There are a lot of big moments in life, and one of them is purchasing your first used car. The chore of sorting through an endless jungle of used car lots and private sellers is enough to make anyone pay full price for the first car they fall in love with. However, there is always a little wiggle room when it comes to negotiating the price of a used car. If you’re unsure about how to go about paying the right price for a used car, take a look at this guide to negotiating the price of a used car in 10 easy steps.
1. Start With Getting the Right Information
The best way to negotiate for a used car is by gathering as much information as possible. This doesn’t mean simply picking out an automobile style and color. There’s actually a lot more you need to be concerned with. Take a fast look at all the info you should be armed with when you begin your search for a used car.
Look at Your Local Laws
Buying a used car always varies by state, and many have laws to protect consumers from being taken advantage of. Some of these laws are called “lemon laws,” and they allow you to return a car to where you purchased it from if something goes wrong within a certain amount of time. However, not all states have this type of regulation with purchasing a used car. That’s why it’s essential to know your rights before you head into the dealership.
Learn a Little of the Basics
A good way to let a used car salesperson know you mean business when it comes to negotiating the price of a used car is by learning the basics of how a car works. This means taking time to learn about mileage displayed on the odometer, how brakes work, what the outside of a car should look like, and how to listen for any suspicious sounds.
If you think a person or car dealership is trying to take advantage of you or is attempting to sell you a vehicle that isn’t safe, stop your negotiations and look for a different seller.
2. Get Your Budget Together
Cars are expensive, and it’s important that you're honest with yourself about how many cars you can actually afford. Make sure you think about the upfront cost of purchasing a used car, and how much it’s going to cost you after. The cost of a used car doesn’t end when you’re handed the keys. You need to pay to insure, register, and tag it too. If you have a newer or more expensive used car you’ll need to pay more to make it street-ready than someone who has a cheaper, older car.
Don’t forget about gas to get around and maintenance to keep your car running. These two expenses also add to the total cost of your used car. Pick out a car that you can afford to repair if something unexpected happens and consider how much gas you’ll need to get around in a comfortable manner. If you have a lower budget, you might want to avoid a foreign car with expensive parts or a big truck that has low gas mileage.
3. Be Prepared to Stick to Your Budget
Once you’ve decided on how much you’re going to spend on a used car, you need to be able to stick to it. Negotiations are tough and many people selling used cars have experience in making people go higher than their original budgets. If you pay more for a used car than you’re prepared for, you might end up with a costly car you can’t afford or have buyer’s remorse. Do whatever it takes to prepare yourself to stay within your budget no matter what.
4. Have Realistic Expectations About Purchasing a Used Car
Though there are many very nice used cars on the market, they’re still not new cars. So, keep an open mind when it comes to looking at your selection. You may have set out to purchase an SUV, but can only find large sedans that fit your individual needs and budget. That means you either need to compromise on what kind of car you want or look at a different place to purchase your used car. It might even mean waiting for another day to buy the car you’re looking for.
Also remember that negotiating the price of a used car is extremely hard work, and you might have to spend a lot of time going from place to place finding the right automobile for you. If you’re extra handy when it comes to fixing cars, it might be worth finding a car that needs a little work and negotiating a fantastic deal.
5. Research the Best Used Car Lots Near You and a Little Further
Don’t just go to the used car lot up the street and expect to find a great price on a used car. You need to research quality car dealerships near you, and the internet is there to help guide you in the right direction. Take a look at reviews on reputable websites, browse the websites of popular dealerships, and even make a visit before you're seriously ready to purchase your car.
However, if you visit a dealership and aren’t there to actually buy a car, don't fall for traps like “let's look at the numbers” or “come inside and see what we can do.” There is nothing worse than feeling pressured to buy a car when you’re not ready.
Be sure to look past your local area for a used car too. You’re going to be spending a lot of money on your car, so traveling a few extra miles to get a quality car that is in your budget and will last you for years is well worth the trip.
If you’re buying a used car from a private seller, make sure you know as much as possible about the car they are trying to sell you. It’s the only way you can be sure you're getting what you pay for, and this information will help you negotiate a better price.
