The Old School Lowballer
You’ll have to use your gut, but using resources like Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) can help you get an idea of a fair price and what you want to end up just below! (And of course you should take vehicle status and mileage into account). You will almost always want to incorporate some version of this method into your haggling practices.
The Straight Shooter
Basically, you just lay it all on the line with the seller: “I brought this amount of money I can spend. No more, no less. Not a dime. Take it or leave it.” You have to be firm and confident and you have to stick with it. If you falter even a little bit then the seller might try to sneakily jack up the price little by little until you are driving home with your pants down, your dignity shot, and your wallet gone! If you stick to your guns, however, you might just drive home in a great deal on wheels!
This strategy works best with private parties and I cannot advise trying this with a dealership’s salesperson. With a dealer, if you want to go the honest route, you are better off simply asking, “What is the lowest you can sell me this car for?” and then leave. Come back later if you can’t find a better deal.
The Power Play: Walking Out
Bargaining is all about who holds the power, who controls the conversation—it’s pace and direction. Saving the Walk Out for emergencies can possibly save face but might also be wasted on a lost cause. On the other hand, if you practically open with the Walk Out you might just get the salesperson (who works off commission, remember) or the private seller practically begging to lower the price! Just like with the Straight Shooting method, this does not work unless you stick with it to the end. If your bluff is called, keep walking. If you do not follow through and come back, the seller has the power and you are sunk.
And that is what bargaining is all about—finding the seller’s weakness and exploiting it! If you can shift the power in your favor, whether it is with honesty or a little healthy flirting, then why not do it? You can charm yourself into a cheap ride home (and maybe even a phone number!).
Again, this isn’t about your dignity, it’s about getting a good deal on a good used car…and doing whatever it takes to do it! No matter what method you go with or a combination of several or maybe an entirely different on—be sure to know what you’re doing going in. Have a plan and stick to it! Happy haggling!
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