How to Negotiate For a Used Car

Buying a used car is usually cheaper than buying new, but there are many pitfalls to watch out for. It’s important to research the vehicle before you cross the dealer lot floor.

The “how much will dealers come down on a used car” is a question that many people have. This article will help you answer the question and get the best deal possible.

Vintage men negotiating for car.

I wrote about how to purchase a secondhand automobile a few months ago. I went through all of the processes except bargaining since it’s a separate issue that deserves its own essay. I’ll start working on it today.

To begin, I must admit that I am terrible at bargaining.

And it’s especially obvious when I’m negotiating for large purchases like vehicles. Last year, when Kate and I had to purchase a “new” automobile, I stunk it up. It wasn’t through a lack of effort that it didn’t work out. I was genuinely looking forward to the opportunity to hone my negotiation skills. I was prepared to go into the showroom and make a purchase.

I, on the other hand, punted. I was hemming and hawing when the dealer began throwing out numbers.

Kate, thankfully, is an expert negotiator. Her Italian ancestry, I believe, is what makes her so amazing. Perhaps the Poles. I’m not sure. She’s simply a natural at it. She took up the reigns when she saw I was messing up and got us a terrific bargain.

I’ll confess that my masculine ego was damaged as we drove away in our new automobile. Kate seemed upset that I hadn’t been able to take the initiative.

“I’m the guy, damnit!” I said. I should be able to bargain without having to rely on my wife.”

Perhaps that isn’t mature enough. I consider myself fortunate to have a lady who can negotiate like an Arabian bazaar seller. However, I’d want to be able to compete in this field as well.

As a result, I redoubled my efforts to enhance my negotiation abilities as a result of the event. I conducted some reading, asked people I know for negotiation tactics, and went along with a buddy who was purchasing a vehicle to prepare myself for the next time we had to purchase a car. Here are some of the things I discovered along the road.

Knowledge is a powerful tool.

Knowledge is actually power in the bargaining game. In the automobile-buying industry, the car salesperson is frequently the most knowledgeable. Consider that for a moment. When the usual buyer comes into a dealership, he’ll tell the salesperson the car he wants, how much he can afford each month, and which vehicle he’ll trade in right now.

Meanwhile, the salesperson refuses to provide any information that would be useful to the buyer. Information such as how much the automobile cost the dealership in the first place, how little they’ll sell it for, and how much the buyer’s trade-in is worth.

In this situation, who do you think would receive the better deal? Of course, it’s the dealer. He’s the one who knows everything!

As a result, there are two things you may do to reduce the amount you spend for a car: 1) keep your cards close to your chest by not telling the dealer precisely what you want or how much you’re ready to spend, and 2) learn all you can about the automobile you want to purchase before you step into the shop.


Learn how dealers make money.

When speaking with a dealer, keep in mind that they earn money from each consumer in three separate ways.

  1. They may profit on the front end of the transaction by selling the automobile for a higher price than they paid for it.
  2. On the back end, they may profit by offering you loans, extra warranties, and dealer add-ons like rustproofing.
  3. The dealer may profit from the difference between what they paid for your automobile and what they got when they sell it if they add trade-in value.

The majority of purchasers are only interested in item #1. Car sellers, on the other hand, may earn more money on numbers 2 and 3. When bargaining for a used automobile, consider factors such as finance and the trade-in value of your present vehicle when determining the ultimate price.

How to Make a Deal on a Used Car

Invest in an automobile that is at least two years old. Why are you two years old? They’re fresh enough that they still look beautiful and are unlikely to have many issues. But, more crucially, after two years, a new car’s wholesale value reduces by 45 to 55 percent of its initial sticker price. What a steal!

Consumer Reports’ annual vehicle issue is a good place to start. Every April, Consumer Reports publishes its annual vehicle issue, which includes a used car section with information such as rankings of the most and least dependable used automobiles, as well as frequency-of-repair statistics for previous model years. This data may assist you in compiling a list of used automobiles to investigate.

Get a sense of the larger picture. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential used automobiles, read the Kelley Blue Book’s Guide to Used Cars and the National Automobile Dealer’s Official Used Car Guide to get an idea of how much they often sell for. Don’t depend just on the online versions of these price guides. The websites will only show you the retail price of a vehicle, not the wholesale price. Dealers use the wholesale price to estimate how much they should pay for a vehicle. Dealers raise the retail price after paying the wholesale price. You want to get as near to the wholesale price as possible when purchasing a used automobile.

But don’t take these numbers too seriously. The Blue Book or Official Used Car Guide values do not represent the unique circumstances of your market. For example, if there is a surplus of Astro Minivans in your area (why are you purchasing an Astro Minivan? ), the price will be lower than the blue book value. As a result, you’ll have to…

Make adjustments to your estimate. Find out what the going rate is in your region for the automobiles you desire. For pricing in your region, go to

Check with the dealerships to check whether the vehicle is available. Look on, phone around to dealerships, or look at their websites to see if they have the used vehicle you’re looking for and how much they’re asking for it. If they have the automobile you’re searching for, stop by the dealership and jot down the vehicle’s VIN number. It’ll come in handy later.


