You’re right to ask the question. Money Advice Service research shows that nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of those who tried to negotiate when buying a car were successful in getting money off. Of those who attempted haggling, only around one in six failed to get a discount. So what are the most important things to remember?
Who are you dealing with?
If you’re buying a car from a dealer, you’ll be face to face with a pro. They’ll have been trained in all the legitimate tricks of the trade and may have picked up a few less honest ones along the way. But they have a business to run and you are the customer so view it as a 50-50 power share.
Do your research: do you need to haggle at all?
Even if you’re buying privately, you still need to put in a bit of work. There are a variety of ways you can find the price of a car on the internet. Media organisations such as What Car? and Auto Express give the true price of cars as well as their retail price. If whoever is selling the car is keen to make a sale, they may be offering it at a sensible price in the first place.
Know what the car you want is worth
Does the listed price of a car include the extras you want? You need to know how much these are worth because they can influence a car’s price, new or used. And what features do you want? Don’t let a dealer sell you a car with expensive electronic drive assist features if you’ll never use them. Equally, a dealer may throw in extras such as paint protection and interior mats, then use whether they’re included or not as a negotiating tool. Make sure you know exactly what is on offer.
Where is the car in its life cycle?
Models of car have a life cycle usually of between five and seven years. The closer they are to the end of that, the keener a dealer will be to move it on to make room for the new model. And from your perspective, it’s unlikely that the outgoing model is going to be as good to drive, as well equipped or as safe as its successor. Use this knowledge to negotiate with. Equally, if it’s a one owner car, you can haggle with the owner over this as they may well have used this knowledge to buy it for a discount.
Know your car’s part ex value
If you’ve got a car to sell, make sure you know its true value. A dealer will try to bundle a part ex car’s value in with the price of the car you’re buying. If they’re keen for your custom, they may even offer you more than you’d get selling the car on its own.
Human beings usually warm to others who are nice to them. If you’re aloof and demanding the sales person is unlikely to want to do you any favours. Equally, if you’re dealing with a private seller be friendly without coming across as too matey and false.
But keep your cards close to your chest
Car dealers make money on finance deals and they’ll be keen that you buy the car on finance (most people do). They’ll also be willing to discount more if you’re buying on finance. Let them work out their best price as if it was a finance deal, before explaining that you’re a cash buyer.
And never reveal your top limit
One of the golden rules of haggling is never to reveal your upper limit. If you do, whoever is selling will try to nail you to it.
Do offer to close the deal there and then
If you’re not getting a price that’s as low as you want, offer to close the deal there and then if they’ll accept your offer. The last thing the person selling wants is for a potential buyer to walk out on them.
Study used cars closely
Whether buying privately or from a dealer, study a used car closely. How worn are the tyres? When were the brake discs and pads last renewed? How much MOT does it have? Does it have a service history, and if so how much? What damage does it have? You can use all these to haggle on the price as they are legitimate points of value when talking about cars.
Know your options and don’t be afraid to walk away
Whether it’s a new or used car, it’s unlikely to be the last one of its kind in the UK, or even in your town. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you think you can get a better deal elsewhere. As we’ve seen, there’s nothing like potentially losing a buyer to galvanise sales staff to sell for a sensible price.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.