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How to haggle when buying a second-hand car

Daniel Bostock 18th May 2020 9 Comments

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases most of us will ever make. It’s a massive decision, and not one to take lightly. Second-hand cars are ideal for those on a tight budget – or who don’t want to (or can’t) get a car leasing contract.

With more people going back to work by the day, and public transport not being as reliable, regular or safe as it was, then it’s time to bite the bullet and buy that vehicle. You don’t need to splash out on a Ferrari – second-hand is where it’s at!

Do your research before you go in all guns blazing. It’s not possible to just show up, kick a few tyres and demand 30% off the asking price. The issue is, what do you need to look for? We have compiled a list of the best things to do before you haggle like a pro!

What to expect buying a second-hand car

Haggle when you buy a second-hand car for a good deal

Everyone wants to get the best deal with big purchases, but many find haggling a difficult and unpleasant experience. Those who like it tend to enjoy the feeling of pushing for a great deal. Those who hate to haggle like getting a good deal, but let’s be honest: the entire process can be uncomfortable because a clear price makes it seem like there’s no room for negotiation.

It feels like you’re saying: “Okay you thief, you’re trying to sell me something worth half what you’re trying to get out of me!” There is a general feeling of dread when it comes to haggling. “What if they point-blank refuse?” “Could they get angry and shout at me for trying to haggle?” “What if they refuse to deal with me at all?” The truth is, it isn’t as bad as you might think. The second-hand car trade is built on haggling. Traders don’t just accept it, they expect it.

So, don’t be afraid to negotiate when you’ve got your eye on a second-hand car. Try these tips to knock down the price!

Set a price for yourself

Once you decide you want to haggle for your new wheels, you need to set yourself a budget. You must do this before you start looking around, to save yourself wasting your time looking at cars you can’t afford.

As you set a budget, make sure that you only venture to those dealerships that sell cars at a reasonable price. Overinflated prices can suggest an unscrupulous showroom. Look online for local dealers with excellent reviews. Focus on second-hand cars from excellent makes such as vauxhall used cars to ensure that you can haggle for a good deal on a car that doesn’t end up being a lemon.

Having a clear budget is the best way to assert yourself when haggling. It keeps you focused and makes sure you don’t let the salesman push for more money.

To figure out your budget, look at your finances. Are you going to buy outright or go for a car finance plan? There are lots of online calculators that will help you figure out your actual budget for your new car. Websites such as Parkers or CarGuru are great for finding out how much you should expect to pay. Remember you also need to budget for car insurance, fuel, tax, and maintenance costs as well.

Do your homework!

It’s always a massive benefit to know which car you want to buy. I’m sure this sounds basic, but it really helps. Research online, figure out the aspects you want in your new car. Build up a shortlist of your favourites and go from there. Eliminate them one by one.

When you’ve settled on your favourite choice then go for the specifics. Petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, or even just the colour you want. What are the common repair issues your preferred model has? Has there been a recall for them before? The best weapon you can have is to know as much about the car as the salesman.

Want to check the value of a car quickly?

Mileage and optional extras

Extras can boost the price of a second-hand car

New car pricing is easy because all new cars have roughly the same mileage; basically none. They also have a set price for their optional extras and features. Two used cars of the exact same year and make, can have vastly differing prices due to miles on the clock and extra features.

Before you negotiate on a second-hand car, you have to understand how mileage will affect the price. The higher the mileage is, the lower the price you should pay. Similarly, a car with all the bells and whistles will cost a lot more than the basic model. Use the mileage to your advantage to haggle the seller to a lower price. So, look at the prices of cars of the same make and model with similar mileage to strengthen your case.

Where are you buying?

A big part of whether or not your haggling will work or not, is who you are buying from. Do you want to go private or use a dealership? While it may seem like a private seller is less likely to respond positively to haggling, that is not the case. A private seller does not have a lot of overheads when selling a car. There is a good chance the price they set is higher than what they expect to receive, because they know they will be haggled down. They also don’t have to make commission targets, and they won’t try to sell you extra products like insurance.

