Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The 5 Best Bargaining Methods When Buying a Used Car

No one pays “sticker” or “asking” price when buying used cars. It’s just not done. Even if you are a kergillionaire, you are going to try to haggle your way to a better deal than what is listed. But it isn’t as simple as going back and forth with the seller, be it private party or dealer, until you come to a happy compromise—it is an artform. And there are several different methods!

The Old School Lowballer

This method is just as simple as going back and forth with the seller until you come to a happy compromise. It is based on the principle that the person selling the car knows that you are going to do this so the car is overpriced, intentionally listed higher so that a non-haggling doof might get ripped off or that even when negotiating a lower price, the seller still gets more than the vehicle is worth. However, there is more to this method than meets the eye. You want to find the “magic number” to open with. It should be low enough to still come up and still be a good deal, but not so low as to insult the seller. An insultingly low opening bid might put the seller off and now you have nowhere to go but home.

You’ll have to use your gut, but using resources like Kelley Blue Book ( can help you get an idea of a fair price and what you want to end up just below! (And of course you should take vehicle status and mileage into account). You will almost always want to incorporate some version of this method into your haggling practices.

The Straight Shooter

I am going to contradict myself a bit here. This method is basically the exact opposite than that of advice above. If you are feeling risky, this is a good way to go with the potential of a clean, quick transaction…resulting in you driving home in a great inexpensive used car!

Basically, you just lay it all on the line with the seller: “I brought this amount of money I can spend. No more, no less. Not a dime. Take it or leave it.” You have to be firm and confident and you have to stick with it. If you falter even a little bit then the seller might try to sneakily jack up the price little by little until you are driving home with your pants down, your dignity shot, and your wallet gone! If you stick to your guns, however, you might just drive home in a great deal on wheels!

This strategy works best with private parties and I cannot advise trying this with a dealership’s salesperson. With a dealer, if you want to go the honest route, you are better off simply asking, “What is the lowest you can sell me this car for?” and then leave. Come back later if you can’t find a better deal.

The Power Play: Walking Out

This is your Ace-in-the-Hole. No matter what method you use to haggle, you should always keep this bad boy tucked in your back pocket, ready for when negotiations are collapsing. However, you can also use the Walk Out more aggressively instead of defensively.

Bargaining is all about who holds the power, who controls the conversation—it’s pace and direction. Saving the Walk Out for emergencies can possibly save face but might also be wasted on a lost cause. On the other hand, if you practically open with the Walk Out you might just get the salesperson (who works off commission, remember) or the private seller practically begging to lower the price! Just like with the Straight Shooting method, this does not work unless you stick with it to the end. If your bluff is called, keep walking. If you do not follow through and come back, the seller has the power and you are sunk.

The Charmer

This isn’t the classiest most dignified way to drop the price of a used car, but it works! Commercials and billboards try to “charm” and “flirt” their way into your subconscious and I think any ad man (or woman) will tell you that it works! Heck, even the seller might try this technique on YOU to get your guard down.

And that is what bargaining is all about—finding the seller’s weakness and exploiting it! If you can shift the power in your favor, whether it is with honesty or a little healthy flirting, then why not do it? You can charm yourself into a cheap ride home (and maybe even a phone number!).

The Cryer

Simply put: it works. If you can work up some real life tears then you will put the seller in such an uncomfortable position that he or she may sell you the used car for practically nothing! I know I’ve gotten out of several tickets using this method—who wants to deal with a grown man sobbing uncontrollably? It’s awkward and if selling a car cheap can get the seller away from you and the awkwardness, they might just do it!

Again, this isn’t about your dignity, it’s about getting a good deal on a good used car…and doing whatever it takes to do it! No matter what method you go with or a combination of several or maybe an entirely different on—be sure to know what you’re doing going in. Have a plan and stick to it! Happy haggling!

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