How to Negotiate When Buying a Car

Whether you’re buying from a car dealership or a private seller, being able to negotiate can make a difference of hundreds or even thousands of pounds. It pays to take some time and prepare yourself for the negotiation once you have your sights set on the right car. Follow our handy tips and you could soon be driving away in the car of your dreams – for a bargain price.

How to negotiate when buying a 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 several reasons, principally because people do not respond well to overt aggression. 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.

Most people respond well to being treated with genuine friendliness and respect. Psychologically, humans are conditioned to please 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 polite, respectful and firm but not pushy. Demonstrate that you know what you want, and make clear what you will accept and what you won’t.

Do your research – know the car’s accurate value

Being well-informed about the car you want 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 prices for the make and model of the car and search online to learn its historic value. This kind of preparation is easy to do and can make all the difference when you present an offer that is properly informed by current market conditions. Remember, a car with high mileage will likely have this factored into its price, so offering a price that uses the high mileage as part of the negotiation will make you look ill-informed. 

Be ambitious

Don’t be shy when making your initial offer as this will be the very best price that you can get. While you don’t want to make an outrageously lowball offer and undermine your position by making it look as if 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 well

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 ground

Every negotiation has two sides and the seller will be trying just as hard as you to secure 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. 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.

Specific strategies

If you approach any negotiation for a car with these tips in mind, you’ll be in a strong position to end up with a satisfying deal. However, some specific strategies 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 then approach the seller and offer your 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, 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 reality of the sale, they will consider your asking price, provided that it is feasible.

  • Pros: Requires minimal effort, seller cannot outmanoeuvre you.
  • Cons: Can take a long time, the seller might get a 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 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. 

Ready to make your move? Read our complete checklist to buying a used car.

Latest advice articles

Latest best of articles