How do you talk down a car salesman?
Negotiating the price of a new or used vehicle with a car dealer has a reputation as a thoroughly unpleasant and confusing task. While it’s true that dealers may try to get more money out of you than the car is worth, you can avoid this experience by doing some research before you shop. Then, inspect the vehicle to make sure it’s in good condition and to see if there are any flaws you can use to negotiate a lower price. You’ll also need to haggle with the dealer (even when buying a new car). Have a firm dollar amount in mind that you refuse to exceed, and don’t be afraid to walk off the lot if the dealer will not meet your offer.
Negotiating the Price
Start out with a phone call. Car dealers want to make buying a car an emotional experience for you, since they can use that state of affairs to manipulate you into spending more money than you otherwise would. Avoid this problem by making your initial investigation over the phone: call the dealership, specify the car you’d like, and ask them if they’re willing to sell it for a little lower than your price-point.
- However, it’s still likely that many dealers will insist that you come in to the dealership before they talk money.
Make a strategically low offer first. Make your first offer so that the highest amount you’re willing to pay is at the middle of your offer and the dealer’s price. For instance, if the dealer wants to sell the car for $3,500, and you don’t want to spend more than $3,000, put your first offer in at $2,500. Then, you and the dealer can negotiate back and forth and end up near $3,000.
- If you make an initial offer of $3,000, the dealer will almost certainly expect you to pay more for the car—and they’ll likely talk you into it.
Mention competing bids from other dealerships or online car sites. Before you visit the dealership, call around and check online to see how much money comparable cars sell for. Then, when speaking with a dealer, bring up the fact that you are aware of other locations from which you could buy the car, and perhaps even save money doing so.
- For example, if the dealer you’re speaking with insists on $10,000 for a new vehicle, but you can say “The dealership two towns over said they could let me have it for $9,000,” your dealer may compromise and lower their price.
Focus on negotiating the purchase price. Dealers may try to distract you or convince you to pay more by bringing up issues like a trade-in vehicle, financing a loan through the dealership, or setting up a series of monthly payment plans. While none of these topics are bad in themselves, don’t get sidetracked until you and the dealer have agreed on a purchase price.
- Dealers will often lower the price of a new car if you trade your old car in. This may not be as good of a deal as it seems at first, though: dealers often subtract less money from the new car’s purchase price than the genuine value of the trade-in.
Mention any dissatisfying problems with the car. If you noticed any problems with the car—whether when visually inspecting or while test driving it—now is the time to bring those up. Make it clear that you believe the problems you’ve noticed should result in a price reduction.
- Relevant problems would include any scrapes, dents, or rust on the body of the car, and any problems with handling, acceleration, or braking while driving.
- If necessary, bring up the Blue Book value of the car, and also any comparably priced cars sold over CraigsList.
Don’t seem overly enthusiastic about the car. When you first speak with the dealer, and while you’re inspecting the vehicle, don’t seem too interested in the car. Dealers may take that as a sign that they can charge more for the car. Say that it’s alright, but you still have some concerns to discuss before you make a firm decision.
- If you keep talking about how much you love that car, or how you’ve always wanted that type of car, the dealer will begin to think that you’ll pay any dollar amount for the car.
- Don’t get too attached to any specific car, and always be willing to walk away if the price gets too high.
Stay strong on your offer. If the dealer won’t meet your price-point, say it’s more than you wanted to spend, and that you know you can find a similar car for a better price. Be willing to walk away if the dealer refuses to drop the price to an amount you’re willing to pay.
- Remember, there are always other cars out there, and you shouldn’t be overcharged for the vehicle you want.
- Sometimes, if the dealer sees that you will walk away, they will match your offer. Dealers have pressure on them to make sales, so they may give in and lower the price after enough negotiation.
Take Your Time Buying a Car
Don’t rush into a dealership full of excitement and make it clear you want to drive off the lot with a new vehicle. Take the time to research the type of car you want to buy and can comfortably afford. Check up on the dealerships in the area, too. Plan on being able to “walk away” from a bad deal and follow up later in the week to see if the dealership can meet your terms.
Arm Yourself With Information
If you’re buying a car that normally costs the dealer $25,000 to purchase, there’s no way you’ll walk away with it for $20,000, no matter how hard you haggle. Just as you want to get a good deal, the dealer is looking to make money. You need to know what the vehicle is actually worth. Before you even think about going to a dealership,
Learn the Games Car Dealers Play
While car dealerships may have an unsavory reputation, most salespeople are just trying to make a living in an industry where having to hit quotas and upselling are the norm. Stay firm in negotiations, but remember you’re dealing with another human. Avoid being unnecessarily rude.
When you make an offer close to the wholesale price, the dealer will likely try every trick in the book to make you feel bad or uncomfortable for “lowballing” them. But sit tight: It’s not about you. Be reasonable and firm with the dealer, and if they try to take advantage of you, remain calm. This is how the game is played. Remember: You’re the one offering money, so you ultimately set the terms, not them.
Follow-up on the last day of the month.
Again, salespeople and managers are often under pressure to find one more deal before the month ends. A deal that didn’t make sense on the 25th might make sense on the 31st if the month hasn’t met expectations.
Follow-up on days that have had terrible weather. A major snowstorm, a day of wind and rain, etc. can dramatically affect car sales. Call and remind the salesperson or manager that you’re happy to come down when they meet your offer. Again, the fact that they’re not selling cars might get them to bend in your favor.
Even if you deflect the sleaziest sales schemes dealers dish out, you can’t get a good deal without some homework. Don’t step into a showroom without reliability, safety, and pricing information. You should know the mark-up of the car’s sticker price and how much the dealer expects to profit. It’s almost impossible for the dealers to bluff when you already see their cards.
Auto makers and dealers do everything in their power to make car buying an emotional experience. They have you sit in plush new leather, soak up new car smell, and punch the gas and hug the turns on the test drive. The salesmen hope, by the time you talk price, you want the car so badly you’ll okay the first number thrown at you. But if ask for the dealer’s best price over the phone, you axe their edge. Lucky enough to snag a telephone quote? It will almost always beat a quote from the showroom. But be warned: Good dealers will smooth-talk you into making an “appointment” at the dealership without giving a price.
Car salespeople are very specifically trained in how to persuade people. You’ll want to understand not only what you want, but your weak spots. Some will play to psychological profiling to accelerate the sales process. “When they start asking questions, these are questions from a script that get them to where they’re trained to be.
One question you might hear: “How much are you looking to spend per month?”
It’s very important to keep that in your pocket. If you announce that upfront, it may skew the process. It leaves you vulnerable.
Your strategy: Break down the purchase process into stages and focus on only one at a time:
- Choose the car you want.
- Equip it with what you want.
- Negotiate a price.
Stay on your mission, and repeat this mantra: Let’s focus on this. We’ll get to that later.