Simple tips from 22 years in the motor industry

Once you’ve found the car you really want to buy it comes to the important part of negotiation. Haggling for the best possible price comes with practice but I have a few pointers that are sure to help you get a nice discount.

car negotiation image

You may be surprised to hear that getting money off of the screen price is not always be the best deal, especially when buying from a car dealer.

Of the 50 car buyers I asked, 38 told me that apart from ensuring the car was good value and going to be reliable, getting money off of the screen price was their next biggest concern. The remaining 12 said that a comprehensive warranty and good customer service were more crucial than saving a little cash.

With a used car industry shrouded in bad reputation, charlatans and rogues so we all know the need to buy from a dealer that will take care of you if your car becomes unreliable.

Be sure of this – the more money you manage to save on your purchase, the less helpful the dealer is likely to be if/when you take the care back with problems.

Dealers are liable, regardless of how much you money you pay for a car. Each car has to be fit for purpose, roadworthy, and of a standard that reflects the selling price, although these liabilities may not stop a dealer from being unhelpful when you start complaining.

As a dealer I was far less willing to spend significant amounts of money on a customer’s car if I had already reduced £400 off of the screen price when I sold it. I would use the large reduction as leverage to get some kind of contribution from the customer. This didn’t always work and much depended on how long it had been since I’d sold the vehicle.

  • If I had sold the car 3 weeks ago or less I knew I was pretty much liable for all repair costs.
  • Anything over 3 weeks and I tried real hard to get a contribution.
  • 3 Months or more and the customer’s rights had significantly diminished (but not completely.)

So remember that even when you achieve a big screen price reduction you still have all of your consumer rights. If you buy with a credit card you have an extra layer of insurance, but I will discuss that in a future article.

3 Tips to Save Money

Note that there are some cars that carry certain desirability. Such cars are difficult for car dealers to source and therefore hard to replace. They know the car can only be sold once and will outright refuse any kind discounted price you may offer.

desirable volkswagen gold GTI image

In cases like the one above I suggest that you compare their price to others in the marketplace. I personally advocate paying premium prices for quality cars that:

  • Hold their value very well
  • Are a special or limited model
  • Have an unusual factory colour
  • Have particularly low and genuine mileage
  • Have comprehensive service histories

If you come across a desirable motor that ticks these boxes you may be better off paying the asking price than finding one that’s a little cheaper and less desirable.

So, assuming you are buying a car that can be easily replaced by a dealers here are 3 tips that will help you save some cash…

  1. Desperation costs money

If a dealer can see that you need a car urgently and you appear overly excited about the prospect of owning their car you can expect little movement in price.

So tip number 1 is to remain relaxed and let the dealers know you have several more to look at before you make a buying decision. This is surprisingly powerful for two reasons:

You remain in control of the process and can start calling the shots when it comes to negotiation

The dealer will realise that if you walk away from their car lot without buying the car they will probably never see you again

This gives you an enormous amount of power in negotiation.

  1. Be a cash buyer

From the dealers perspective a cash buyer can be good. It indicates a quick sale and immediate cash in their bank. By removing a lot of the red tape to buying a car you empower yourself and can take the leading role in negotiation.

Being a cash buyer isn’t always possible as you may have a part exchange or need to arrange higher purchase. But consider arranging finance in advance from your bank or other third party. You can also borrow the part exchange value of your car and pay that off of the balance you owe once you’ve sold your car privately.

For example, borrowing an additional £1,000 from your bank and paying that off of your balance within 30 days can actually save you money! Some lenders will reduce the interest rate if you borrow a larger amount.

So you could borrow £6,000, sell your car privately and pay off a chunk of the balance soon after. You’ll still benefit from the low interest rate and save yourself some decent money. Plus you’ve made yourself a cash buyer and have a great chance to get more money off of the screen price.

Note that ‘cash buyer’ does not mean you pay with cash but you are able to buy without any holdups. I suggest that you always pay for a used car via a credit or debit card for added security. 

  1. List the defects

Every used car has at least one defect, even a 10,000 mile 1 year old car. So when running all of your car checks be sure to list down everything that you can find wrong with it.

A worn down tyre, stone chip in the bonnet, worn seat lumbar, scuffed bumper or curbed alloy wheel. All of the types of defects give you leverage.

When you head into their office to strike a deal show them your list of defects. Explain that these items are going to cost you money to fix and you need money off of the price to reflect the problems you’ve found.

Buying a second hand car can be a fun process if you want it to be. The more pleasant and light-hearted you approach a dealer the more likely you are to get what you want. So, try and enjoy the process and save yourself some money doing so.

The Used Car Guy

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