6. Just Say No to Monthly Payments
If you can, avoid monthly payments on a used car. Having enough cash to cover the cost of your car gives you leverage over the seller because it means they get all their money right then and there. This allows you to ask well below the asking price for a used car.
Monthly payments also come with financing and interest, which definitely adds to the total cost of a used car. Often people who make monthly payments on used cars end up owing a lot more than the car is worth.
7. Nail Your Opening Offer
If there’s one thing that starts off the negotiation, it’s an opening offer. To get one going in your favor, you need to come up with a prompt that displays knowledge and buying confidence. Try saying something like, “I really like these cars, and I’ve done a lot of research on them,” instead of letting them lead the conversation.
Next, follow up your statement with a question that shows you’ve done your research on prices and ask, “what kind of deal can you offer me?” If the person responds with an offer that you find unacceptable, say nothing, thank them for their time, and walk away. Don’t respond to groans, excuses, or anything else that isn’t close to what you want to pay for a used car. If they’re serious about selling the car, they will respond positively to your offer.
8. Know-How to Make a Counteroffer
If the person selling the car makes an offer that’s close to your budget, then you’ve started negotiating! Now’s the time to start making your own counteroffers, but it’s important that you don’t get greedy and make an absurdly low offer. Not only do you lose credibility with the seller, but you might also lose out on being able to purchase your car.
The best way to make a counteroffer is to reasonably keep lowering the price until both parties can reach an agreement on price. Don’t forget that a lot of used car salespeople are very experienced negotiators and are well-versed in the tactic of drawing out negotiations to break you down into paying a price you don’t want. If you find this happening to you, stop the negotiations immediately, and take this opportunity to move on to another seller.
9. Avoid All the Little Extras
One way a used car dealership tries to negotiate the cost of a used car in their favor is by offering extras like extended warranties, maintenance plans, and radio subscriptions. While some of these services are nice, they are unnecessary, and just end up costing you more money in the long run. It’s actually a lot cheaper for you to get these things through your own accord, instead of letting the dealership tack it onto the price of your car.
This is another reason why you should go over the numbers and details of your purchase before you finalize anything. Always make sure you ask for an itemized breakdown of all the fees that are being charged when you buy a used car. That way you can pick out any extra charges that look suspicious. If your salesperson gets an attitude about how thorough you are with negotiating the price of a car, then find a different establishment with more trustworthy employees.
Many people choose to bring a friend or family member along with them when they negotiate the price of a used car. Often, having a second set of ears can catch details that you miss and draw attention to sales tactics used by salespeople to get you to pay more than what you want for a used car.
10. Don’t Take It Personally
It’s not a secret that used car salespeople have a bit of a bad reputation, and it’s true there are some that are better than others. However, if negotiations on a car get a little tough, just remember they are only doing their jobs, and you have every right to walk away if you aren’t making any progress or feel uncomfortable. They won’t take it personally, and neither should you. The important thing is that you focus on finding a reliable used car that fits your budget.
Private Sellers Are a Little More Casual
If you’re looking to purchase a used car from a private seller, then negotiations tend to be a little more casual. You don’t need to be as rigid with your offers and can go into more explanation on why you can or can’t afford the vehicle they are trying to sell. Plus, you don’t have to deal with any approval from management if you end up negotiating a great deal.
Make sure you have as much information as you can find on a car that’s being sold by a private seller. That way when you offer a lower price than what they’ve asked, you can give them an explanation. Most private sellers are reasonable and willing to work with your offer, but just like with used car salespeople, if you’re not getting anywhere with your negotiations, walk away.
Negotiating the Price of a Used Car Is What You Make It
Now that you’re armed with all the information you need to start negotiating the price of a used car, you can put that knowledge to good use. There are people who spend decades learning how to perfect the techniques of negotiation, but you can use the basics to help you talk the price down of an automobile.
It can be very stressful shopping for a used car. The best thing you can do is stay calm and confident when starting your negotiations because there are a lot of places where you can buy a quality automobile to suit your needs. If negotiations fall through on one car, you always have the opportunity to try again on the next. Keep going, until you get the car you want at a price you can afford!