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Buying a Car: Why Won’t a Dealership Accept Your Offer?

Negotiating a price is usually an important part of buying a car. But negotiating can get tense and tiresome — and negotiations can fall apart entirely if a dealership doesn’t meet the figure you say you’re willing to pay for your next vehicle. So why won’t a dealership accept your offer? There are more reasons than you might think — and we’re rounding up a few of them so you can understand why you may not be able to buy the car you want at the price you’re willing to pay.

It’s Just Too Low

One reason why the dealer won’t accept your offer: it’s simply too low. Although you may read all about online invoice pricing and you might do your best to find out what shoppers paid for similar makes and models, there are a lot of factors that can go into a dealer’s pricing structure — and in some cases, a dealership simply cannot discount the car any more than the price they’re already offering you.

In order to test out this theory on a new car, consider this strategy: contact multiple dealers and express interest in roughly the same new vehicle at approximately the same price point. If they all reject your offer, it’s probably too low to be a viable selling price.

The Dealer Spent Too Much

If you’re interested in a used car and you can’t reach an agreeable price with your dealer, one reason could be that the dealer spent a little too much on the car, so they’re waiting for someone to come along who doesn’t plan to negotiate quite as seriously. This happens often in the used-car world, especially if the dealership had to spend money to recondition the car in order to fix scrapes, scratches, dents or mechanical issues.

Keep in mind, however, that the dealership paying too much for a car isn’t your problem. You shouldn’t pay more to fix the dealer’s mistake — and if you can’t agree on a price, you should consider looking elsewhere to see if you can find the car available elsewhere for a lower price.

The Car Hasn’t Been There Long

Another reason dealers may not be very willing to offer steep discounts is if a car hasn’t been at the dealer for very long. Whether you’re interested in a new car or a used model, the principle is the same: If the car has only been on the lot for two or three days and there’s already an interested buyer, why should the dealer offer a sizable discount? A car that’s been sitting on a dealership lot for a long time is a lot more likely to sell with a big discount than a vehicle that has just arrived.

The Dealer Thinks You’ll Pay More

One final reason the dealership is rejecting your offer: because the sales staff thinks you’ll pay more for the vehicle than you’re offering. Although it isn’t always easy for dealership sales staff to make this kind of determination, a buyer saying something like “I love this car!” or “This is the one!” is a clear sign that they plan to walk out of the dealership with that vehicle. That’s why we strongly suggest that you never make statements like this when you’re buying a car — regardless of how much you like the vehicle — since it can damage your leverage when you’re trying to reach an agreement on the price.

Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. I had a very bad sales experience attempting to purchase a car at Millennium Toyota in Hempstead, NY, and I would highly recommend you avoid them at all costs. I was helping my 74 year old mother purchase a car at their Hempstead location. We made it clear from the start that she was intending to buy it outright and that she was not interested in an extended warranty. After spending nearly 3 hours looking at both new and used vehicles she decided on a Lexus IS 300 2016 model that fit her needs, and after some negotiations we agreed on a price. We shook on it with the Salesman, his manager, and the Pre-Owned supervisor Sherif and thanked them for agreeing on the final number. They printed out the documents for her to sign and we were in the process of getting the registration done and processing the trade in. That’s when the sales person Gary came over and asked how we were going to pay; he suggested $2000 down, and financing the rest. We reiterated that my mom wanted to pay for the entire balance and that’s when things started to go south. After going back and forth with the Sales person and him dashing away to check with the manager numerous times, he came back and told us the deal was off. I was furious we had agreed on a price, shook, on it and my mom had already signed the papers. They were attempting to pressure a 74 year old woman into taking a loan she didn’t need, and refused to follow through on the deal we agreed to. When I asked the Pre-owned Sales Manager what was going on he was incredibly rude and said they had the right to refuse the deal, and that without financing they would not honor it. We grabbed the signed papers and walked out and we will never be using them or any other Millennium affiliate if that’s how they treat their customers. 

  2. Do used car dealers ever sell cars for less than they paid?  Why wouldn’t they sell it to a retail customer at an auction price just to pick up the $500 or so document fee?

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