Friday 6th February 2015
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Buying a car is a hard and expensive business.  Besides buying a home, buying a car is one of the most expensive purchases we will ever make.  Knowing how to negotiate buying a car is a really useful thing to know and could save you some money and hassle in the long run. The Money Advice Service state that 64% of people who tried to negotiate a deal when buying a car were successful.  Only 16% of people who tried to get a discount failed.

Here’s some tips to help you out.

Set your budget

Be realistic about what you can afford and don’t shift from it.  Research the fuel, insurance and road tax costs of the car you want to buy to make sure it is within your means.

Know what you want

Before you even think about going to buy a car consider first if you are paying in cash, part exchanging or getting a finance plan.  Consider your circumstances and budget to find the best option for you, especially if you take on a finance plan.  If you don’t a clever sales person could manipulate you into something that isn’t right for you.  Don’t let someone browbeat or sway you into something that you don’t want.  A sales person could try to lure you into buying a lower specification version of the model you want so be prepared to know what you want and stick to it.  Really think about what are the ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’ and know where you will and won’t compromise.

Think and research before buying a new car

Do your homework first

Check out the prices of the car, look at car websites like Auto Express, Parkers or What Car and the manufacturer’s website.  Think about and decide on what features you need and make sure you aren’t choosing a vehicle  that is too high a spec or too low for your needs.  Shop around online, and look at rival dealerships.   Your local dealership may not offer the best deal.  For instance, learn about invoice prices.  When a dealer buys a car from the manufacturer they pay the invoice price.  Ideally you want to pay as close as possible to the invoice price, allowing for the dealer to make some profit.  In some cases dealers get bonuses or further reductions, because they have sold in bulk, or for some other reason.  Some of these dealers will use their discounts to sell vehicles at lower prices so they can sell in bulk. By shopping around various dealerships you can find the lowest prices.  One good website for checking out dealerships is Orange Wheels.  Another idea is to test drive the vehicles you are interested in at a local dealer and then buy them from an online dealer who can reduce his prices because of lower overheads.   You could even take quotes from online dealers into dealerships and use them as a bargaining chip.

If you do part exchange your current vehicle check how much it is worth so that you don’t undersell it.  Use several price checker sites to get a good idea of the car’s value.  Parkers and Glass’s Guide are good sites for free checks and if you pay a fee you can get more of a detailed valuation.

Making the deal

Don’t tell the sales person your budget limit as they will try to aim as close to it as possible.  Be friendly and polite but don’t let them buddy up with you as it will cloud your judgement.  If you are paying in cash don’t tell them this too soon, dealers get more profits on finance deals so let them start the bargaining process on that basis first.  You can get a better deal if they think you are interested in taking finance and you can always turn it down later in the discussions.  It gets you started off on the right foot.  Play hard ball with them, once you offer a price, stay quiet until they reply and make it clear that you can’t be cajoled, bullied or swayed.  Don’t let your heart rule your head, if the dealer isn’t prepared to agree on a discount then walk away.  Remember there are other dealerships around and you could well get a better deal with them.  If they really want to make a sale then they will negotiate with you to make the deal.

If you are buying second hand then make sure you thoroughly check out if the car is legitimate.  There are a few good websites that will help you to check out the car’s history.  Is it a write off and what classification?  Are there any outstanding HP payments on the vehicle?  HPI will help you to check on outstanding finance.  There are also some good sites and apps out there such as My Car Check, Auto Trader Mobile and Parker’s Price Checker to help you check out cars.  Also, internet forums can give you lots of good advice on new cars.

Be prepared to be flexible

Your plan might be to go into a showroom and buy the shiniest and newest model in a particular range.  However, be a bit open minded and think about pre-registered or ex demo models which will be much cheaper than brand new cars.   With only a few miles on the clock and possibly slightly less features than the very newest models you could grab yourself a bargain.

Use the test drive as part of the negotiating process

Think about how you can use the test drive as a bargaining chip.  Does it have all the features that you need?  If the car is used take along someone with you who knows about cars so they can detect any defects.  Even if nothing serious is found to be wrong with the vehicle you can always use several minor flaws to haggle for a lower price.

Timing is everything!

End of the month, end of the quarter or end of the year are always good times to buy.  Sales people have monthly, quarterly and annual targets to meet and if they haven’t got their quota you may have an edge.

If there is a particular model you are interested in then try to time your purchase when the latest model is due out so you can buy the slightly earlier version, which is likely to have been reduced in price.

New registration plates are introduced on 1st June and 1st December each year so dealers try to shift excess stock before these times. If you’re looking at used cars check how long the car has been posted online. The longer it has been on the more anxious the owner may be to finally get rid of it. But be careful, as it may not be selling because it is faulty.


Sometimes you can’t get a better price when buying at a dealership but if that happens haggle on getting some free extras thrown in.  Things like extended warranties, a year’s free car insurance or breakdown cover could prove to be really useful.  Do check that the cover is adequate and make sure you have already checked on car insurance and breakdown cover independently as it may not be cheaper to get these from the dealers.

Beware of extras that are stacked in that you don’t need and could inflate the price. This is when having done your  homework and really thought about your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ is important.  As you start bargaining with the dealer they may cut out the extras and reduce the price allowing you to think you have got a deal when you haven’t.  So before you start haggling with them find out what features/products are included at the beginning.

Closing the deal

If you make the deal then ensure that all the paperwork is given to you.  This includes forms and invoices and don’t leave without the car’s manual, service record and the VRC logbook.  When you pay make sure you pay with a credit card for your own protection in case anything goes wrong.