How to negotiate a car price: Top tips

Oct 14, 2013

Looking to buy a new car? Our guide shows you what to look for and how to save money

Cars are the biggest purchase most people will make, with the exception of their home. So it's sensible to drive a hard bargain and make your money go as far as it can. Here are our top tips on how to do just that:

Do your homework

Know what car you want to buy – from the make and model to the engine and specification – before getting into any serious discussion with a salesperson. If you’re at a loss as to how to pick the right car for you, take a look at this choosing the right car for you article in our tips and advice section. Take a few different models for road tests before you set your heart on a car.

Once you know what you want, look on the manufacturer's website to see if there are any deals on offer. You should also take a look at the Aim To Pay section in our sister magazine, Auto Express, to get an idea of how much money you can expect to get off. A general rule is the more expensive a car the more room there is for negotiation because the dealer's profit margin is larger.

When you start haggling, don’t let the salesperson talk you into looking at a lower specification version of the model you’re after – get the model and specification you want at a lower price.

Play your cards close to your chest

Don’t play it too cool with the salesperson – if they think you’re just browsing they won’t put much effort into striking a deal. But don’t let them see how keen you are either. Make it clear you’re a serious buyer but only for the right price.

Also, don’t tell them you’re a cash buyer. Dealers make good money on finance products like hire purchase (HP) and personal contract purchase (PCP) – and they have targets to hit. You’ll often get a better deal if they think you’ll take finance. And you can always decline it at the last moment.

Be nice

You’re less likely to get a good deal if you’re standoffish. Sales people will try and build a good relationship with you on the principle that you’re more likely to buy from them if you like them. It works both ways – get them on side and you’ll have a better chance of getting the discount you want.

Allow plenty of time

If you go into a showroom and tell the salesperson you’re in a rush, they’ll assume you’re not serious about buying a car and will dismiss you with a full-price offer at best.

Check it's legit

If you’re buying a second-hand vehicle, it's worth checking the car's history with a company like HPI to ensure it hasn’t been written off or stolen and that there's no outstanding finance on it. Walk away if the check comes back with any issues, no matter how good the deal is.

Get a detailed quote before haggling

One trick used by some crafty sales people is what's known in the trade as a “stacked deal”. This is when the opening offer is stacked with loads of extras you haven’t asked for, like paint protection, floor mats and extended warranties. When you start haggling, the dealer will cut the price by cutting the extras you didn’t want anyway – so you’ll think you’ve got a great deal when you haven’t actually got a discount at all. Dealers are obliged to disclose what products are included – so get the breakdown before you start negotiating.

Ask for extra

If the salesperson won’t budge on the price, ask for optional extras to be included for free. Try getting equipment like a built-in sat-nav or products like extended warranties, insurance or breakdown cover thrown in to the deal.

Shop around

Speak to a few different dealers to see which is prepared to offer the best price on the model you want. And get quotes in writing – once you have a quote from a showroom, you can take it to another and ask them to beat it. Don’t let a salesperson pressure you into buying there and then – walk away if the offer isn’t good enough.

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