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Strategies to Negotiate a Car Price

Even though it seems like the dealership will always have the higher hand in a negotiation, here are a few ways to make sure that happens.
August 3, 2021

Time to buy a car? In a room full of people, if you ask whether everyone would prefer negotiating with a car salesperson, or going to the dentist, a lot of people would likely choose the dentist. Car salespeople have a reputation for being difficult and pushy, but if you go in there knowing exactly what you want and knowing that you can walk away, your negotiation is sure to run smoothly. Here are a few ways to make sure that happens.

Do Your Research

Knowing as much as you can from the beginning will prevent companies from taking advantage of you and will help you make informed decisions.

It’s always a good idea to use websites like Carfax.com to check the value of the vehicles you’re interested in before talking to the dealer. These websites make it impossible for car salespeople to lie about value and price. You can also use these types of websites to find out if someone else nearby is selling a similar car for a lower cost. If that’s the case, you can use it to your advantage in your negotiations.

Treat it As A Business Transaction

Dealerships want you to become emotionally attached to any car you are thinking of leasing or buying. That’s why you might catch them saying things like, “Imagine taking this car on your next road trip, look at all the cup holders!” However, that emotional attachment can distract you from the fact that buying a car is, ultimately, a business transaction.

While you are trying to get the car of your choice for the lowest price possible, the dealership is also trying to maximize its profit. When you remember that buying a car is a business transaction, you can more easily focus on the facts about the vehicle you’re interested in instead of your desires. For example, instead of saying “I really didn’t want to pay more than X,” say “I think this car is only worth X because of these reasons…”, which you’ll know if you did your research.

Focus on the Total

Even though you need a payment plan that suits your monthly budget, paying too much attention to a monthly payment is a good way to get a bad deal. Ultimately, car salespeople are going to make more money if the total cost of the car is higher. They’ll be happy to help you get your monthly payment as small as possible, but that means more interest which might mean more money in the dealer’s pocket. Focusing on your monthly payment could leave you paying more in the long run. Make sure the total cost for the car makes sense before you sign the deal.

Ask About Offers

Make sure to ask questions about offers and discounts. Car companies will offer money-saving discounts when vehicles are not selling as fast as expected or when there are new cars on the way. Even though you don’t have to go back and forth on the price to get a deal, the salesperson may not volunteer that there is an available offer. For example, many dealerships offer 0% APR deals or might throw in extras like floor mats if you buy before a certain time. However, if they think you’re going to buy regardless, they might not tell you about these deals!


Don’t Say Too Much

Salespeople might try to use what you say against you when it comes time for the negotiation. Don’t reveal if you are willing to spend more! One of the ways they might trick you into saying that you can afford more is by leaving long pauses in conversation. Don’t fall for it! Just because the salesperson stops speaking does not mean you have to fill the silence. Similarly, don’t reveal how desperate you are for a new car. If they know that you need to drive away with a car today, they’ll likely be pushy about the cars available on the lot without giving much of a deal. Meanwhile, if they aren’t sure how interested you are, they might be more willing to come down on the price to try to get you to buy.

Shop Around and Discuss It

It is more than fair to shop around before deciding on where to buy your vehicle, and when a salesperson knows that you are shopping around, they might be more likely to fight for your business and offer a better deal. You can casually drop it in conversation by saying, “someone else I talked to about this car said X,” or “The dealership down the road is offering X.” Dealerships and used car lots are all in competition with each other at all times, and they know that you can leave and decide to go to a different shop tomorrow.

Be Ready to Walk Away

Even though it seems like the dealership will always have the higher hand in a negotiation, the truth is that it is all in your hands. You have the power to walk away at any time. Sure, it’s possible that the car you want is popular and they’ll be able to sell it to someone else if you walk away, but then the salesperson has to work twice as hard to sell that same car. They’d rather sell it to the first person who is interested and then move on. Remember that it’s a business transaction that you don’t have to agree to.

P.S. – Check out our guide to buying a car, here!

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