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The best negotiating tactic you used when buying a car

What is the best negotiating tactic you used when buying a car?

I had to buy a used car about a year ago. As I am on a tight budget, it was a case of “talk them down”. I knew that I wanted a Nissan Micra ( a UK subcompact ) with Aircon and Power steering. The forecourt price was $5000 ( approx conversion from pounds ). Things were not going as planned with the salesman, so I pulled out the star quarterback of tactics - the " phantom girlfriend/wife".

Altho I had neither at the time, I gave the salesman a pitiful view of a man under the thumb. I had read it in a magazine and wasn’t too keen on being dishonest. Amazingly, the salesman ate it up and the negotiations went a lot better. I got the price down to about $3900.

I felt a bit dishonest but I figured you always negotiate on the forecourt price - which usually has a comfortable margin built in for the showroom.

So, what negotiating tactics have you used?

Sales people use the same tactics all the time! There’s the mysterious Mr. Jackson, who has to “approve” the deal, the swearing on a stack of bibles that “this is our cost”, and so on. As well as deliberately lying about the previous owner and use the car had.

If you have ever had to haggle in an Oriental azaar, you know that anything goes. Old-fasioned horse trading, by comparison, is actually simpler.

In car negotiations, walking out or pretending to, is a very powerful tool. “If that’s your best price, I really should look somewhere else”. The price will drop by magic, subject to “Mr. Jackson’s” approval of course.

The BEST negotiating tactic…WALK. When you show that you’re NOT interested prices DROP.

Time of year is very important when buying a car. Now is a GREAT time to buy…Car sales are usually way down from January thru March. April and May car sales really pick up and many times the salesman is in the drivers seat.

When negotiating find another car from another dealer. Then play the two dealers against each other. When times are tough…they’ll negotiate. And don’t be intimidated by them. Many are down right sleaze who’ll rip you off of every dime you have.

I decide what I’m willing to pay for the vehicle before I walk into the salesperson’s cubicle. Then I don’t budge. Not one cent.

If I have arrived at a reasonable price I will get the vehicle. It may take time, but it works.

If they won’t sell it to me at my price I go elsewhere.

In addition to the above input, this site is full of valuable discussions on this topic.

Perhaps one of the more substantive threads is
It’s worth reading through.

I completely lead them on I am buying all the extra’s like extended warranty and financing through them. I then negotiate a very low purchase price.

At time of purchase my wife shows up with a bank check for the car and cross off the extra’s. It has worked twice for me and left a very angry sales & finance manager.

The one that gets under salesmens skin is when the customer gets the Dealer to “give me your best price” then agrees to the price but THEN says “what is my trade in worth”. This one really gets them going as the salesman says “you never mentioned a trade in until now”. The good salesman deals with (or more correctly “deals out”) a trade in issue right at the beginning.

My best negotiation occured when I had finished my graduate coursework in May of 1971 and needed a car. I bought a car from the very lot where the movie “Breaking Away” was filmed. We had a worn out 1961 Corvair that we knew wouldn’t get us out of town. We saw a 1968 AMC Javelin on a used car lot one evening on the way back from buying groceries. We stopped in and looked at it. The dealer said that he would have to have $1650 difference between my Corvair and his Javelin. We left and went back to our apartment. I then walked down to the drugstore near our campus apartment and purchased an Edmund’s “Used Car Price Guide”. The wholesale price on the Javelin was $1200 and the retail was $1695. I figured that my Corvair was worth about $50, so the price wasn’t too far out of line. The next day we went back to look at the car and take it for a test drive. While I was inspecting the car, I found the state inspection record in the glove compartment. The car had been inspected in February with 55,000 mile. Between February and May, the car lost 22,000 miles and had only 33,000 miles on the odometer. I returned to the dealer and he asked what I thought of the car. I told him that the car was fine, but I couldn’t pay a low mileage price for a high mileage car. I showed him the inspection record and he called me every name in the book. He told me that he didn’t need hippie types from the University to tell him that he was a crook and a cheat. I responded that I didn’t say he wound the odometer back, but that the car had more miles than indicated. He asked me what I would give him for the car. I responded “$1200 and the Corvair”. He grabbed his plate off the car and muttered something about “checking his books”. We stood outside his office for about 15 minutes and then he told us to come on in. He had the title out and a bill of sale drawn up and told me that I had bought the car. Then came the fun for me. It was about 10 minutes to twelve and the bank closed at noon. The bank was locking the front door and told me to go to the walk-up window. I went to the window with my savings book and asked for a cashier’s check for $1200. The teller told me that I couldn’t get the check until Monday. I then asked for $1200 in cash. The teller asked me how I wanted the money. I said that I wanted it in ten and twenty dollar bills. She obliged. I put the money in a paper bag and returned to the dealer. I gave him the bag of money and he started to ask me a question about where I got the money. “Sir”, I replied. “I’m not going to ask you anything more about the car and I don’t want you to ask me about where I got the money”. He said, “Fair enough. I needed another sale this month to stay in business”.

