Essential Tips for Getting the Best Deal at a Used Car Dealer

By Peter Swift (Freelance Contributor) on Thursday March 28th, 2019
By Peter Swift (Freelance Contributor)
on Thursday March 28th, 2019

Negotiating with used car dealers is always intimidating. They're experienced professionals who know all the slickest bargaining tricks, while you're just a regular person looking to drive away a good car at a fair price.

But there's no reason to let yourself be taken for a ride. Follow these nine tips, and you stand a much better chance of coming out on the right side of the deal.

  • 1. Essential Research

    Check a wide range of dealership websites to see what's available in your price range. However, be aware that windshield sticker prices should only be a starting point for your price bargaining.

    For a more realistic figure, check one of the many unbiased car valuation websites to get a true market value for the models that interest you. Importantly, also use these sites to estimate a fair trade-in price for your current car

    Since you are using our site, you also now know about when the vehicle's depreciation may accelerate, or slow. Use this to your advantage in price negotiations and the timing of your purchase.

  • 2. Get an Auto Loan Quote

    To further refine your price expectations, arrange for a secured loan quote on the type of car you want. The size of a loan that you're provisionally offered will give you a solid idea of a car's market value.

    No finance company will lend you an unrealistic sum, so you can safely use a provisional quote as a reference for your price negotiations. If the dealer's demands are way off base, you'll know not to waste any more time.

    Having a written finance quote is also helpful during later negotiation. It proves that you're able to complete a sale quickly, which can help your position if the dealer is keen to meet an upcoming sales target.

  • 3. Start Way Low

    Once you're ready to begin negotiating a purchase, start your bidding way below the true market value. Your offer will be rejected out of hand, maybe even laughingly, but it sets a low starting point to build on. If you let the dealer suggest the first price, they'll be at an advantage from the start.

  • 4. Get an E-mail Quote

    If you're not confident enough to offer an extremely low bid in person, try starting negotiations by e-mail. That way is much less intimidating, and you'll also wind up with a written offer to take to the dealership. While that offer probably won't be binding, it's better than going in completely unarmed and unprepared.

  • 5. Be Stubborn

    Once you're into the bargaining process, it's important to be stubborn about the price range you're willing to discuss. While you'll need to negotiate at least a little, you also need to be prepared to walk away and it's important the dealer recognizes this.

    If you're not happy with the negotiations, simply name a price, leave your contact details, and tell the dealer to get in touch if they change their minds.

    If your offer is reasonable, the chances are the dealer will call you back in a day or two.

  • 6. Be Polite

    However, being firm shouldn't be confused with being rude or aggressive. If you try to play the tough guy, you'll just lose the dealer's respect, as they'll immediately know you're not an experienced negotiator.

    Also, if you stay polite, the dealer can assume you're more likely to provide a good review of your experiences of the sale. Any car dealer will prefer to lose a small profit on a sale if they can present a glowing satisfaction survey to their manager or supplier.

  • 7. Ignore Emotional Blackmail

    But don't let the dealer mistake politeness for weakness. If they sense vulnerability, they'll try to use emotional blackmail to push the price up. They'll tell you how their boss is putting them under pressure, or that they have a family to feed, or that their job depends on a certain number of sales.

    But don't let the dealer mistake politeness for weakness. If they sense vulnerability, they'll try to use emotional blackmail to push the price up. They'll tell you how their boss is putting them under pressure, or that they have a family to feed, or that their job depends on a certain number of sales.

  • 8. Keep a Distance

    In the same way, don't let the dealer lure you into a false sense of friendship. Don't answer any personal questions about your family, job, or interests. The dealer is only looking for an angle they can use to their advantage. Keep all discussions strictly professional and relevant to the deal.

  • 9. Your Decision is Final

    Lastly, once you've agreed on a fair price, don't let the dealer bump it up by adding optional extras such as an enhanced warranty. Don't accept any extra costs for the audio equipment or navigation which is already installed.

    Insist you want these unneeded items removed rather than paying a premium for them. If you're firm on this, it's likely the dealer won't go to the trouble of removal, and the extras will be included for free.

    And never let the dealer take the final decision upstairs to a supervisor or manager. This is just a ploy to play for time, increasing the pressure on you to agree to a further price hike once the dealer returns to the office. Insist that your decision is final.

More News & Resources