How to Haggle for a Used Car

How to Haggle for a Used Car

We’ve all been there. You have finally found the car that you’d like to purchase. Unfortunately, the process of buying a car is not the same as any other item. When you enter a retail store, you’re not expected to negotiate the price of shoes, groceries, or home cleaning products. You’re expected to haggle, or negotiate the price of a car with the salesman. Do you know how to haggle for a used car? Many people shy away from purchasing a car simply because they are afraid or unaware of how to haggle. They don’t want to make a mistake in the negotiation process and end up having to spend more than they wanted to.

Tips for Haggling on a Used Car

Pricing

Consider the following scenario. You have test-driven your vehicle of choice and decide you want to buy it. The salesman invites you back to his office to discuss the deal and the terms of the sales contract. The salesman may ask how much you are willing to pay for the car. Tell them the total price you will pay rather than the amount per month. You don’t want to get caught in a situation where you say your preferred monthly payment and then the dealership extends the number of months in order to get the overall sale price that they want.

Have a set price range and stick to it. You can expect a counter offer after you have told them your initial price. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the back-and-forth negotiations of a car sale and let things get out of control. The salesman knows you want a particular vehicle and probably don’t want to leave the dealership without it. So, they might try to get you to go above your preferred price range. For more about inexpensive cars.

Research

The best way to stay in control of the situation is to do your research before you get to the dealership. Know the available cars in your area and the prices that dealerships are asking. Look up the Kelly Blue Book prices and eBay completed sales for different model years and conditions. You can even print out the information to have on hand when haggling. Additionally, get to know more about the make and model of the vehicle you like so that you are aware of its safety and performance ratings. A salesman is required to know a little about a lot of different models. If you know more than them about the model you’re interested in, you will have the upper hand.

If you already have a specific car in mind, obtain a vehicle history report and have a professional mechanic inspect the car. If possible, have a mechanic without any affiliations to the dealership examine the car for you. Most car dealers are honest about the state of their used cars and offer a free inspection with purchase. However, sometimes having an impartial third party is a good idea.

Some dealerships require you to purchase the vehicle prior to the inspection, but try to negotiate the inspection before providing them with your final offer. It’s always best to have all the information possible about the vehicle first before signing the deal.

Add-ons

Most likely, your car of choice is the not base model. There are probably certain add-ons, like a better sound system, better wheels, heated seats, or floor mats that you want. All of this can be negotiated as well. An extended warranty may also be considered an additional option with a flexible price. The dealer may even be willing to provide you one or more add-ons for free with the completion of the sale. It never hurts to ask if these items are negotiable as well. If the salesman does agree to any extras, make sure to get them in writing. Even if it’s something as small as an extra set of keys.

Don’t Rush the Sale

Take your time. Don’t expect to go into the dealership and settle on an agreed upon price in the same day. According to an AutoTempest.com contributor, if you’re interested in a vehicle that has a sales sticker of $28,000 and they are only willing to decrease the price to $26,000, say something like, “’Sorry. $22k is the most I can afford. I totally understand you’re looking for more, so thanks for your time. And hey, if anything changes in the future, please feel free to give me a call.’ You might not hear anything. But quite possibly, especially if the seller is a car dealer, you’ll hear back in a week or so with an offer of, say, $27k. If the car hasn’t sold a month or two down the road, who knows – you might get your $22k, or close to it.”

Trading In Your Old Vehicle

When thinking about making a purchase, many people plan to trade in their old vehicle to help alleviate the price of the newer vehicle. Keep in mind that the dealership has strategies for making you think that you are getting a good deal on the exchange when you really aren’t. They may offer you an amount over the Kelly Blue Book value for your old car as a way to get you to pay more for the newer vehicle. A price of $5,000 for a car you know is only worth $3,000 may seem tempting, but not when you consider the overall amount that you still have to pay to get the newer vehicle.

There are ways to counteract this approach. First, negotiate the sale of the car you want and settle on a price (get it in writing) before even mentioning the fact that you have a car you’d like to sell to them. This way, you’ll be able to get the best price possible on the newer car and know how much they truly value your old one. If the amount the salesman offers you on your trade-in vehicle is too low, you always have the option to sell it privately on your own.

A similar strategy can be used for financing. Haggle with the salesman to get the price you want first before mentioning that you’ll need financing. Know the financing rates of other dealerships when you finally discuss the matter with the salesman. You’ll be able to compare rates and have a means to negotiate the rate lower.

Other general tips to consider:

  • Don’t turn the negotiation into a competition. Emotions will flare and you will lose control of the situation.
  • Be friendly and polite.
  • Talk less and let the salesman make offers to you.

“No-Haggle” Dealerships

Many car dealerships are moving away from the negotiated pricing model and are advertising themselves as a “no-haggle” company. Sometimes, this only applies to new cars, and there may still be some wiggle room with their used car inventory. As stated by Motor Pros, “Most used cars came to the lot on a trade-in, and therefore the dealership has very little cash invested into the vehicle. Knowing this, don’t be afraid to ask for a great deal on a used car. Unlike a new car, where there is an actual invoice expense for the dealer to pay, the used car is much more ambiguous.”

No matter what your situation, keep in mind these negotiation tactics in order to get the best deal possible on your next vehicle.

Other Enhanced Insurance articles related to car care and purchasing:

What Is the Cheapest or Least Expensive Used Car to Own

Buyer’s Remorse Law

When Is the Best Time to Buy a New Car

5 Cars with Great Lumbar Support

Best Used Cars Under $5000

What’s the Best Car Insurance for Younger Drivers

Car Insurance for Your Yugo

What Vehicles Are Considered to be More Insurance Friendly

Trade-In Value of My Vehicle

Best Cars for Snow

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Jenna Christianson has a passion for research and writing. She has worked as a researcher for a variety of organizations ranging from genealogy to the transportation industry and everything in between. She is excited to be a part of the Enhanced Insurance team!

3 comments on “How to Haggle for a Used Car

  1. Excellent tips listed. The most important key I have found is to do research beforehand. This will help arm you with information that will be crucial during the negotiation. Knowledge is power.

  2. I cannot stress enough to not rush the sale as you said. In your example, you could save up to $7K! Unless you are in dire need, you should never pay the asking price. I also want to advise that if something seems to be too good to be true, it most likely is. Don’t be afraid to get the free state inspection the dealership offers just to be safe.

  3. Getting the price that they will sell the used car to you before you tell them you have a car to trade in is a great idea. If you can get it in writing that’s another way to ensure the amount stays the same like you mentioned. Going to the dealership with a friend may also help you stick to your plan.

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