The Hardest Part of Buying a Used Car: Saying No

No deal

I know you’ve heard this one: “If we can agree on a price, will you buy the car today?”

The good salesman knows that if he can’t get you to buy today, you’ll be out the door, probably forever, to shop elsewhere. So one answer he doesn’t want to hear is, “Let me think about it”—which is essentially saying no without closing the door.

We’ve talked about the basics of dealing with dealers before, but here are a few more important tips about how to get the best deal.

Whether you’re buying new or used, the best time to shop is December through February, when dealer inventory has built up, sales are slow, and buyers are few. The sales staff will be under great pressure to produce, and you are likely to get concessions on price, trims, extras, etc. (If you know how to ask for them.)

Doing your homework is essential. That includes finding out how long your target car has been on the lot. Find out all you can about similar cars, and price them with CarGurus’ DealFinder.

Getting your financing arranged before you set foot in the dealership is like going in with cash in hand, even if you don’t have a loan secured. This gives you the flexibility to negotiate a better price. If the salespeople want you to focus on trade-ins or monthly payments, you will politely say, “No, let’s deal with your asking price first.”

The price you want to pay for a used car will be somewhere between the asking and the wholesale price. What you end up paying will really depend on your negotiating skills, so don’t make ridiculous lowball offers.

Used car salesmenKeep your cool, be nice, and always negotiate up from the wholesale (or invoice) price, never from the sticker. Wait for a counteroffer, don’t bid against yourself, and be prepared to wait through a long dance. Be clear when you’ve reached your limit. If things get difficult or nasty, you can and should walk.

Salespeople have been trained to test out your negotiation resolve, but don’t forget that you always have the upper hand. They need your business. You are the buyer, and if one seller can’t or won’t accommodate your needs, another will.

Have you used any of these tactics in negotiating for a used car? Did they work for you?


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