How to Get the Best Price on a Used Car

Couple Shaking Hands with Car Salesman
 

Used car negotiation tips to help you get the best price on a pre-owned car

Whether you're buying a used car from a dealer or a private party, it pays to negotiate.  When it comes to used car bargaining, however, there are things you should do, and things you shouldn't, to ensure you're getting the best possible price.  In this section, we outline simple tips to help you navigate through the used car negotiation process.
 

Tip 1:  Determine if the car is worthy of negotiation

Even before you start the used car bargaining process, it's important to determine whether the car is worthy of negotiation from the get-go.  Be sure to obtain a vehicle history report for the car you're interested in buying to determine if it sustained flood, water or fire damage in the past, if it was involved in a significant accident, if its title is salvaged and to check the validity of its mileage.  What's more, have a certified mechanic inspect the car to assess whether it currently needs — or will soon need — costly repairs.  Don't be afraid to walk away if the car doesn't meet your qualifications.  If you opt to buy the car, any expenses for repairs could be used as a negotiation tool to lower the purchase price.
 

Tip 2:  Check used car prices

It's important to check used car prices online, ahead of time, to ensure the seller's asking price is fair.  Input the year, make and model of the car, as well as its mileage and optional equipment to arrive at a final pricing report.  Be sure to refer to the applicable condition description to determine what its fair market value is.  Many used car price guides offer condition guidelines to assist you in determining whether or not a car is in good shape.  Condition guidelines usually range from poor to excellent, with different conditions in between and with varying criteria for each condition description. 
  Once your research is complete, you'll know if the seller's asking price is overinflated based on the make, model, mileage and condition.  Use this information as a starting point for negotiation.
 

Tip 3:  Check used car listings

In addition to checking used car prices, it's always a good idea to find out what comparable vehicles are selling for in your market area by checking online used car listings.  Be sure you're comparing apples to apples by researching similar makes and models, in comparable condition, with similar equipment and mileage.  You can also check used car listings in newspapers and circulars for added peace of mind.  Local market conditions, such as fuel prices, supply and demand — even weather — vary from region to region, that's why it's important to determine what comparable makes and models are selling for in your area. 

Again, once your research is complete, you'll know if the seller's asking price is overinflated.  Use this information as leverage during the negotiation process.


Tip 4:  Be bold and bargain

Now that you've had the used car inspected, you've checked its history and you know its fair market value, it's time to negotiate price.

Based on your budget, begin by setting a minimum and maximum purchase price.  Be realistic about your low offer and don't break the bank with your high offer.  Most importantly, don't be afraid to negotiate.  Most used car sellers expect it and most used car buyers do it.  Let the seller know you can buy the car immediately if you've been pre-approved for a used car loan or if you have the money to buy it outright.  This will demonstrate you're a serious buyer, not a tire kicker.

Be firm and friendly and begin with your low offer.  Expect the seller to counteroffer.  Remember that the used car negotiation process consists of a series of offers and counteroffers until an acceptable sales price is reached by both parties.  If you can't reach a price that's right for you, don't be afraid to walk away from the deal.  And if you're negotiating with a dealer, a good rule of thumb is to get a firm sales price from the dealer before you negotiate the price of your trade-in.
 

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