How do I haggle when buying a car?

Two people buying a car
Have you ever walked into a car showroom and instantly been set upon by a pushy salesperson? Has their assertive attitude been enough to make you walk out without even considering any of the cars on sale? If so, you’re not alone. A survey by CarWow has found pushy sales staff to be the biggest turn off for car buyers.

Wheeler dealers

Ever since Minder first hit our screens almost 40 years ago, British car buyers have been wary of ‘Arthur Daley-types’ – those dodgy car dealers who’ll do say anything to talk you into a deal. Carwow’s survey found a pushy salesperson was enough to put off two-thirds (66%) of people from buying a new car from that particular dealer. Of the 1,000 people who responded to the survey, a third (33%) said the dealer not having the car they wanted available for a test drive would be enough to make them look elsewhere, while just under a third (31%) said they’d walk away if the dealer refused to offer a discount on a new model.

How to negotiate when buying a car

Whatever kind of dealer or salesperson you encounter, there’s a good chance you might improve the price you have to pay by haggling. But having to haggle can itself make many of us feel awkward or even inadequate. So here’s a few tips on beefing-up your negotiating skills.
  • Do your homework – identify the car (or even just the type of car) you’re interested in and that sits within your budget
  • Find out the car’s list price and how much other dealers are charging – valuable ammunition if a dealer won’t budge
  • Work out what features you really need and try not to get talked into a higher or lower specification model
  • If you’re part-exchanging your current car, make sure you know how much it’s worth so you don’t get sold short – the more you can get for it, the less you’ll have to haggle on other areas of the deal
  • When you get to the dealership, never agree to buy a car before you’ve given it a test drive to make sure it performs the way you want it to.
Once you’ve done you background work, it’s time to hit the salesperson’s charm offensive – or lack-of-charm offensive – head on, so consider these suggestions:
  • Be friendly and polite with the salesperson, but always make your first offer a low one so you can gradually increase it if need be
  • Be confident. Sales staff scent fear and prey on indecision
  • Never let them know your top limit
  • Remember: the windscreen price is the dealer’s top line, so offer less
  • Once you make an offer, don’t say anything until the salesperson has replied
  • If you’re buying cash, don’t let them know that straight away. Dealers make more money on finance deals, so let them price the car up on that basis first, then decline the finance package and see what they’ll offer you as a cash buyer
  • Be assertive – instead of asking “Can you offer me a discount?” try “How much discount are you offering?”
  • And if they don’t come up with the deal you’re after, be prepared to walk away.
Another handy tactic is to visit the showroom towards the end of the month. Sales staff have targets to meet, so might be more eager to chalk up a sale as their deadline approaches. You might enjoy similar success if you’re happy to buy in the last few weeks before the new registration plates are issued at the beginning of March and September. And if you have any other tips or advice, please let us know in the panel below.

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