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How to negotiate when buying a used car from a dealer

How to negotiate when buying a used car from a dealer
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In a new study from the AA, 74% of UK motorists revealed that the last car they bought was a used one. In these challenging financial times, you may be one of the many drivers hoping to cut costs when buying a car, and the used car market is always a good option.

If you are buying from a dealer, learning how to negotiate can help you strike the deal that is right for you. Since dealers all have sales targets to meet, most of them are willing to negotiate – you just need to know how to do it.

Here are a few tips to guide you.

Do your research

Before starting negotiations with a dealer, research how far your budget will go and find the kind of car you want, including the make, model and year. Learn as much as you can about the car’s pricing (and comparable ones) by visiting websites such as and Autotrader, visiting different used car dealers, reading dealers’ newspaper ads and taking advice from friends who have owned similar cars.

Having good knowledge, especially about pricing, helps you remain in control during negotiations. For example, if you know a good price for a used 2016 Ford Fiesta is between £7,000 and £10,000 depending on the options, mileage, and condition, a dealer won’t be able to talk you in to paying more.

Know your budget

It’s best to walk into a dealership with a maximum price in mind, but there’s no need to mention this to the dealer. For example, if you begin the conversation by stating that your budget is £8,000 and the car you are discussing is priced accordingly at £8,000, it’s likely you’ll find it hard to negotiate a lower price as the dealer is already aware that you can afford more.

Start low

Dealers want to maximise their profits and may quote an inflated price at the start of negotiations so that any price drop they offer appears to be good value – even if this might not be the case.

It makes sense to take control of the situation by going in with an offer at the lower end of the range that you’ve found when researching the model you want to buy. You can then leave the dealer to negotiate you up to a price you’re both happy with.

Ask questions

Usually, the person asking questions during negotiations is perceived to be the one in control. Questions also show that you’ve done your research and you know your stuff. Possible questions you could ask include:

  • Is the car’s logbook present?
  • How many owners has the car had?
  • Has the car ever been involved in an accident?
  • What work has the dealership carried out since they got the car?
  • Does the car have a full service history?
  • Does the car come with any warranties and what’s covered?

Take emotion out of the situation

Good car dealers are experts in making people feel emotionally obliged to buy. Remember: you’re there to buy a car, not make a new friend. By being professional and detached rather than warm and friendly, the dealer will ultimately be forced to use logic rather than emotion when negotiating with you.  As a result, it’s likely that you will get a better deal.

Be willing to walk away

If negotiations don’t seem to be going as you want them to, be prepared to walk away. There’s always another car available at an equally attractive price.

Dealers may use a range of tactics to keep the conversation flowing for as long as possible, hoping that the longer you commit to discussing the deal, the more you will feel obligated to buy – even at a price you were not planning on or are not comfortable with. 

Therefore, even if you have spent a considerable amount of time negotiating, be prepared to walk if you do not get exactly what you want. This will show the dealer that you are serious about getting the right deal. If you then return a few days later and the car is still on the forecourt, there’s a good chance of negotiations starting again on your terms. 

Final word

When buying a used car from a dealer, if you negotiate effectively, you can save money that can be used for other things like covering some of the car’s running costs.

Dealers are always looking for ways to maximise their profits, and some may try to get you to overpay, especially if you show a lack of experience or awareness of the market. It is therefore advisable that you take time to learn how to negotiate and get the best possible deal.

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