Buyer Tips

Negotiating Your Way to a Great Deal on a Used Car

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/23/2019 Posted: 11/07/2017

When you purchase a car from a dealership, you likely already know that the salespeople are interested in getting every penny they can. They’re also very good at it, or they wouldn’t be in the job position they are. These sellers are experienced at negotiation – which means you need to be aware of how to negotiate, too. If not, you might end up getting fleeced on your next used car.

Consider Your Timing

One way to get a deal on a used car at a dealership is to be aware of timing. Salespeople often work for incentives, which might be a cash bonus, vacation, or another appealing prize. Many of these bonuses come at the end of a certain sales period such as a month, quarter, or year. By purchasing a used car at the end of this bonus period, it’s more likely that you can get a deal since it may bump a seller’s sales total to a new level.

Be Aware of the Vehicle’s Value

Having an idea of what the car is worth may not mean a dealer will sell it to you for the price, but it does mean you’re better educated to begin negotiating. Various websites can tell you what a car is going for across the country, but you’ll have to find which works best for you. Start your negotiations below the average price, so you have room to negotiate to the number you want.

Buy on a Tuesday

Dealerships are all but empty on Tuesdays, with Wednesday as a good backup. Few people are looking to buy anything and salespeople have very little to do. If you show up and negotiate, you may end up getting a better deal just because you’re one of very few buyers coming onto the lot that day. Use it to your advantage and shop on a slow day.

Don’t Think Short Term

Some dealers will try to talk you into lower monthly payments, which can sound like a great deal. However, this leads to needing to pay off more payments over many years. Particularly with a used car, this might mean spending more than a car is worth. It’s better to focus on the long-term price of the car, the price of your trade-in, and the cost of the loan in the end.

Walk Away

If you find that the dealer is not interested in meeting your needs, leave the dealership. Don’t be rude about it, but explain that the price doesn’t work for you and you’ll have to go elsewhere. Just be prepared to do so if the dealer doesn’t choose to meet you in the middle. But if they can move that price, they’ll call to let you know that. If you aren’t sure about a price, you can also get it in writing and ask for time to think about it. Find out how long the price is good for and take a chance to consider your options.

Don’t Add Extras

The dealer is going to try to talk you into buying all sorts of things on top of the cost of the car. That’s their job, and it’s a part of choosing purchase a car at a dealership. You may hear a spiel for disability insurance, sealants, extended warranties, and more. You likely do not need any of these things. If you’re looking to save money on your used car purchase, avoid the extras. They can all be added on for less from someone else later if it turns out they were a must-have.

Read Your Contract

This is probably the most important tip we can give you. Make sure the contract lays out everything as expected. While it is illegal to add on things you don’t know you’re paying for, it does happen. Most reputable dealers won’t consider it, but it’s always worth an extra look to ensure everything is legitimate.

Follow these tricks, and you’ll be well on your way to negotiating a bargain for the car of your choice. It may take some time, and you may not walk away from every conversation with a winning option, but you’ll get there. That’s what counts, getting what you need for a price you are comfortable with in the long run.