You’ve done all the hard work up front. You’ve arranged for used car financing, researched the used cars auto loans available to you, and checked out the requirements for used car credit. You’ve scoured the market and picked out a pre-owned vehicle that you feel meets your needs. All that’s left now is to negotiate a fair price with the seller. This should be a piece of cake.
Let Used Cars Buyers Beware
Only of course it isn’t. Dealing with used cars is off-putting and scary. In fact, when it comes to purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, the old Romans had something to say: caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. Consumer advocacy resources suddenly dry up when it comes to purchasing used cars.
Why is price negotiation such a problem in the used car market? One reason is that we in North America have never really learned how to barter or haggle. Somehow arguing over an asking price seems arrogant and impolite, and we’d much rather just hand over our money, even when we know that the buyer has inflated the car’s price precisely because he expects us to argue it down.
Used Car Knowledge is Power
When it comes to getting a deal on used cars, there are ways for the buyer to negotiate a fair price that avoid wheeling and dealing. In this regard another old saying comes to mind: Knowledge is power. If you enter into negotiation with a clear knowledge of what the vehicle you’re trying to buy is really worth, you’ve got bartering power in your hands.
Of course you’ll want to ask the dealer or private seller a series of questions about the used car you’ve got your eye on. Listen to the answers, but take them with a grain of salt. Hedging your bets by having a mechanic look at the car is an important step. You’ll next want to acquire a vehicle history report for the specific car you’re looking at. This is a document that can be acquired online for under $50. It includes a record of how many owners the car has had, its title history, accident and maintenance records, whether it’s been rebuilt in the past and to what extent, and similar information. It’s important that you acquire your own vehicle history report and not accept one offered by the seller.
Used Car History
Getting an up-to-date vehicle history report and a mechanic’s assessment are the major steps in your negotiating strategy. With this information you have a position from which to argue for your price. Next, find out what a similar car has recently sold for. Older folks will think immediately of the Kelley Blue Book, but there are now a number of used car listing sites online that contain this information. You can sometimes find a ball-park figure on eBay as well. If the seller is asking for a much higher price than what others have paid for a similar vehicle, you can point this fact out to him or her politely but firmly. If the seller insists that the car is worth more, the burden of proof now lies with him.
A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush
Money in hand trumps fancy bartering techniques, and both private sellers and used-car dealers can be impressed with ready cash. If you’ve arranged for used car credit and you have a check in hand in an amount pretty close to what you want to offer, make this clear up front in the negotiation process. Rather than risk waiting for other customers whose used car auto loans may enable them to pay more for the same vehicle, the seller might just be willing to go with the sure thing. It’s definitely worth a try.