How to bargain for a good price when buying a car

The tips in this article are not applicable just for purchasing a car, it will apply to anything. It will even help you sell.

Bargaining is not just talk. It’s talk in the right way. Bargaining is not just to offer a lower price, but to make the other party accept your offer.

Here are some tips for bargaining:

  1. Research the market price. Before you go to purchase a vehicle, read automobile advertisements in local newspapers. Check the type of cars you like to buy and find out the lowest price they are asking and the highest price. You will get a clear idea how much you need to pay for the vehicle you like to purchase. One of the problems is that every used car may have a slightly different configuration. Some have more mileage, some have low mileage. One car may have a sunroof while another one may not. Estimate how much these features might add to the value of the car so when you talk about the price, don’t let the dealer fool you by saying this car has something like a spoiler which cost more. A rule of thumb is to check what the lowest asking price you can find. For example, if a five-year-old Toyota Camry with no big problem asking for $6,500 while all others are asking for $7,500 or more, then $6,500 is a good price for the Camries asking for $7,500. When you go to buy a similar 5-year-old Camry, you will need to offer a price around $6,500.
  2. Ask the seller to lower the price. When starting talk about the price, ask the seller to lower the original price first. First, ask how much they are asking. The seller usually will just tell you the sticker price, which is usually marked on the car windshield or on a paper which everybody can see. Then ask how much they can lower that price. Some seasoned dealer will refuse to lower the price before you give an initial offer. Even if you are facing such a dealer, don’t give your offer too quick. You can still say something to ask they reduce the price. You can say something like this: “I think the price I want to offer is too far from the price you are asking. So I don’t want to make an offer. Can you tell me the lowest price you will take?” It will work in most cases. The dealer will reduce the initial price by a few hundred. Then you can give your first offer.
  3. Always start your first offer low. Some people are hesitant to give a low price offer, fearing it might drive the seller mad or something. As a customer, you really don’t need to worry about this. You are somebody buying. They can accept your price if they like. They have the freedom not to accept your offer. An experienced dealer will not get angry, annoyed or snarky – they have done this a million times before, have been trained how to overcome counter offers and keep in mind that they need to sell in order to get their commission. A car that’s not selling is taking up a precious space where a nice car that would sell like hotcakes could be. The annoyance of the dealer is an indication of their lower level of experience. How low the price you can give? As long as it’s greater than 0, there is no limit. A general rule is to give a price $500 lower than the lowest price in step 1. Remember this is just the first offer you give, in most cases, the dealer will say your offer is too low. 99% of the time, they will laugh. Or they say it’s impossible.
  4. Try the seller’s bottom line. As a seller, he will never tell you his bottom line, I mean his real bottom line. To know his bottom line, you really have to try. After you give your first offer, the seller will ask you to raise it. But don’t do that. Before you do that, you have to ask him to reduce his asking price. Say something like: “I can raise my offer a little. But I’ll definitely cannot give the price you are asking. How much you can get the price lower? Some smart dealers will just reduce the price by $100. Don’t be intimidated. If they reduce the price by $100, you raise your offer by $10. Tell them this: If you just reduce it by $100, we will not reach any agreement today. If you reduce more, I’ll add more. Then the dealer will reduce the price by another few hundreds. He will again ask you, how much you can raise your offer. Raise your offer by $100. You can raise more, but don’t raise as much as the amount they reduced. For example, if the dealer reduce the price by $500, you can raise by $100, $200 or a little more. But don’t go for $500 more.

After 3 or more times back and forth you will be close to an agreement. At this time, the seller asking a price close to his bottom line.

  1. Negotiate the flaws. Most used cars will have some problems, some small problems like pull to right or left, brake is not great, scratches, bump problems, weak car battery so you need to be jump starting your car every day, etc. They are small problems but it will help you save hundreds. Ask the dealer can he fix the problem for free. If not, tell them if you need to fix it, it will cost about … bucks. You have to deduct it from the price of the car. The dealer will reduce the price by a couple of hundreds.
  2. Make a final negotiating. If you buy from a dealership, they will usually charge a few hundred for doing the paper work. Ask them how much it costs. Let’s say it cost $220. Then ask the dealer reduce $220 from the price they are asking. Tell them this: “If I buy a car from an individual, I don’t need to pay for this amount. It’s fine if you guys charge me the paper work fee, but I have to reduce it from the price of the car.” Most dealers will say it’s a policy or state law to have the dealer to do the paperwork. And you cannot change the state law! What you can change? The price. Changing the price of the car is so simple that it will not break any policy, break no laws.
  3. Make the final offer. After the above steps, you and the seller most likely reached an agreement. If yes, then that’s it! If no, make your final offer. Tell them this is your final offer and no more negotiating. For 99% of time, it will help the seller accept your price. Or they will give you their “final offer”.
  4. Deal or leave. If you reached agreement with the seller after hard bargains, then congratulations! If you cannot reach an agreement, just leave. That’s it. Go for the next car. One thing to not make it worse, say something like that when you leave: “This is the amount I like to pay. Please think about it. If you change your mind in the next a few days, please call me.”


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James Fields

James loves to tinker with autoelectrics more than his wife would like sometimes. Family comes first, cars second.