When buying a used car, be it from a private seller or a used car dealership, you want to get the best deal possible. To do so, you are going to have to learn the art of The Haggle. Here are the best 5 ways to bargain down the price of a used car.
The Classic Negotiator: Shoot Low
This is old school. You want to negotiate a lower price? Start low and slowly work up. It’s basic haggling 101. You want to leave yourself wiggle room to come up. If you open right at the highest figure you are willing to pay then the seller of the used car might not want to go higher just to feel like he or she is bargaining. It is psychological warfare. After all, the list price is almost always set much higher than what the seller will accept. Haggling down the price is tradition. It is inherent, institutionalized…it’s built in. Not only does offering your absolute top price first leave you no room to go up if the seller counters, but it also eliminates the possibility of buying the used car, truck or van for less!
The tricky part comes in with that first bid. You don’t want to go too low, lest you insult the seller—and hell hath no fury like a scorned used car salesperson (I think that’s how the saying goes). After the insult, the seller might just dismiss you as a time-waster and insist on “sticker price”. The power belongs to the seller in this case. The real art to the classic haggle is finding that elusive lowball number that is plenty low, so low you could still come up to a low-price deal but above that insulting figure. There is no magic formula to discover this number (or if there is, no one’s sharing) so you’ll have to use your instincts! We recommend you almost always use this method with dealers and often with private parties as well.
Honesty: Firm but Fair
This technique is the exact opposite of the advice given above. It’s aggressive and risky but has a very good possibility for pay-off (if it works). Basically, you come out gunning with straight up honesty. This will probably only work with private party sellers and not dealers. You say, “Mr. Private Seller Dude, I have X amount of money on me and that is all I am going to/can pay. Take it or leave it.” The seller might enjoy the straightforward approach and feel relief at the idea of not having to play games. Of course, the “number” should still be a little lower than you were hoping to pay but not so low as to demand a counter-offer — the trick is sticking to your guns and not going any higher. This is where the next tactic comes in.
A form of this tactic can work with dealers but it takes confidence and some acting. It goes like this: walk into the dealership, find a salesperson and say “I am not going to buy anything today, so save it. Tell me what is the absolute lowest you will sell me this car for and I’ll be back later if it’s the lowest I can find.” And stick to it. You’ll be surprised at how much comes off that sticker and how quickly. Leave and come back later if it’s the best deal.
The Walk Out
You can use the threat of the Walk Out with any of the listed haggling techniques, but there are some hagglers out there who have taken the Walk Out to a whole new level, elevating it that of a true art form.
The Walk Out is all about taking control of the situation. Sell the salesperson. Con the conman. Hustle the hustler. You want to keep up a sense of urgency (which will be hard because the salesperson, if he is worth his salt, will be doing the same to you). Make it very clear that you have no problem leaving without a vehicle. Shoot low and don’t go up any at all. If the seller calls your bluff…oh well. Walk away and live to haggle another day. But it is important that you not falter.
Try to look aggravated or even bored with the salesperson. You want to get the seller begging for your approval. You will have all the power once the seller is hooked. And then all you have to do is say “I will walk out of here right now!” and the car will be yours!
This technique is less about your pride and more about getting a good deal. If you have the “talent” then we say use it! We find no shame in using your god-given charm to get a good deal on a used car. Advertisers use it to sell, why can’t we use it to buy?
A sales transaction is about power struggles and there are many different ways to shift that power, to put the seller off-balance. A well-placed laugh, an arm on the shoulder, a subtle wink of the eye and sidelong smile can each be worth a few thousand dollars off your new used car.
The Wildcard: Turn on the Waterworks
That’s right. Cry. Let the tears flow like rain in Seattle. Give the seller your biggest sob story of why you need to buy this car and why you need to buy it cheap. There is nothing more uncomfortable than being confronted by a weeping, full-grown adult. And just like all the techniques listed above, discomfort is a powerful tool for shifting the balance of power.
And this can be done by both women and men. I know if I were selling a used car and a 260-pound man came to me with red puffy eyes, streaming tears, and a snot streaked upper lip, I would sell the car for whatever price he asked just to get clear of that awkward, awkward situation.
It’ll work. Try it! Try them all (with caution) and you might just get a super deal on a great used car!