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How to haggle when buying a car

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Knowing how to haggle when buying a car is one of the great financial skills we can teach ourselves, as it can save substantial money if mastered.

It's a dance between buyer and seller where the goal is to get the best deal for yourself without souring the seller. It takes preparation, confidence, and most importantly, tact.

Whether you're a seasoned negotiator or a first-time buyer, knowing how to haggle when buying a car can help you secure the best possible purchase price for your next car.

So, in this Sell 2 Swansway guide, we're going to delve into the best strategies and tips for the successful haggle, including:

  • Doing your research beforehand
  • Having a fixed budget in mind
  • Keeping your cards close to your chest
  • Not being afraid to walk away

Do your research beforehand

The first lesson in knowing how to haggle when buying a car is making sure you arm yourself with the relevant knowledge before even stepping into the dealership. Drive your haggling success forward with the power of information. 

Know the car's market value

Take the time to research the market value of the specific make and model that you're looking at getting. There is a wealth of info online, and bespoke car valuation tools can give you an accurate look at a car's current purchase price, especially if you know the reg number of the car you're looking at buying.

Knowing this market value helps establish a clear baseline for negotiations, and ensures you don't overpay accidentally.

Understand vehicle history

If it's a used car you're looking into, make sure to take a closer look at its vehicle history report to uncover any past accidents or glaring discrepancies that may offer some potential negotiation points. 

Research the dealer's reputation 

The research shouldn't stop with the car. Take some time to learn about the dealership you're interacting with via online reviews and ratings. This will help you gauge their reputation, and a more reputable dealer is likely to be more transparent with you during a deal, and offer better customer service. 

Have a fixed budget in mind

It's really important you have a clear and realistic budget for your next car before you step foot into a dealership. By having a budget in mind, you establish a clear line in the sand that you're not willing to cross during negotiations.

If you're unsure of your budget for your next car, consider every aspect of your current financial situation including your monthly income, existing payments, and a potential down payment.

See how much you can comfortably afford over the long and short term, and then use that budget to help prioritise your own needs and wants for your next car. If you know your own non-negotiable features and specs, this focuses your mind on finding the best deal within your own restricted parameters.

Keep your cards close to your chest 

This statement is important when it comes to knowing how to haggle when buying a car. It involves maintaining control over the information you reveal to the seller throughout negotiations so that you don't divulge your intentions, budget, or eagerness to buy right away.

One of the most common ways that a salesperson can try to make the most from a sale is by learning more about a potential buyer, including:

  • Preferred make and model
  • Desired features
  • Budget

They then use this information to tailor their approach to your circumstances.

Whilst you should be conversational and avoid confrontation, be cautious and minimalistic about what you divulge, with vague or broad answers that don't give away specifics about your personal preferences or limitations.

Enter the negotiation ring

When it does eventually come to the matter of cost, let the salesperson take the lead. They are likely to enquire about the monthly budget, but before revealing these details, make sure you ask about a starting price they have in mind.

This allows you to assess their initial stance, which then gives you room to negotiate from a position of relative strength.

Once they've dealt their hand, it's your turn to step into the ring. Counter with a lower offer - even if their initial price is reasonable - this demonstrates your willingness to negotiate, and sets the stage for more of an exchange.

If you're asked about budget, provide ranges instead of precise figures to prevent you from being boxed into a corner.

Be sure to subtly convey that you're exploring other options to show that you're not overly dependent on their offer. Patience and composure are the key here, signalling that you're not easily swayed and are prepared to walk away if things don't meet your expectations.

Don't be afraid to walk away 

The car-buying process can be a tiring one, especially if you're looking to get the best possible deal. Outside the hours of research and test-driving, the delicate dance of haggling for your car with a salesperson can also drive you to exhaustion, especially if they seem unwilling to budge any further on price.

In this situation, you may be left wondering whether to just get the deal over with. But it's this very moment that presents a potent negotiation tactic when haggling for a car: the willingness to walk away. 

Sunk cost fallacy

In that moment, it might feel counterintuitive and even wasteful to leave when you're so close to sealing the deal that you've invested so much of your time and energy into.

However, it's important to remember that you hold the power as the buyer, and the fear of losing a sale can be a strong motivator for the seller to reconsider an otherwise unmoving stance.

This shouldn’t be a confrontational move on your part, especially if you've already established a friendly relationship with the seller. Simply express that you need some time to think things over, or that the current terms don't align with your expectations.

Leave your contact info with the seller, and let them know you're open to speaking with them again if they're willing to reconsider their offer to something closer to a more agreeable price.

The ability to walk away from a negotiation can end up being your Ace card if used effectively. By mastering this bargaining tool, you'll not only increase your chances of getting a better deal for yourself, you gain a deeper sense of control throughout the entire process.

Now you know how to haggle when buying a car

Knowing how to haggle when buying a car is an empowering consumer skill that helps you navigate negotiations with confidence and get a fair deal for everyone involved.

By researching market prices, setting your own budget, and maintaining a friendly, assertive demeanour throughout, you're likely to enjoy more successful haggling experiences and become a skilled negotiator. 

Looking to sell your car online?

If you're looking to sell your car instead, why not do so with Sell 2 Swansway?

We've taken the hassle out of selling your car in person and made it easier, quicker, and more convenient for car owners to get great prices for their car - all from the comfort of their home. And with accurate quotes representative of current market trends, you’ll never get less than you deserve for your car.

So, for a 7-day guaranteed valuation, hassle-free collection, and instant payment to your bank account once we’ve got your car, it’s never been a better time to sell your car with Sell 2 Swansway.

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Holly Harris

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