Top tips: How to negotiate a car price

Article James Richardson
Nov 12, 2015

If you’re looking to buy a new car, read our guide on how to get the best price

After your home, your car is likely to be the biggest purchase you’ll make during your life. Therefore, it makes sense to drive a hard bargain. Brits are notoriously reluctant to haggle, but hopefully our guide on how to save thousands on your new car will help…

Do your homework

First things first: you have to be clear about precisely which car you want to buy – right down to the make, model and specification level – before you start haggling with the salesperson. If you don’t even know where to start, then read choosing the right car for you article in our tips and advice section. Make sure you test a few different models before making up your mind.

Once you know what you’re after, the next step is to check out the manufacturer's website to find out if there are any current deals on that particular car. You should also take a look at our sister magazine Auto Express’ ‘Aim To Pay’ section, which is a good guide on how much to expect off a particular new car. A good rule of thumb is that the more expensive the car, the bigger the discount you can expect, as profit margins are higher on these.

Now you’re ready to start haggling. Don’t let the salesperson talk you into looking at a lower-specification car; make sure you get the one you want for less cash instead.

Play your cards close to your chest

While it's important that you don’t let the salesman know exactly how interested you are, you don’t want to play it too cool, either. If they think you’re just looking, then they won’t put much effort into offering you a deal. You need to make it clear that you’re a serious buyer – but only for the right price.

If you’re a cash buyer, don’t let on. Dealers make a lot of their money from finance products like Hire Purchase (HP) and Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) – and often have targets they must hit. Thanks to this, you’ll often get a better deal on finance than you would as a cash buyer. Don’t fret, however – you can always pull out at the last moment.

Be nice

It's tempting to be aloof and standoffish when negotiating a deal, trying to play hardball. This isn’t necessarily a good idea, however. Salespeople will try to build a good relationship with you on the basis that you’re more likely to buy something from someone you like. By the same logic, you’re more likely to get a good deal from people who like you.

Don’t rush

If you say you’re in a rush, salespeople are less likely to think you’re a serious buyer. This means they’re likely to dismiss you with a full-price offer at best.

Do a background check

If you’re after a used car, make sure you check its history with a company like HPI. They’ll tell you if it's ever been written off or stolen, or if there's any outstanding finance on it. No matter how good the deal is, walk away if any problems show up.

Get a detailed quote before haggling

Sometimes, a crafty salesperson will try to lure you in using what's known in the trade as a ‘stacked deal’. This is where the dealer initially includes loads of options you didn’t want, such as paint protection, floor mats and an extended warranty. Then, when you start haggling, they just remove these items (that you hadn’t asked for anyway), making you think you’ve got a great deal. They’re obliged to disclose what products are included in any price, so get a detailed run-down before you start negotiating.

Ask for extra

If there's no room to budge on price, ask the dealer to include some extra equipment or perks for free. A built-in sat nav, free insurance or breakdown cover will always come in handy. 

Shop around 

Speak to different dealers to see who's prepared to offer you the best price on your preferred model. Get these quotes in writing, then take them to another dealer and ask them to beat the best price. Don’t be pressured into buying there and then – walk away if the price isn’t right.

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