Direct Line magazine

How to haggle over a car

Updated on: 10 December 2020

a man shakes a dealer's hand after buying a car

Whether it’s the price of car insurance or the cost of some new garden furniture, we’re becoming ever more accustomed to haggling.

Just because a car is a big-ticket item, doesn’t mean you can’t roll up your sleeves and start negotiating. Follow these simple tips and you could save thousands of pounds.

Know the true value

Haggling over something without knowing its real value is a bit like driving off without knowing where you’re going: you’re not going to get very far.

When buying a car, think of the car manufacturer’s price as a starting point. Then research the potential for savings. Websites such as CarWow or Drivethedeal tend to be very keenly priced and will give you an idea of a sensibly low price to start negotiations.

Choose options on a new car wisely

It’s easy to think that a particular model will cost £12,995. But does that include the metallic paint and alloy wheels that attracted you to the car you saw in the adverts?

First of all, price up the exact model you want with all the extras. This will help you decide the ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ options that you can negotiate around at a later stage.

Buyers only get one opening bid - you can’t suddenly go lower and expect to be taken seriously

What are you prepared to pay?

Once you’ve got an idea of how much the car is really worth, think about what you’re actually prepared to pay, whether as a lump sum or in monthly instalments.

If it’s a used car, start low and let the seller negotiate up.

Remember, as a buyer, you effectively get one shot at an opening bid. You can’t suddenly go lower in the middle of haggling and expect to be taken seriously.

Timing is everything

Your negotiations will be much more successful if you attempt it at the end of a quarter (the end of March, June, September and December). This is because for the most part (there are the odd exceptions) the car industry is driven by bonuses.

Dealerships are usually given quarterly bonuses by the manufacturers they work for if they hit certain targets.

Go in at the beginning of a quarter and they’ll have no need to sell cars for a discount. Go near the end of quarter, and you should find dealerships are more open to cutting a deal.

Man talking to salesmen with child in arms

You’re not there to make friends

During the haggling process, it’s worth remembering the psychology of what’s going on.

David McConnon who trains car sales execs revealed: “Broadly speaking, salespeople fear rejection; the customer will probably only be able to afford a certain price. Both need to be able to have a frank conversation without either party feeling rebuffed.”

The sales exec is likely to be as genial and friendly as they can be. Just remember, you’ve got plenty of friends. You’re not in a car dealership to add to them; you’re there to get the best possible price on a car, so be affable but firm.

Visit your dealership at the end of a quarter and you should find them more open to cutting a deal

Check any offers carefully

Now you know which car you want and what extras, use that knowledge to your advantage. If the sales executive won’t budge on price, they may be flexible over the options they throw in.

For example, rather than discounting the price, they might offer a free upgrade to a superior specification. Or they might include extras such as breakdown cover or an extension to the warranty. This might be a great offer. It might not. There’s no rush.

The salesperson will have established you’re not a time waster by this stage and will be as keen for the deal to happen as you are. So make sure you’re happy with any deal before signing on the dotted line.

And finally…

There are loads of cars around and plenty of car dealers. If you can’t get the model you want at a price you’re happy with, move on.

Knowing that you can always walk away will make you a stronger haggler.

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