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How to negotiate when buying a car

You should always haggle when buying a new or used car to make sure you’re getting the best price. 

How to haggle for a new car

Make sure you’ve worked out what you can afford and have done plenty of research into the car you’re planning to buy – including the list price.

Whether you’re paying cash, part exchanging or organising a finance plan, car dealers’ prices aren’t fixed.

So arm yourself with our top tips below.

Top tips for getting a great deal

What to do in advance

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  • Make sure you know the car’s list price. Look at the manufacturer’s website, or car websites such as Parkers or What Car? Or check the new car listings at the back of weekly motoring magazines such as Auto Express
  • Know the car features that are most important to you. Don’t get talked into a lower specification because it’s cheaper – instead, aim to get the model you really want at a discount.
  • Check online for rival dealers to see if any of them have better prices or extras on the same car. This can be a good bargaining tool.
  • If you’re part-exchanging your current car, make sure you know what it’s worth. The more you can get for it, the less hard you’ll have to haggle on the rest of your deal. You can get a free valuation quickly and easily on sites such as Parkers or a more detailed valuation if you pay a fee.
  • Always test drive the car. Remember to try it up hills, in traffic and out on the open road. If possible, compare it with lower and higher specifications of the same car.

When talking to the salesperson

  • Be friendly and polite, but avoid letting the salesperson know your top limit.
  • If you’re a cash buyer, don’t tell the salesperson this straight away. Dealers make bigger profits on finance deals, so let them bargain the car’s price on this basis. You can then decline the finance deal later in the process.
  • Start off by stating an amount lower than what you’re actually prepared to pay – you can then gradually increase it if necessary.
  • When you make an offer, don’t speak again until the salesperson replies.
  • Be as positive as possible about your aims. For example, don’t say “Can I have a discount?” Instead, ask “How much discount will you give me?”
  • Some negotiators start by saying they’re not prepared to pay the price advertised, but remember they ARE there to do a deal!
  • If you’re struggling to get a discount but you want the car, offer to close the deal there and then if you can both agree a price.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk out if the dealer isn’t prepared to negotiate or move much on the price.

When you’ve agreed a deal, it’s still possible to get out of your car finance arrangement.

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How to haggle for a used car

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Buying a used car from a dealer is less risky than buying privately because you have more consumer rights if the car shows serious faults later.

Many of our top tips above apply when negotiating with dealers over used cars.

Buying a used car privately will usually get you a better deal than when buying through a dealer.

Private sellers are often keen for a quick sale and so more likely to be open to haggling.

They might have already seen a car they want to buy and are under pressure to sell their old car.

Or perhaps they’ve already bought another car and have to run two cars until they sell their old one.

Whichever way you buy a used car, you’ll have more bargaining points than with a new car.

For example:

  • technical faults
  • tyres in borderline condition
  • an incomplete service history or MOT
  • damage to the car such as dents or chips
  • the car being due for expensive cam belt change.

If possible, try to find out how long the seller has been marketing the car.

Have they had a sign up in the window for a while?

Or advertised it in the local paper for a week already, or had it on a site such as Auto Trader for a month?

If you haven’t already decided how you’re going to pay for your car, find out about your options as soon as possible.

If you have problems with your car, your consumer rights might be influenced by how you paid for it.

This is an important consideration.

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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