How to negotiate a car price

How to negotiate a car price
No-one should be afraid to haggle when buying a used car, but many don’t bother.

With 2.7 million used cars sold privately in the UK every year, buyers are still failing to carry out the basic checks, despite 43% of them spending upwards of 10 hours researching their purchase. In fact 25% of motorists confess to buying on ‘face value’, with 45% of buyers surveyed reporting they later felt deceived by the seller.

To avoid buying something you regret, it’s important to approach purchasing a car with confidence and the right frame of mind. The best way to gain that confidence is knowing when to negotiate, and that is just as important as the negotiating itself. It is also important to understand that the advertised price should not be seen as the definitive price, but rather a starting price that is negotiable.

Here are some quick tips which will reveal opportunities to negotiate on car price.

Pre-negotiating Checks

Under the bonnet

  • Check under the car for oil, water or any fluid that could be leaking.
  • Check the top of the engine or oil cap for seeping white cream. This can indicate serious engine damage.
  • Check whether car fluids like brake fluid and engine coolants need topping up or changing.
  • Check the battery terminals for rust.

Exterior checks

  • Check the paint work is consistent throughout the car.
  • Check the panels are the same size throughout the car.
  • Check all the doors, windows and boot open and shut properly.
  • Check the suspension by leaning on each corner of the car and then looking on release if the car returns to its original height.
  • Check the tyres have the legal tread depth of 1.6mm and whether there is a spare tyre.
  • Check the tyre wear is even. Uneven wear can suggest the tracking is not aligned properly.

Interior checks

  • Check that the car’s upholstery reflects the history and age of the car.
  • Check the car’s electronics work, including the widows, seats, sunroof and air con.
  • Check for damage around the steering column and ignition.
  • Check the car’s seatbelts, passenger dashboard and steering wheel for damage.

Haggling Tips

  • Before you buy any car you should always check the vehicle’s current value here at RAC Cars.
  • Don’t be shy to negotiate, always ask if you can have a discount.
  • When talking to the seller, be friendly, but never disclose your top limit.
  • Begin by offering a lower amount than what you’re actually willing to pay – you can then negotiate upwards if necessary.
  • If you are unable to push the price down further but still want the car, offer to close the deal on an agreed price.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk out.
  • If the seller isn’t prepared to negotiate and you aren’t happy with the price, do not be afraid to leave and look elsewhere.

If you are satisfied with the condition of the car but are unsure whether the car is stolen or an insurance write-off, or has outstanding finance or has had previous plates, then an RAC Car Passport car data check will you provide you an instant on-screen report answering these vital questions.

Read more buying and selling advice, and our full article about buying a used car here.

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