Car Buying

Buying a Car: Things to Avoid When Negotiating a Price

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2014

If you're interested in buying a car, then you'll probably soon find yourself dealing with the process of negotiating a price. Although some car shoppers enjoy the act of negotiating, many more think that it's one of the most difficult parts of buying a car. Fortunately, we have a few tips and suggestions on some things to avoid in order to make your negotiation go as smoothly as possible.

Don't Give the First Number

In nearly all car deals, the salesperson will ask you a question along the lines of: "What are you willing to pay?" In our opinion, there are several reasons why answering this question with a dollar figure puts you at a disadvantage.

Most importantly, you don't want to tell the salesperson what you're willing to pay because your starting price might actually be higher than the car's lowest possible selling price. For example, if a car costs $15,000 and you tell the salesperson that you're willing to pay $13,000, you might think that you scored a deal, but the dealer may have been willing to go even lower if given the chance.

Let the dealer throw out the first number. If you're asked what you're willing to pay, consider replying by asking the salesperson for the dealership's "best number." This is a great place to start negotiating, and it will give you a better idea of what price the dealer will take in order to sell the car.

Stay Calm

Many salespeople use the strategy of simply letting the buyer talk. This works because a lot of people talk excessively when they're nervous, and they might blurt out something that gives the salesperson an advantage. For instance, if a buyer says something such as, "I didn't plan to pay that much ... but I do need the car right away," the salesperson may be tipped off that the buyer is starting to waver on pricing -- and that they're desperate to get a new vehicle.

As a result, we suggest doing everything you can to stay calm and to try to refrain from saying anything that might give the dealership more power in a negotiation. Relax, breathe deeply and try to keep most of your thoughts to yourself.

Don't Lose the Deal Over a Few Hundred Dollars

One big mistake that many buyers make during the negotiating process is when they reach a firm price and won't budge from it -- even if the dealer agrees to a price within a few hundred dollars. To us, this is a waste, especially if you're negotiating for the car that you really want. Remember that a new car can cost upwards of $20,000 or $30,000, so it's not worth losing a transaction over $100 or $200. You likely won't even notice that money over the long term when it's rolled into a monthly payment.

Be Prepared to Walk Away

We often see car shoppers who become a little too attached to one particular vehicle. To us, this is a big mistake. When you're buying a car, you can't get too emotional about one car at one dealership -- or else you'll lose the upper hand in the negotiating process. After all, if the dealer knows that you only want one vehicle, they're much less likely to drop their price to convince you to buy it.

If you do become attached to one particular car, don't show it. Treat the negotiation like any other deal so that your salesperson doesn't get the idea that you only want one specific car. Finally, if the negotiation doesn't go as planned, we strongly suggest walking away and waiting for the next desirable car to show up.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Things to Avoid When Negotiating a Price - Autotrader