Haggle Like a Boss: Tips for Negotiating Car Price When You’d Rather Not
January 21, 2019 | By Ana Elliot
So, it's 2019! You are feeling excited and ready for the--who am I kidding? It's halfway through January and we're all feeling the New Year’s high slip away from us.
Well, before it totally disappears, if you have been thinking about buying a new car well then there is no time like the present! Are you delaying because you, like many other Americans, are terrified of the negotiation process that comes with getting a car?
Does this sound like you? Well, don’t worry. We’ve got some advice to help you become an expert in negotiating car prices and save the most money you can on your car purchase!
How to Negotiating Car Price & Loans Like a Pro
If you get nervous at the very thought of having to haggle or negotiate with someone, you are definitely not alone. Haggling doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. We are so used to going to a store, buying an item with a price tag, and just handing money over to a cashier.
It’s no wonder that, here in America, we are uncomfortable with haggling. It isn’t part of our daily lives. We no longer barter goods in marketplaces. Our economy has moved past that. Except when it comes to cars. So, if a new car is on your New Year’s Resolutions, buckle up and get your haggling pants on!
A lot of the tips to follow will feel less like “how to negotiate a car price” and more like executable actions that have less to do with haggling and more about keeping a price down. These specific actions could keep dealers from hustling you as well as ways for you to know when they are.
Haggling is mainly who knows more and has more control than talking circles around the other person. If you are a shy person or don’t have the gift of gab, this list could still help you.
This isn’t to say that the dealers won’t try talk circles around you, but it is our goal that, if you follow this list, you will be able to see the circles and stop them in their tracks! Negotiating car price should not be difficult. And with that, let's get on with the learning:
Research Ahead of Time
Nothing is worse for a negotiation than not having all the information. There are so many things you need to be aware of ahead of time.
First off, make sure you know your credit score and what your score means as far as your value. A better credit score means you are a safer investment for a loan which makes you a better candidate for receiving one. If you don’t know your credit score, you could set yourself up to get hustled.
It is also a good idea to research the dealerships around you. Read reviews, look at their offers, and see if you can find anything else. It is a good idea to have a list of places you want to go to. Also, make sure you know the value of the car you want to trade in. Doing this research ahead of time can make sure you get the best deal at the table.
Research the Car You Want
Another thing to research is the car or cars you want. Using sources like Kelly Blue Book to compare cars can help give you an idea of what you want or what you can afford in your price range. The importance of this is to go into a dealership knowing what you want or what you can afford.
Dealerships and their salespeople are going to try to push you into cars that are too expensive or outside your price range if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want when you walk in. They are fast talkers and will put you in a car you love but definitely cannot afford.
Don't let them bamboozle you with low monthly payments; you’ll ultimately end up paying more than you ever wanted to. Knowing what you want and how much you can spend in total will help you negotiate a car price that really works for you.
Odds are, the best loan terms and insurance rate is not gonna be at the dealership. Dealerships often markup their fees in a deal with their lenders. It benefits the lender and the dealership but not you.
Instead, research auto loans and different providers. Often, banks and credit unions provide the best loan terms. You should definitely make sure you do your auto loan research!
Focus on the Total Cost When Negotiating Car Price and Loan
A lot of people get too caught up in bits and pieces of the car buying experience. They want low upfront costs, more money on their trade in, or the most common concern, a low monthly payment. The issue here is that the dealer can use any of these focuses to make you lose sight of the bigger picture.
The ultimate goal is to make sure you don’t spend too much in total. A low monthly payment is important but if you don’t want to pay forever and pay thousands in interest, maybe look at a lower price range. You want to save money in the long run and, if you are too focused on a small monthly payment, the dealer can use it against you. Don’t be misled. Make sure you keep your eye on the bigger picture.
Separate the Transactions
What do I mean by that? Well, simply, keep your trade-in as a separate transaction. Why? Well, dealerships are able to play around with figures in a complex multi-purpose transaction.
You might think they gave you a great deal on your trade-in but then they added more to the price of the car or something like “dealership fees” to make it up. It’s hard to follow the math and, odds are, you probably aren’t getting the best price for your trade-in, even if it looks good on paper.
You can get the best money by selling your car away from the dealership. Try other dealerships or, if you want the most bang for your used car, try selling it independently. Putting your car up for sale on craigslist or Facebook’s sales pages can help you get a better price while also helping you negotiate like a boss!
Another great tip is to take out an auto title loan on your old car, use this cash to help pay more upfront for the new car then when you find a buyer for the new car, you can pay the title loan back! This keeps your transaction separate while still giving you the benefit of money off of your old car.
Remember though, auto title loans only work when the car you already own is fully paid off. If you are still paying a loan on your current car, a title loan is probably not going to help you.
Get Pre-Approval for Your Financing
Pre-Approval will make negotiating car price a dream. Before we get into why let's just explain what pre-approval is. After you’ve done your research about auto loans, you can go to the bank or credit union and get approved for a loan and terms prior to car shopping.
What this does is not only makes sure your transactions are separate, but it means when you go in, you are going in with a hard price limit. You have only been approved for a specific amount so the dealer can’t try talking you into a higher priced car. It also means that if the dealer really wants your business for the loan, they’ll have to beat the pre-approval which could get you more money.
Use Different Forms of Communication
You might be tempted to just go into a dealership, test drive a car, and attempt to negotiate car price right there and then but press pause. You should 100% be using alternate forms of communication to your advantage.
Test drive a car, see if you like it, but then walk away. At that point, send emails to or phone different dealerships telling them you are looking at this car and you would like to know what their price is or what deal they can offer.
Make sure to let them know that you are in communication with other dealerships regarding this particular car. This will let them know that they are competing against different dealerships and to bring their A-game if they want the sale. This keeps them from talking circles around you and keeping you in the office for ages which can wear you down.
It also means if you don’t like how they are treating you or they aren’t giving you what you want, you can easily just cease communication without having to make a scene or “leave their office.”
The other thing to remember is if you do this, don’t tell them what other dealerships are offering because then they can just knock off a few hundred to just barely beat the price. If you don’t give the price, it can get them even lower. Overall, negotiating car price over the phone or email can be a great help.
When Negotiating Car Price, Always Speak to a Manager
When you deal with the dealership, if it is by phone, email, or in person, make sure you deal with a manager. A manager does not work off of commission but instead works off of sale quotas.
If you deal with a manager, especially at the end of a month, they will want to make sure their sales numbers are up, and you will have a better chance of getting the price you want so they can ensure the sale.
They won’t try to upsell you--the price doesn’t matter as much to them since they aren’t making a commission off of it. Managers can also decide prices on the spot and won’t need to go “get approval.”
Go Forth and Haggle
Hopefully, you were taking notes and you feel better about this whole “negotiating car price” thing. It shouldn’t be too scary provided you’ve done your research and you approach the whole experience from a place of knowledge and power.
Remember, if you aren’t comfortable talking the talk in person, send an email. Technology has made it so even those of us who aren’t savvy hagglers can still get the best price!
If you found this article useful and are stressed out about your finances in general, why not check out some of our other posts? Here is one about getting less stressed about your finances or perhaps you want to get a head start on financial spring cleaning, this one will be more up your alley. Either way, let our financial know-how be your gain! See you next time!