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Newbie Negotiating vs. The Sales Manager

Found a 2003 Camry XLE fully loaded with 115K miles and a clean Carfax. It has been on the lot since December. Salesman comes out and told me it lists at $10,995…I left him standing right there. He chased me down and asks if he can cut a deal would I buy the car. I said yes if we could agree on a price and have it looked at. My mechanic finds a leaking valve cover and a leaking power steering line. I know through Edmunds that the EVAP, sensor and A/C are historically faulty. After the usual back and forth w/ mgr he comes down to $9260. We offered $7,900 cash with expectation of going back and forth to meet in the middle at a more reasonable price. They flinched, did not counter and we walked (again).

My question is how much is a “low” mileage car, “one owner” car worth?

Any tips for car negotiating newbies?

Also, do you side step the “how much do you want to spend?” question gracefully and at what point do we reveal this? information?

Any tips would be very helpful…

“how much do you want to spend?”

This is not really relevant, the question is what is the car worth and whether one can afford it. In your case I am not sure how you got the idea that 155K miles is low mileage. Just look around and try to find someone that owns a car and wants to sell. I bet the car you saw was listed on the internet for 2K less than the sticker on the lot. They play games, don’t fall for it. I have walked many times. Never regretted it.

You are doing well. You want to make sure the dealer knows you are ready to walk. Come up with some competition, real or imaginary. It might be a car on another dealer’s lot, your uncle fred’s old car. What you don’t want to do is let the dealer get any power over you.

Never ever let them handle your car keys. If you give them the keys so they can test drive your trade, you are stuck there. Keep talking about leaving, they know once you leave their chance of a sale goes down.

No matter how well you follow the rules, remember they have more experience than you do and they will likely get the better end of the deal while trying to make you think you made a great deal. 

Good Luck.

I don’t know anyone who considers 115K to be “low mileage.”

As a former car salesperson I’ll give you the following advice:

Decide how much you’re willing to pay for this car. Be fair and honest. Tell the salesperson, or the manager, or whoever else asks, that this is your price and you will not budge. Not one nickel.

Then don’t.

No matter what happens or what they say. If you have made a reasonable offer you will get the car. It may take time, but you will prevail.

I suggest you do the final negotiation with your checkbook in hand, prepared to write a check for the amount you offered, plus tax and title, and drive the car away. If you’re not ready to do that, stay home.

If they know you’re ready to buy on the spot things will go a lot better. If they think you’re still shopping they won’t give you their best price.

Once you name your price you can’t change it. If you move just a tiny bit they will pounce on you and your cause will be lost.

DO NOT let them control the negotiation. It’s YOUR money. They’re trained to take as much of it as possible. It’s your job to keep as much of it as possible.

This is not the only 2003 Camry for sale. If you don’t get this one you will find another one, or maybe something better. Don’t pay more than necessary.

And please stop thinking 115K is low mileage. It isn’t.

Know what the value of the car is worth. There are many sources (AutoTrader, KBB, Edmonds, Local Newspapers). Know what the price of that vehicle is BEFORE you negotiate.

Prepare to walk. I’ve walked out of at least 10 dealerships over the years…And all but one called me the following day saying they’d meet my price.

Do You Restore Cars ? It’s 2011 Now ! A 2003 Car Is 7 1/2 To 8 1/2 Years Old ! You’d Be Starting Out Owning An Old Car That Cost You $8000 (More, if you’re not paying cash)! Plus The Thing Has Over 100,000 Miles On It !

In just a couple years you’ll be trying to drive a ten (double digit) year old car that has a basically unknown history. Toyota has cars from its history back in 1997 - 2003 that are on lists of cars susceptible to engine sludge and short lives.

Why are you so enamored with old Toyotas that you are considering this ?
Put that money toward a newer car with fewer miles. You can do better than this. It’s too old. Do you live in a state that dumps salt on the roads in the winter ?

I wouldn’t limit myself to one particular make/model when shopping for used cars (or new cars, for that matter). Keep an open mind. Get something that is younger and with fewer miles.


DO NOT let them control the negotiation. It’s YOUR money. They’re trained to take as much of it as possible. It’s your job to keep as much of it as possible.

Bingo, this is absolute truth. Salespeople are taught to do as much of the talking as possible. This allows them to keep the conversation going an steer it towards where they think they can get extract the most money. It’s much more difficult for the salesperson when the customer is controlling the conversation.

“how much do you want to spend?”

“Depends on the car.”

Dealers always want to be in control of the negotiations. Back in 1969 I saw a 1967 Ford Fairlane 500 on the lot at the Oldsmobile/Cadillac agency in my town. At that time, my institution had an employee supported Consumer Buying Association. The board of this organization negotiated discounts for members with different merchants if we showed our Consumer Buying Association card. The organization had various things we could borrow–a tube tester (yes, this was a long time ago), various discount catalogs and the automobile “Black Book” that dealers used. I picked up the book and went to the agency to inquire about the car. When the salesman said, “What would you pay for the car?” I got out the Black Book and he muttered something about having been out in the cold all day and to come in and see him after I checked the car over. When I went inside, the salesman was no place to be found. I asked the sales manager to see a salesman and he replied, “It’s Jesse’s deal and he is on his break”. I replied, “He didn’t make a deal. I wnat to either talk to someone else or I am leaving”. The sales manager then got another salesman. When we sat down to talk about the car, the new salesman asked, “What would you pay for the car?” I again got out the book. This salesman became very unhappy. “What are you doing with that book?” “I’m leveling the playing field”, I responded. “I’ll give you $1795 for the car”. The salesman replied, “You are way out of line”. I left. A week later that Ford was on their lot with the price $1750 on the windshield. I guess my price was in line after all. Needless to say, I didnt do business with this dealer.

“how much do you want to spend?” Is Nobody’s Business Except Your’s. Salespeople Like To Ask This So That They Can Match (Raise) A Selling Price / Finance Arrangement To What You Answer, Getting The Maximum Profit Attainable.

“how much do you want to spend?”
“I’m just looking and trying to see if there are any good deals anywhere.”


The valve cover leak is common, not too expensive. The power steering line leak can fairly expensive, did your mechanic give you an estimate? It’ll need to be fixed. Both repair costs need to be deducted from what you offer, and you need to tell the saleman about them.

You didn’t say whether it is a 6 cyl or 4 cyl. A 6 cyl. loaded XLE with 115,000 miles is worth about $9900 less the required repairs. BTW, Edmunds does not consider this a low mileage car, since they take off $654 for 115,000 miles. Get a list of all the options on the car and get a price estimate from Edmunds, KBB, and NADA-guides in your zip code and with all the options. You might also offer them a choice of making the required repairs or decreasing the price to pay for the repairs - plus about 10% for your effort to make the repairs. Every time they ask what you want to spend, just repeat that there are problems that must be addressed; you could also undercut your best guess at a reaonable price (based on your research) by 10% to 20% and see what they say.

All you need is more information. If you like the car, just leave the door open to additional negotiations when you leave the dealership. You have the attitude to get what you waht at the right price. Go get 'em, bulldog.

My best advice is somewhat in line with several here, I carry the cash to settle the deal and usually walk out at the first indication they won’t negotiate. Over the years I have bought several cars for customers of mine who felt intimidated by car salesmen. It always surprised the prospective buyers that more than one of the offers that were turned down at the lot resulted in a phone call in a few days accepting the offer, “they will take a loss this time” is a remark that has often been thrown in.