CarFax. Get yourself a copy. CarFax provides a detailed history record on a car. The report will reveal how many owners the automobile has had and whether or not it has been in any accidents. This kind of information might assist you in obtaining a cheaper price (or steer you away from the car altogether). If the automobile was part of a rental fleet, for example, it was likely driven by a number of different people with diverse levels of driving experience. Some may have accelerated upon approaching stoplights, while others may have kept their foot on the brake. In the end, an old rental automobile has far more wear and tear than a comparable car with just one owner (especially of the old lady variety). As a result, the old rental automobile should be far less expensive than the one-owner car.

Simply visit CarFax and input the Vehicle Identification Number to get a CarFax report. They’re $34.99, so ask the dealer to acquire them for you. On television, “Show me the Carfax” seems to work.

Before you go to the dealer, do some research on financing rates. When purchasing a used automobile, it’s ideal to pay cash, but sometimes you simply don’t have ten thousand hanging around to spend all at once. That’s when auto financing comes in useful, and car dealerships would be delighted to assist you in financing your new used vehicle. Keep in mind that dealers profit on the back end by signing you up for dealership financing. The loan is funded by a bank, but the dealer serves as a middleman who receives a fee for signing you up. As a result, the salesperson will try to persuade you to finance with the dealership.

But here’s the thing: here’s the deal. You are not obligated to finance your vehicle via the dealer. You are free to use whichever bank you wish. Shop around for other auto loan rates to avoid the pressure of signing a vehicle loan at the dealership. Check with your financial institution. You may inform the dealer you’ve previously been accepted for a vehicle loan and what the interest rate is on that loan when they start pushing you to the small finance office.

Naturally, the dealership will begin negotiating car loan rates with you in order to get that fee from their bank. You could even be able to negotiate a better bargain with the vendor. Who knows what will happen! Just make sure you have your finance in order before you go to the dealership. You’ll be able to save some money.

Make sure the trade-in is taken care of. Do some research on your present automobile if you’re intending to trade it in for a new used car. You want to earn the most money for your trade-in. Dealerships will undercut you on the price so they can resell it for a profit later. Inquire about the wholesale price, or as close to it as possible. Check out Kelly Blue Book or the Official Used Automobile Guide to get a wholesale price on your car.


You can always sell the automobile yourself for retail pricing if you don’t want to deal with the dealer. It’s more work, but you could make more money this way.

It’s time to get down to business. Alright. You’re aware of the car’s wholesale/retail price as well as the market pricing in your region. You’ve also secured a couple of low-interest vehicle loans. It’s time to go to work.

Step into the dealership with a pre-determined “walking price” in mind. You’ll know you’re going away if the vendor refuses to meet this price.

If you’re shopping with a partner, make sure you’re on the same page and have a “routine” in place. When one person gets up to go for a stroll, the other follows suit. You don’t want one person to be aggressive while the other says, “We’ll take it!”

Make a proposal. Most dealers include a 20% profit margin in the asking price of a used automobile. That is, they are asking for 20% more than they paid for it. As a result, make an offer that is 15% less than the asking price. Tell the salesperson that you understand the pricing has a 20% gross margin and that you want him to make a profit, but you won’t allow him take you to the cleaners.

Then bite your lower lip. Simply keep your gaze fixed on the salesperson and wait for him to speak. Don’t be like me and hem and haw. This just indicates to the salesperson that you are not confident in your offer.

“But our asking price is lower than the retail price!” he’ll undoubtedly remark. You’ve gotten a fantastic bargain!”

“I don’t care about the retail price,” you tell him. I’m interested in the wholesale price and the price you paid for it. The closer we get to that wholesale price, the more probable it is that I’ll drive this automobile off the lot.”

He may seem to be offended. He might go to the rear to speak with his boss. Remember, he’ll make you feel as if you’re robbing him blind, and he’ll do all he can to lower the price. Don’t be swayed by feelings of guilt or responsibility. This is a professional situation. You’re looking to purchase an automobile, and he’s looking to sell one. He won’t accept your offer if he doesn’t like it. There was no damage done.

Point out any flaws that might make the automobile difficult to sell. Dealers want to get the autos off the lot as quickly as possible. Mention how unpopular a conventional gearbox is, or that the vehicle lacks a CD player, or that the seat has a large rip in it. “That’ll make it difficult to sell the automobile,” say, “but I’m prepared to drive it off the lot right now for x amount.”

If he responds with a larger figure, offer 10% less than the asking amount. If he responds, tell him you have an appointment with another dealer to examine the exact same vehicle and walk out the door. Give him your phone number and tell him to contact you if he changes his mind before you depart. He’ll most likely call. A profit is a profit, regardless of how little it is.


Refuse dealer add-ons. When you purchase a used automobile from a dealer, they’ll attempt to offer you a variety of extras like rustproofing and cleaning. Simply say no. If you reside in an area where rustproofing is required, you can usually do it for less money elsewhere.

Prepare to walk away if necessary. Always be prepared to walk away from a negotiation. Don’t become too tied to one automobile and keep your options open. Keep in mind that there are many more automobiles in the water.

Do you have any further suggestions for negotiating a used car? Leave them in the comments section.



When negotiating for a used car, it is important to be aware of the “can you negotiate used car prices at a dealership” and know what to expect.

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