How to negotiate a better deal when buying a used car

get the best used car deal

Can you negotiate used car prices?

Many of us balk at the thought of having to negotiate. However, according to the Money Advice Service, “anyone can and should haggle when buying a vehicle”. That’s true for new cars and even more so for used/old car.

That’s what we believe too, which is one of the reasons why we created Car Guide. 

Even if you don’t think negotiation and haggling is your strong point, you’ve got nothing to lose. The worst that will happen is you’ll have to decide whether you’re happy to pay the asking price. And if it all goes to plan, you might even bag yourself a bargain!

Read on to learn how to negotiate a better deal and possibly lower price with confidence.

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Before you buy

Make sure you do your research – find out how much similar cars are being advertised for.

Why not try the Car Guide comparison tool? This allows you to compare used cars for sale on multiple car search sites such as Autotrader and Motors. More importantly, the more you know about the car, the more leverage you will have to negotiate. Therefore doing a full check is a wise decision. You can also use Car Guide to find out the market value of the car.

Decide on a couple of important points

Will you be paying in cash, are you hoping to part-exchange/trade-in your current vehicle or do you plan on taking out a finance agreement? Make sure you do the maths – work out how much you can realistically afford to pay, whether that’s as a lump sum or in monthly instalments.

If you’re toying with the idea of entering a finance agreement through a car dealership, it’s worth checking whether you could get a better rate by taking out a personal loan with your bank.

Importantly at dealerships, negotiate on the vehicle price. Be careful of salesmen avoiding negotiating and asking “what’s your monthly budget”.

You’ll find they normally hit your monthly figure but they may extend the term of the finance agreement by a further year, demand a larger deposit or give you less for your part-ex.

Top tip:

Write a list of your must-have features, set yourself an upper price limit – and make a pact with yourself to stick to it. Oh, and keep all those details to yourself. Think of it this way – your objective is to get the best deal. The seller’s is to get the best price. So, whether you’re buying from a dealer or private seller, the less information they know, the better.

Found the perfect car? 

Ready to hand over your hard-earned cash in exchange for a shiny new motor? Buying a car is an exciting time, but as with any big purchase, it’s best not to rush into anything. Take your time to find the right car for the right price.

Before you go any further, head over to the Car Guide website and run a Vehicle Check to find out:

  • If there is an outstanding car finance agreement attached to the vehicle
  • The vehicle’s mileage history and service history
  • Potential problems you may have with the car during the next 6 to 12 months
  • The likelihood of the car failing its next MOT
  • Whether a pre-purchase inspection (e.g. RAC or Dekra) is recommended

This information will be useful as part of the negotiation process.

How to negotiate car price

Take a deep breath and remember this – when it comes to negotiating a used car price, the power is in your hands. The dealer or seller cannot force you to buy a car. If you don’t get the deal you want, there’s no shame in walking away. There will be other, better deals, so don’t let yourself be cajoled into something you won’t be happy with later.

Keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t allow emotions to cloud your judgement. And certainly don’t let the dealer or seller know just how much you love this car!

Negotiate a better deal when buying a used car from dealers

The first rule – the initial price you offer should be lower than you’re actually willing to pay. This gives you some movement if they don’t bite straightaway.

Common scenarios:

1. The dealer isn’t offering enough money in part-exchange on your current car.

What to say:

In order to purchase this car, I will need more than you are offering in part-exchange.

2. You’ve seen a better offer at another dealership
What to say:
I’ve been to (dealership) and they are offering X for £X. What can you offer me?

3. After a lengthy negotiation process, the dealer is still offering a price that is too high
What to say:
I’m willing to pay a maximum price of £X.

Negotiate a better deal when buying a used car from private sellers

There are pros and cons to buying a car through a private seller. One of the main disadvantages is that the car won’t have been subjected to the rigorous vehicle health checks used by car dealerships.

You can make this work in your favour though. Taking the time to check the vehicle thoroughly will allow you to identify issues such as dents in the bodywork, chips in the windscreen and worn tyres. And since the seller might be looking to close a deal quickly, you might be able to haggle on the price.

How can Car Guide’s Vehicle Check help you negotiate a better deal when buying a used car?

If the Car Guide Vehicle Check identifies an issue, consider whether this is a deal-breaker for you. If it is, you’ll have saved yourself the time and effort of taking the car for a test drive and negotiating on the price. Time to move on to the next car!

If you’re still interested in the car despite the highlighted issue, research the likely cost of resolving it. Don’t forget to account for the hassle of not being able to drive the car while it’s being fixed.

When negotiating on price with the dealer or seller, explain the information identified on the report and set out the amount of discount you are looking for. It is worth setting this amount higher than you would be willing to settle for, as they’re bound to try playing you at your own negotiating game!

Effective negotiation

Negotiating doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly and courteous. But you should definitely try to maintain a little mystery about exactly what you’re looking for, how much you’re willing to pay and your financial position. Often, car dealers will make you a better offer subject to you taking out a finance deal, so don’t tell them you’re paying by cash too early on.

Be confident. Instead of saying, “Will you give me a discount”, try saying, “How much discount will you give me?” If they won’t give you the discount you’re looking for, explain that you would be willing to buy the car there and then if you can come to an agreement on the price. If that doesn’t work? Walk away. Take some time to reflect – they might even call you with a counteroffer.

Negotiate a better price with Car Guide

If you want to save time and money during the process of buying a used car, check out Car Guide today.

Car Guide’s Buyer’s Report enables you to access a mix of proprietary and industry data relating to the car you’re considering buying. Our Buyer’s Report which also includes true cost of ownership, will provide you with all the information you’ll need to confidently negotiate a better price.

£ 0 Nothing to pay

All this data for free:

  • 1 x Free Car Check
  • Full MOT History
  • Imported / Exported
  • Ex-Salvage Register Check
  • MOT Failure Prediction
  • Plate & Colour Changes
  • Date V5c Last Issued
  • Detailed Technical Data
£ 6.99 One off payment

Everything with a free account plus:

  • 2 x Car Checks
  • Shortlist & Compare Cars
  • 1 x Buyer's Report which includes:
  • Outstanding Finance Check
  • Insurance Write-Off
  • Ex-Salvage Register Check
  • Stolen or Scrapped
  • Valuation
  • Upcoming Repairs & Costs
  • Service Schedules & Costs
£ 10.99 One off payment

Everything with a free account plus:

  • Unlimited Car Checks!
  • Shortlist & Compare Cars
  • 2 x Buyer's Report which include:
  • Outstanding Finance Check
  • Insurance Write-Off
  • Ex-Salvage Register Check
  • Stolen or Scrapped
  • Valuation
  • Upcoming Repairs & Costs
  • Service Schedules & Costs

Frequently Asked Questions

The answer is yes! In fact, we highly recommend you do as you have nothing to lose! Read our guide to find out how to negotiate when buying a used car.
Negotiating might not be your strong point, however, we have some easy to follow tips which will help you during the process. Find out more here.
Doing a car history check prior to contacting the seller is highly recommended. Firstly, it could identify an issue which could be a deal-breaker for you, meaning you will save yourself the time and headache of going through the purchase and negotiating on the price. Secondly, if it isn’t a deal-breaker, knowing the car’s full MOT history as well as any upcoming servicing, repairs and its costs will put you in a better position when it comes to negotiating on the price. Find out more here.
The most comprehensive Car Reports Available
We'll show you if the car is a write-off, has outstanding finance and manufacturer safety recalls
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