On the other hand, a dealership has to pay for things such as staffing, utilities, advertising etc. This will mean that their price for the vehicle will be higher than a private seller. This doesn’t mean using your knowledge to haggle wont work, you just have to know how to use it. Keeping the seller’s overheads in mind will allow you to negotiate better because you will understand where the seller is coming from. There is nothing stopping you from finding the right seller for you.

Using a second-hand car dealership offers different advantages, too. A private seller offers a ‘tail light warranty’ – once you drive the car away, it’s your problem. If you buy a lemon from your local dealership, they have to abide by some consumer rights. This includes things like selling products as described – if your car breaks down when you leave the dealer, they have to refund, repair, or replace it.

Get it inspected

Get a second-hand car inspected if you can before buying

While you are going to see the car yourself and can spot things like rust or a loose exhaust pipe no problem, have the car inspected professionally. You don’t want to buy a car that looks perfect on the surface but breaks down three weeks after its officially yours.

An inspection can turn up issues you may deem too severe and you can walk away. Professional inspections will also show up issues that haven’t arisen yet (like a part that is almost entirely worn away) and take them to the seller to help your case for lowering the price. Any dealership or seller who won’t allow you to have the car inspected by an independent expert should raise alarm bells – don’t buy the car!

Haggle in writing

The biggest reason people hate haggling is how uncomfortable it is. Car sellers and dealers are counting on it being too awkward for you to try. Dealers especially negotiate all the time so they are going to be more comfortable doing it than you.

Overcome or lessen the discomfort by haggling via email or text. This helps you keep your emotions out of the process and just focus on facts. You also buy yourself time to think. Go over your notes, check the offer compared to what’s online and make sure you are getting the best deal. It’s a lot easier to walk away from a bad deal when the seller isn’t right in front of you. And you will have written proof of any agreed-upon price in-case you ever need it.

Be polite

Just be nice! Many people go into negotiations like a bull in a china shop to power through the awkwardness. The seller isn’t out to get you. They want the best deal for them, just like you do. When negotiating be polite, don’t bad-mouth the car, (or the seller for that matter): just stick to the facts.

Haggling the price of a second-hand car is not a competition, it is more just a process to get to where you want to be. Everyone expects the haggling to happen – so try not to force it to be over with a bullish attitude. Politeness and a smile will get you a long way in securing a good deal!

Keep saving after you buy

With the right attitude and plenty of research to back yourself up, you’ll be haggling like a pro in no time. And when you’ve used your new skills to find your dream car, use our Insurance comparison to get yourself the best deal on that too!

You can also make lots of savings with things like regular maintenance, lift shares, and more. Check out this article on slashing your car costs during the summer.

More useful money-saving tips

Got the bug for finding a good deal? Try these money-saving articles for more hacks to save thousands of pounds over the year!

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1 year ago

Great content about purchasing of an used car. All the checklists are mentioned in this blog for taking care at a time of buying used cars. Our best used car dealers in Calgary always help you to find best used car for you. Thanks & Keep sharing this type of content.

3 years ago

Very interesting, I will go to see an second hand car tomorrow and now I can use this as a guide.

3 years ago
Reply to  Jaime

So glad to hear it’s a useful guide for you, Jaime! I hope the car buying was a success 🙂

3 years ago

Likely something I’ll be doing before too long once the current climate blows over. Useful info.

3 years ago

Will deffo be using this advice when I learn to drive lol!!! Well written

Jasmine Birtles
3 years ago
Reply to  Daisy

Excellent. Go for it!

3 years ago

Nicely laid out and informative. Some useful tips. Haggling doesnt come natural to most of us so this could be useful if you decide to take the plunge.

Jasmine Birtles
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel

Yes quite, and remember to always do it with a smile 🙂

3 years ago

Good sound advice

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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