How to haggle for a car: 26 tricks of the trade

Figure holding car keysSelling cars isn’t easy and successful salesman are at the top of their game. Don’t be fooled by a friendly face and a firm handshake; remember that you’re dealing with professionals, and you’ll need to work hard to get the best price. Take the hassle out of haggling with the following tips:

Change your Mindset Haggling isn’t everybody’s idea of fun, but if you tiptoe timidly onto the forecourt; things won’t end well. The trick is to reframe the purchasing process as a ‘challenge’ and enjoy stepping out of your comfort zone.

Don’t be Embarrassed Negotiating price is an expected part of the buying process, and if you are too humble to haggle, you’ll end-up out of pocket. As the saying goes: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Wage a Charm Offensive You’re not jumping into a boxing ring or going into battle and you’ll get a lot further if you are friendly.

Do your Homework It’s often said that knowledge is power and there’s a wealth of information on the web where you can check everything from the market value of a vehicle to its service history.

Hold your Ground Before you begin haggling decide on the absolute upper limit that you’re prepared to pay and don’t crumble.

Don’t be Greedy The profit margin on a car varies from forecourt to forecourt, but industry insiders estimate 20% so you can reasonably aim for a 10% discount.

Be a bit Cheeky Making an opening offer is something of a balancing act (you don’t want to offend, but they’ve generally got thick skin) but it makes sense to start low and work your way upwards.

Take your Time There’s an art to successful negotiations and you’re unlikely to get the best price if you’re racing against the clock. Set aside plenty of time and make the most of it.

Don’t be Rushed No matter what the salesman says; the deal is unlikely to disappear in a day.

Language Matters You can make it much more difficult for a salesman to say ‘no’ by using active language and leading questions. Don’t ask ‘Can I get a discount?’ rather ‘How much discount are you going to give me?’

Silence is Golden Salesman can use silence to devastating effect by exploiting the fact that we find it uncomfortable. Silences may seem awkward, but going quiet to tempt customers into talking, is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Instead take a word of advice from Simon & Garfunkel and embrace the Sounds of Silence.

Curb your Enthusiasm If you are over eager you’ll probably end-up overpaying.

What’s it Worth? You’ve done your homework on the car you want to buy, but what about the one that your trading-in? Part exchanging might make your life easier, but it’s unlikely to be the smartest financial solution.

Dealer Vs Dealer Playing off one dealership against another is a great way to get a discount. Car salesmen tend to be competitive (and territorial) and don’t like losing out to local business.

Cash is Not King Remember that car dealerships make money on financing and if you’re paying with cash it’s worth keeping your cards close to your chest. Some sneaky buyers have had success by dropping hints that they are interested in a finance package until a sale price has been agreed, but it’s a risky strategy that could backfire.

Middle Men Financing It’s important to understand that car dealerships simply resell finance packages from other providers (with a hefty mark-up) and you’re likely to get a better deal by shopping around.

Stick to your Guns It’s a salesman’s job to sell so don’t be surprised if they try to talk you into buying a higher spec or a more expensive model.

Dress for Success There are two opposing schools of thought when it comes to what to wear when negotiating. One says you should dress smartly to command authority, the other says you should dress down to hide your wealth; either way you need to think about your wardrobe.

Your Timing Counts Salesmen sometimes need to hit targets at the end of the month and you could bag a bargain. Similarly, it’s worth trying at the end of the day when everybody just wants to go home; you might be pleasantly surprised.

Take a Rain Check Lousy weather usually spells a slow day on the forecourt which means you can play hardball without the salesman moving on to find a softer target.

Bring a Friend A trusted third party is more likely to keep a cool head and not get caught-up in the heat of haggling. They’ll tell you when to walk away and that could mean a better deal.

Find some Faults Don’t forget that faults can be real (‘dented bodywork’ or ‘scratched wheels’) or imaginary (‘not sure about the colour’ or ‘too small for the dogs’) and both might mean a discount.

Can’t Pay a Penny More If the price is being pushed-up, and you’re feeling the pressure, put the brakes on by blaming someone else who’s controlling the purse strings.

The Sympathy Vote Appealing to a salesman’s sensitive side with a sob story can reap rewards.

Long Walk Home Don’t be afraid to walk away, but make sure you leave your phone number, you might get a call sooner than you think.

Final Thoughts Bear in mind that a fair price is a fair price and that everybody has got to make a living.




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