6 Things to Remember When Negotiating a Car Purchase
Nathan Stretch July 30, 2015

Intro & Tip 1: Find the Right Car

Unless you’re buying a car from your dad or sister-in-law, you will need to do a bit of negotiating to get the best price. Don’t worry though – this can (and should) be a friendly, pain-free process. Negotiating a car price can even be quite fun, especially when you think back on the great deal you got on your new ride!

Whether you’re a seasoned haggler or a negotiating novice, just remember these six points to guarantee that you’ll get a good car at a good price.

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Tip 1: Find the Right Car — Head to the Dealership

This may seem obvious. Of course you need to find a car before you can negotiate for it! But there are two mistakes that most car shoppers make at this point: saying too much, and buying too soon.

We certainly encourage having a thorough look around dealerships before you decide what car you want (even if you’re planning on buying privately). You can get some idea of what to look for from our guide, What Car Should I Buy, but nothing helps narrow things down like seeing a bunch of cars in person. But it’s important not to say too much. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell the dealer that at this point you don’t even know what kind of car you want – you’re just looking around to get an idea of what you might want for your next car.

That way they know you’re not going to be buying a car today, so you’re not wasting their time and distracting them from a potential sale. It should also keep any pressure to a minimum, allowing you to browse and narrow down your options at your leisure.

Of course, it is okay to get the assistance of the salesperson; just keep things general.

You might say…

  • “What do you have as far as compact, four-door sedans?”

or

  • “I like the Toyota Rav4 and would like to consider similar alternatives. Do you have anything like that?” (Hint: the answer will always be “yes”. :) )

Questions to avoid would be things like…

  • I don’t want to spend more than $10,000. What do you have in that range?
  • I’m planning on trading in my 2016 F-150. How much could I get for it?
  • What are the monthly payments on this 3-Series?

These questions will come up later in the process. For now, you don’t want to ask (or say) anything that gives away your intentions, including your budget, whether (and what) you plan to trade in, whether you will be leasing, financing, or buying outright, and exactly when you plan to buy (it’s fine to just say ‘not immediately’, or ‘within a few months’). You want to honestly show that you do plan to buy a car and aren’t wasting their time, but you won’t be buying immediately.

And you don’t want to buy immediately! If these steps guarantee you get a good deal, a sure way to guarantee you get a bad deal is to go to a dealership and buy a car (or even put down a refundable deposit) without knowing in advance exactly what car you will buy and for how much.

Finally, remember to be friendly at this stage. If you end up buying from a dealership, you will likely be interacting with the future seller of your car now. Be polite. Don’t monopolize their time if they have other customers, and get the card of the salesperson you talk to so that you can ask for them in the future (and so they can get your eventual commission if you buy there). Car dealers are generally decent people, just like you, and you’ll do far better being friendly and respectful than adversarial.

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Nathan Stretch Founder & CEO

Founder of the AutoTempest used car search engine, as well as SearchTempest.com. I do a bit of everything around here now, and may even get a chance to write some blog posts! I'm also a car enthusiast. Currently I own a 2009 911 Turbo and a 2006 Honda S2000 (which you'll likely see on the track if you follow the blog or our Youtube channel!)