How to Negotiate the Price of a Used Car

When buying a used car, negotiating the price is arguably the most important part of the whole process. Your negotiating skills can make or break the deal. Moreover, the process begins much sooner than you think. It can be an intimidating process, whether you’re negotiating with a dealer or a private party. Thankfully, there’s a few insider tricks you can use to get the best deal possible.

Negotiations begin immediatley, even if you don’t know it

A customer begins to negotiate with a salesperson at a Ford dealership
Speaking with a salesperson | Angus Mordant via Getty Images

First, do some basic math before going into talks with a seller. Know the vehicle’s estimated value by looking at similar listings, getting a pre-purchase inspection, or using Kelly Blue Book. Every little bit of knowledge helps here. Of course, the recent semiconductor shortage will likely affect the way you negotiate. Make sure to factor in increased demand for a vehicle so as not to lowball the seller.

Lowballing won’t get you anywhere, especially now, in this seller’s market. It’s best to have a few numbers in your head before speaking with anyone. Know your budget, and stick to it. This is especially true of dealership negotiations. Just because a dealer says they can lower your monthly payment does not mean the vehicle’s purchase price is lower. Instead, the dealer will simply raise your loan or lease term.

Less is more when you negotiate

A man examines a row of Chevy pickup trucks at a dealership
A man walks the dealership lot | Ty Wright via Getty Images

With regard to the act of negotiating, less is more. Revealing any and all unnecessary information can harm your efforts. So, it’s best to be careful what you say to a salesperson or private party. This is somewhat of a balancing act. You want to come off as friendly, but without revealing too much. In essence, what the salesperson doesn’t know won’t hurt them.

Don’t go revealing your budget, or whether you plan to finance. If, for example, you say you’d like to finance the vehicle, the dealership’s focus immediately shifts from the purchase price to the monthly payment. They’ll try and get that monthly payment as low as they can. Finally, try your hardest to keep the negotiations separate if you’ll be trading in your vehicle. You don’t want to have the dealership factoring your trade-in into negotiations.

Attitude is everyithing

Toyota's logo at one of the brand's many dealerships
A Toyota dealership in Canada | Roberto Machado Noa | via Getty Images

This last piece of consumer car buying advice is arguably the most important. Your attitude is everything, especially with private sellers. You don’t want to let a petty squabble ruin what could be a great deal on a car you’d like to own. Treat it like a job interview. Be kind, courteous, and patient. Don’t go interrupting anyone to fit in a joke. With these tips in mind, you’ll have no trouble at all getting exactly what you want out of your next vehicle purchase, be it through a dealership or a diamond in the rough Craigslist car find.

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