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How to Get a Deal on a Used Car- How to Negotiate a Used Car

Updated on January 7, 2013

So you need a good deal?

Do you tremble at the thought? Don't worry, many people do. Let's break this car buying thing down a bit, so that anyone can walk away from a private auto sale feeling confident they got a good deal.

Before you go to check out a vehicle, do your research...

1. Kelly Blue Book is your friend. Take down as many details as you can about the car you are interested in and compare it to the cars on the site. Look up the value for trade-in, verses private sale, verses dealership. Other places like Edmunds will provide values as well.

2. Get a car fax report. This will tell you about any accidents the vehicle has been in, and will prevent a less than stellar owner from pulling the wool over your eyes.

3. Know what to expect from the type of car you are buying. Typically, Toyotas and Hondas have a higher resale value and perform better over long periods of time verses American made cars.

4. What's better- high miles or newer model? Typically in well made cars, it's safer to get a car with higher miles that is newer, than a car with low miles but much older. The reasoning behind this is that good engines can run forever, and it's usually all the other parts of the car that rust and break. If the car has 40,000 miles but is 15 years old, you run the risk of a lot of repair work on the body, etc. than if you go with a newer car that has higher miles. Make sure you ask the owner why the car has high miles. If it's because of highway driving? That isn't so bad.

What to do when you meet with the owner...

1. Drive the car. Take it on the highway where you can get up to at least 65mph. Use the breaks frequently, test the steering and do not put the radio on. You want to be aware of any strange noises.

2. Check the air conditioning, the heat, the mirrors, windows, and stereo while you are parked or driving slowly.

3. Bring a flashlight and look for any signs of rust or damage. Make sure to look under the mats in the trunk and on the floor to see if there is mold or mildew.

4. If you are knowledge with car mechanics, you can pop the hood and make an assessment. If you are like me (and know nothing), you may want to arrange for a local garage to do a once over on the car to look for anything you may be missing. Many garages offer a pre-buy look over for a small fee.

Used Car Buying Secrets

So you want to buy the car. Here comes the tricky part. How do you get a deal?

There is really only one rule. You are at the advantage. You must go into the meeting knowing that you are the one who has all the "cards". Even if you love the vehicle, think it's a deal, and are sure you want it, you must not get into the headspace of, "they have something I want!" You must always tell yourself that if this owner can't give you what you want, someone eventually will. Urgency doesn't help you in these situations.

Once you are confident in the fact that you hold the advantage, you need to have an absolute bottom line figure in your head. Here is an example.

A car you are looking at is priced at $6900. Your absolute bottom line is $6000, about three to five hundred dollars under the blue book value. Make sure your bottom line is reasonable and not completely unreachable.

When you make your first offer, you need to make it LOWER than your bottom line. Try offering $5600.00. Of course the owner may scoff, say no thank you, but if you maintain your professionalism, more than likely they will counter with another bottom line. Let's say they come back with $6300.00.

Here's where you must use your acting skills. "Well, thank you Mr. So-and-so. It was nice of you to meet me. This car is great, but we don't have a deal. No worries though, I'm sure with the holiday weekend coming up, I'll be sure to find a car that suits my budget." You must plant the seed in the other person's head that you have a million options. This will make the owner want to prove his car is worth it.

Back to the example. The owner may tell you to think about it for a couple days, and get back to him if you are interested. He will try to get you to doubt yourself. Do not waver! Say something like, "No that's okay. I don't need to think about it. Really, my bottom line here was $6000.00 but since you aren't moving at $6300, this meeting is over."

Then you must turn to walk away. Here is the moment you are waiting for...

"OKAY! I'll do it at $6000." Bam. You have a deal at the price you wanted.

In order to do this successfully, you really do have to turn and walk away. Pretend that you could care less about whether or not you make this deal, and it'll be a surefire way to get the owner to come down in price.

Have a check or cash in hand. There is nothing more tempting than a full payment immediately available to the owner.

Buying a used car from a private seller can be risky, but it is also a sure fire way to get a good deal on a car. Happy shopping!!

-Julie DeNeen
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    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      I am searching now for a decent used car for a Granddaughter, so I found your article informative and interesting. Thanks for the good tips.

      I voted it UP, etc.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Very good article Julie, I especially like the part about turning to walk away. I bought a vehicle a year ago that I really wanted. I was able to get it even lower than I had anticipated. Your article would have given me more confidence though. Good hub. up and useful

    • profile image

      Grant nz 5 years ago

      I sell vehicles for a living. Glad you live so far away. Ha Ha just joking, i aggree with your article 100 percent. Cheers Grant