The service station where I traded told me that it was illegal to roll back the odometers and the used car dealer would have been in trouble had I reported him. At any rate, two months later when I was back in town, the used car lot was gone. I guess he really had a bad month.
I drove the car 6 years after I purchased it and put 100,000 miles on top of what was already on the car. I then sold it for $600. The Javelin turned out to be a great car.

A very important tactic is choosing a car that isn’t in high demand. A station wagon has been a bargain for years. If it’s pink they’ll beg you to buy it.

Im a mechanic so I get deals that are off the charts silly.

I could write a book on making the deal…I have probably bought and sold several hundred cars trucks and bikes in my time.

The good thing is that I fix everything on the vehicle before I sell it…making the purchase a good one for the person.

I usually use Edmunds to get the wholesale price, and autobytel that pre-negotiates price. If I can get car within 500 from invoice, I’m satisfied. When I’m buying a 22K car, $600 isn’t going to break/not break me. Some people take a super hard line, but this is good enough for me

They’d have to.

And it wouldn’t work :wink:

The internet is your friend. Dealerships have started a fun new trend of marking a car on the lot at $5000 or so over what they advertise it for on the internet. Why? Because the internet makes it real easy for me to sit at home in my robe and click around to the different dealerships (or on a site like and see who’s offering what at what price. If they don’t put their bottom line price, or very close to it, on the internet, I won’t even bother to get dressed and go to their showroom. If they can’t get me in the door, they’ll never get me to buy a car.

But if you’re already in the door and haven’t done your internet research, they’ve got a nice $5,000 cushion of pure profit to play with - one that gets yanked out from under them as soon as you say “funny, I thought you advertised this for $xxx online?”

There are lots of ways. A couple of suggestions however. Never give up your keys. Once you do that your car will disappear. Another salesman will be taking it on a test drive. The only thing they are testing is you. You are trapped. I suggest you make a deal for the new car, tell them the car you drove is the wife’s car. Then ask them for their best price. Let them know you are going to other dealers to see what their best price would be for the same car.

When they ask you to get the other dealers price so they can undercut them, just say you are giving each dealer the same opportunity. They make an offer the best price will be considered. If they don’t want to participate, then they don’t want to sell you a car.

It is fun, since they don't usually get that kind of customer.  

My last car I bought that way and the one dealer who did not blink was the one that gave me the best price.  

Don't be afraid of walking, they need to sell their cars, you don't need to buy one of their cars. Don't forget that.

On new cars, I let them know I am a serious buyer (not window shopping). I let them know I am buying a car TODAY. I have realistic expectations about price and present a fair, out the door offer that lets them make some money and I get a deal I can live with too. In not so many words, I tell the salesperson, I won’t put up with the usual sales tactics and that I will walk immediately if they waste my time. You can make a couple hundred on the sale in 20 minutes and be free to pursue your next sale. It seems to work well for me.

For used cars, nothing works better than fanning out the cash offer in front of the seller’s wife.

Do your homework and be firm once you find the vehicle you want. There is always a better vehicle at a better price around the next corner.

I don’t know if it’s popular in the UK for the salesman to ask, but a lot of them here keep asking "how much do you want to spend a month?"
That single line is what gets so many people into so much trouble. Sure they can get a newer car for $300, but it’ll be stretched out 6 to 9 years(yes, I HAVE seen a 108 month loan term advertised on a website), depending on the vehicle.

I told a private seller that “that’s all the money I have” and said if we couldn’t make a deal then have a nice day. I got the car.

My best one was to just watch my wife buy one. It was the easiest deal ever and she saved quite a bit of money. Offering to buy the car now by writing a check was good too. We sold it a year later for what we paid for it. Better than shipping it. Always send an English woman if you want something done right.

So you’re kind of a superhero!