How to negotiate when buying a car

Anyone can and should haggle. Money Advice Service research reveals 64% of those who tried to negotiate when buying a car were successful, with just 16% of those failing to bag a discount. So read our tips for negotiating car prices.

How to haggle for a new car

Make sure you’ve worked out what you can afford and have done plenty of research into the car you’re planning to buy – including the list price.

Whether you’re paying cash, part exchanging or organising a finance plan, car dealers’ prices aren’t fixed. So arm yourself with our top tips below.

Top tips for getting a great deal

What to do in advance

Be aware

Since 1 October 2014 car tax is no longer transferable so you must tax your new car before you drive it.

  • Make sure you know the car’s list price. Look at the manufacturer’s website, or car websites such as Parkers or What Car? Or check the new car listings at the back of weekly motoring magazines such as Auto Express.
  • Know the critical features that suit your needs. Don’t get talked into a lower specification because it is cheaper – instead, aim to get the model you really want at a discount.
  • Check online for rival dealers in your area to see if any of them are offering deals on the same car. This can be a good bargaining tool.
  • If you’re part-exchanging your current car, make sure you know what it’s worth. The more you can get for it, the less hard you’ll have to haggle on the rest of your deal. You can get a free valuation quickly and easily on sites such as Glass’s Guide and Parkers or a more detailed valuation if you pay a fee.
  • Always test drive the car. Remember to try it up hills, in traffic and out on the open road. If possible, compare it with lower and higher specifications of the same car.

When talking to the salesperson

  • Be friendly and polite, but never let the salesperson know your top limit.
  • If you’re a cash buyer, don’t tell the salesperson this straight away. Dealers make bigger profits on finance deals, so let them bargain the car’s price on that basis. You can then decline the finance deal later in the process.
  • Start off by stating an amount lower than what you’re actually prepared to pay – you can then gradually increase it if necessary.
  • When you make an offer, don’t speak again until the salesperson replies.
  • Be as positive as possible about your aims. For example, don’t say “Can I have a discount?” Instead, ask “How much discount will you give me?”
  • Some negotiators start by saying they’re not prepared to pay the price advertised, but remember they ARE there to do a deal!
  • If you’re struggling to get a discount but you want the car, offer to close the deal there and then if you can both agree a price.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk out if the dealer isn’t prepared to negotiate or move much on the price.

How to haggle for a used car

Top tip

To help you work out how much the car will cost to run, try using our Car costs calculator.

Buying a used car from a dealer is less risky than buying privately because you have more consumer rights if the car shows serious faults later.

Many of our top tips above apply when negotiating with dealers over used cars.

Buying a used car privately will usually get you a better deal than when buying through a dealer. The seller is often in more of a hurry and so more open to haggling.

For instance, they may have seen a car they want to buy and are under pressure to sell their old car. Or maybe they’ve already bought another car and have to run two cars until they sell their old one.

Which ever way you buy a used car, you’ll have more bargaining points than with a new car. For example:

  • Damage to the car such as dents or chips
  • Technical faults
  • Tyres in borderline condition
  • An incomplete service history or MOT
  • The car being due for expensive cam belt change

If possible, try to find out how long the seller has been marketing the car. Perhaps they’ve had a sign up in the window for a while? Or advertised it in the local paper for a week already, or had it on a site such as Auto Trader for a while?

If you haven’t already decided how you’re going to pay for your car, find out about your options as soon as possible. Read our guide Car finance explained.

If you have problems with your car, your consumer rights might be influenced by how you paid for it. This is an important consideration – find out more in Your rights if something is wrong with your car.

Your next step

Find out how to test drive and check a used car

Found out how to test drive and check a new car