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How to Negotiate Car Price: Haggling Tactics for Vehicles

By Teri Dormer

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The process of getting from one place to another can become fairly mundane, but it’s a privilege you’re likely paying a hefty price for.

On average, it costs nearly $9,000 to own and operate your own car. Multiplied over 50 years, you’ll spend nearly half a million dollars on the cost of transportation alone. 

While you may have the opportunity to refinance your car at some point in time, you’ll never get another chance at negotiating the price you paid to drive it off the lot. Car negotiation skills are like an art form, and they can be incredibly uncomfortable for some people.

If you don’t know how to negotiate for a car, this guide will help you through the car-buying process before, during, and after the dealership.

How to Negotiate Car Price

Whether your car is brand new or simply new to you, the buying process can easily get away from you.

Car salesman are notorious for driving a hard bargain, and if you aren’t careful, you could walk away from the entire process with way more than you bargained for, in terms of the car and the payment. 

In order to avoid getting taken advantage of, it’s important to think of car haggling as something that starts long before you get to the dealership. Let’s take a look at three of the most important car negotiation and haggling tactics.

1. Shop Around 

The most important tool in a successful car negotiation is to remember that there’s (likely) more than one dealership where you can get what you’re looking for.

The quality of the deal you get when buying a new or used car almost always comes down to how much time you’re willing to put into the process. 

You wouldn’t buy the first house you toured (even if you really, really liked it), and the same should always be true for buying a car.

Even if you decide to come back to the first dealership, the more time you spend exploring all of your options, the more insight you’ll have in your car haggling abilities. Remembering to shop around also means you’ll know a truly good deal when you spot it.

2. Understand MSRP vs Invoice 

Car negotiation doesn’t start with the salesman. The more homework you do about the car you’re planning on buying, the better off you’ll be.

In addition to knowing what the market value of the car you’re buying it’s equally as important that you come equipped with some financing arrangements and remember not to get overwhelmed by the monthly payment

Knowing your numbers is crucial in how to negotiate a car price, and that includes how you plan to pay for it. An aggressive salesperson might try to keep you focused on the monthly payment instead of the overall sale price of the car or add-ons.

Know how you plan to finance the car before you start seriously shopping around, and get pre-approval in advance if you can. 

3. Plan Your Car Negotiation Appropriately 

Timing is everything when you’re planning out how to negotiate for a car. Understanding the lifecycle of your vehicle if you’re buying a new car is just as important as understanding the sales quotas your dealership may be trying to hit.  

If you’re patient enough, you may find that waiting until the end of the month, quarter, or even the year can have a major impact on how much dealerships are willing to take off the top.

Remember that buying a car is always going to be a business transaction, and since the dealership is trying to get the best price they can off of you, you might as well play along. 

Car Negotiation Tactics That Work 

There’s no cut-and-dried guide for getting the best deal when you’re negotiating a car price. How much wiggle room you have will depend on the kind of car you’re purchasing, its condition, and your credit.

Still, if you go in equipped with all of the right information and you’re willing to walk away when you have to, these three simple tactics will help you come out on top!

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