Negotiating Tips for Used Car Buying

Whether you are negotiating a used car price with a dealership or if you are negotiating a car deal with an individual seller, the approach is the same. The key to negotiating a car purchase is making sure that you have all the information before you start talking numbers.

3 Things To Do Before You Buy a Used Car:

1. Confirm the details by phone first. This will help you avoid driving to a dealership or seller due to a misleading advertisement.

2. Always order a AutoCheck® Vehicle History Report before you test drive a car or begin negotiating car purchase. This will save you from wasting time on vehicles that have major issues.

3. Before you begin negotiating a used car price, ask yourself and the seller the following questions:

* Are there any repairs that need to be made to the car?

* How old are the tires?

* Does the seller have maintenance records for the car?

* Is the car or any part of the car covered under a warranty?

* Is it way under market? If so, you will need to dig a little deeper to find out the reason. (There is always a reason!)

* What is the typical life of this make/model? (mileage)

* How long has it been listed for sale? (Did you see the same car listed on AutoTrader 3 months ago?)

NOTE: The "cheapest" deal is not always the "best" deal

Test Drive Before You Negotiate

When you are ready to test drive and/or negotiate the price of a used car, we suggest that you take a friend along and pick a time when you aren't hungry, tired, or rushed. Ask the seller the questions listed above (before you test drive the car) and you will start the groundwork for haggling a lower price on the car.

When you arrive, remember that the key is to place doubt in the seller's mind. You want them to question whether they can even get the listing price for their car. Remember: There are many, many cars for sale and few buyers that are ready to actually buy the car you are seeing.

You can begin planting this seed of doubt by looking at all the flaws of the car in front of the seller. You don't necessarily have to say anything. If you and your friend look at every ding, paint chip, tire, etc, the seller will see that you are scrutinizing the car. Your body language will do the speaking for you. If you combine this scrutiny with questions about maintenance records; the high mileage (if high for the year built), any necessary repairs; how long it has been for sale; etc., you will begin to set the seller up to negotiate a lower price than its listing price. If you've ever traded in a car at a dealership, odds are the dealer did the same to you. They picked apart the car and came back with a number that was much lower than what you expected or wanted.

Most sellers believe their car is worth more than it really is worth or wants more than anyone is willing to pay. It's human nature. It's your job to bring the seller back to reality without offending them or insulting the car.

When you take the car out for a test drive, take the seller with you. This will allow you to ask questions as you drive. You may also pick up on any hints that the seller may not be disclosing all the details about the car. Turn off the radio and listen for any unusual sounds that could help further plant the seed of doubt in the seller's mind. See more at our Car Inspection Checklist

Before you throw out any numbers, determine the highest price you are willing to pay and your target price. You need to start out below this number and leave room for negotiating the price up to your target price. Use the results of your research (from the Used Car Buying Tips ) to determine your target price and (if needed) to justify your offer to the seller. Use the AutoCheck® Score to show the seller how his Vehicle History Reports compares to other vehicles for sale (if it is in your favor).

Throw out a low offer the first time around. The seller may respond with shock, but what's the worst thing they can say? "No"?

While you are negotiating a used car price remember these things:

Stay calm and unemotional.

If you remain impartial to the car, you will give the seller/salesperson less information to work with (fewer buttons that they can push to get you to buy). If they know you have fallen in love with the car, you have given them leverage as they know it will be harder for you to walk away.

Mention other cars that you are considering or plan to test drive.

There are many, many cars and few buyers that are actually making an offer on this particular car. If the seller/salesperson sees that they may lose you, they will work harder to sell you the car.


This is your strongest negotiating tool. Get up and walk out of the dealership or leave the seller if you don't get your target price. A motivated seller/salesperson will not let you walk. You are what they have been waiting for - a "serious" buyer!

Negotiating a Used Car Price with Dealers

If you are negotiating a car deal with a dealer, have the salesperson take ever offer seriously. The salesperson is just a middleman. They do not make the final decision. Sales managers make the final decision and they know how long the car has been sitting on the lot. If you are making an offer, you are a "serious" buyer to them. If the manager never hears your lowest offer, you will never get your lowest offer. Nothing ventured - nothing gained. Again, what's the worst they can say? "No"?

Use the research (from Used Car Buying Tips ), to compare the car to other similar cars with the same options. Use this information to negotiate with the salesperson.

you want to save the most time and get the best deal on a used car, use this approach:

1. Order an AutoCheck® Vehicle History Report for each of the cars that you plan to test drive.

2. Make an appoint and only test drive the vehicle. (walk out without negotiating)

3. Collect the sales manager's name from each dealership where you test drive a car.

4. After you have test driven each vehicle, call each sales manager to negotiate the price of the car. Use the other cars that you test drove to create competition among the dealers.

This will not only save you time, but it typically results in a lower purchase price for buyers!

IMPORTANT: While negotiating a car deal with a dealership, only negotiate the car purchase price. Most car salespeople are trained to negotiate car payments rather than the price of a car. A car payment includes the price of the car, financing (interest rate), your trade-in, and any extras. Negotiate each of these items independently to make sure that you are getting the lowest price, the lowest Auto Loan , highest price for your trade-in, and the best price on an Extended Warranty .

And finally, whether you are buying from a seller or a dealer, have the car inspected by a professional before purchasing the car. Check out our Car Inspection Checklist for tips on vehicle inspections.

Related Articles