorant.
Don’t be timid when making your initial offer; it will represent the very best price that you can possibly get. While you don’t want to make an outrageously lowball offer, as this will undermine your position by making you look like you don’t know the value of the car, it often pays to be ambitious. You never know the seller’s circumstances, and you won’t know what they will accept until you test them.
Pick your time wellAs mentioned in our previous guide sections, it’s often best to approach sellers near the end of the week, and/or the end of the month, when both dealerships and private sellers are under a little extra pressure to make a sale.
Stand your groundEvery negotiation has two sides and the seller will be trying just as hard as you are to secure themselves an optimal price. Even if you politely present them with a fair, well-informed offer, they may attempt all kinds of sales tactics to get you to change your mind. They may plead, object, claim that your research is wrong, or even try more unsavoury methods of emotional manipulation such as spinning you a tale of hardship and woe.
Whatever the case, hold your ground and resolutely stick to your previously determined price bracket. Do not be manipulated into paying more than you are prepared to spend, as there will always be another car.
Generally, if you approach any negotiation for a car with these tips in mind, then you’ll be in a strong position to end up with a deal that suits you. However, there are some specific strategies that may suit your style of negotiation:
Playing the long game
Sometimes, it’s possible to negotiate by not negotiating at all. When you see the car you want, research it thoroughly as normal then approach the seller and offer your one and only acceptable price. Firmly but politely state that you won’t consider any counter offers but that you are willing to agree to the sale immediately as soon as they meet your price.
Afterwards, simply stick to your guns and accept nothing other than your stated price, no matter what they offer. Once the seller understands that this is the sales reality, they will definitely consider your asking price, provided that it is feasible.
Pros: Requires minimal effort, seller cannot outmanoeuvre you.
Cons: Can take a long time, seller might get better offer.
Pursuing multiple vehicles at once
Having multiple asking prices from different sellers can be a powerful negotiation tool, as it puts sellers into direct competition with one another. So instead of going after a single car, try to approach several sellers of the same make and model in order to gauge their best respective prices. Be sure to let the sellers know that you are considering other offers, as this will encourage them to present you with their best price, rather than risk losing out on the sale.
Pros: Encourages sellers to offer their best price
Cons: Extra legwork involved