How To Bargain For A Used Car

How To Bargain For A Used Car

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  1. Steering You Right to Bargain for a Used Car

    It’s a common dilemma. You need a car. You don’t have enough money to buy a new car.Used cars are a huge risk, but you have to buy a car so you are now officially the newest Used-Car Shopper in the neighborhood and you are fair game. If you don’t believe that, walk onto any used-car lot, look around at a few cars, and then wait for the first salesperson to see you from the showroom. While people cruise new car lots just for fun, if you are in a used-car lot, you are there to buy a car and everyone knows it. Remember that they are there to make money and you are there to save money. You are only concerned with the latter and if you follow these steps you will learn how to bargain for a car.

    Be Prepared

    The first thing to do is get ready for the dance – and be absolutely certain – it is a dance. Sound like fun? Well it can be but – make no mistake – it is serious business to buy a car so before you begin the search, get ready with the facts and figures you will need to bargain for a car:

    Step 1. Gather up these resources:

    • A local newspaper
    • Local buy-sell-trade papers and magazines
    • A computer with internet service. If you don’t own a computer, go to your public library or get help to do some digital research.
    • A Kelley Blue Book if you can get your hands on one

    Step 2. Set up a grid with these headings:

    • Make
    • Year
    • Model
    • "Must-haves" like air-conditioning, cd player, etc.
    • "Really-wants" like heated seats, On-Star,etc
    • BBV (Blue Book Value) – if you can get hold of a Kelley Blue Book, great; if not, check a bank or the internet
    • AAP (Avg Advertised Price) – in the paper or from other ads
    • MAA (Maximum Affordable Amount – monthly or total if you have cash).
    • Dealers
    • BBB (Better Business Bureau) – Check only if no complaints.

    Step 2. Fill in what you already know.

    Step 3. Read the classified ads in your area. Enter data for used cars for sale every day for 2 weeks.

    Step 4. Watch the used car lots and make note of which lots move cars off the lot regularly

    Step 5. Make a list of possible dealers, using the Yellow Pages, internet, local lore, and anybody who has ever bought a used car in your area. Ask these questions:

    • How do you like your car? Get specific answers if possible.
    • Has it been in the shop? If so, how many times and for what?
    • How was the dealer – unbending or willing to deal?
    • Would you buy another car from the same dealer?

    Step 6. Ask at the local car repair shops – they know who sells the cars that need the most repairs.

    Sixth – Go on the internet and look at local merchant sites for reviews and complaints. Check the car buying sites like and

    Seventh – Memorize your data – your command of the figures will let the dealer know that you are knowledgeable and have done your homework.

    Fill up Your Dance Card

    Now use your data to make your "dance card" – a prioritized list of potential dealers. When you’re ready to shop, start at the top of your list and try not to get to the bottom. Practice the following:

    • "I can afford that but I’d like to look around."
    • A relaxed demeanor – do not look desperate!

    Once you’re ready, visit the #1 Dealer on your list. When you enter the lot, approach a car (NOT your favorite – save that for #3, at least), strike that casual, slightly interested pose that you have practiced and greet your dance partner.

    When the Dance Starts – You Lead!

    To bargain for a car is really like a dance – not a slow, easy glide that moves gracefully across the floor and ends exactly where you expect and want it to end. It’s more like a country square dance – one where you change directions so many times that, at the end, you’re not sure where you are. As the dance progresses, be on your guard for abrupt changes in rhythm and interest level – to quote a famous C&W singer, "You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away…."

    Make no mistake, the dealers know those rules and they play by them. There is a standard dance step for all dealers – when they’ve made an offer, they’ll say,"I don’t think I can go any lower." When you hear that, you’ve only just begun. Here are the rules for the bargaining phase, which begins after you’ve checked out the car from bumper to bumper, taken a test drive, and had it checked out by a trusted mechanic (absolutely have someone you know do this), and settled down in the office with the calculators.

    Look Sharp and Be Sharp

    Here’s where your homework pays off. If you learned your numbers, no matter what figure you hear, you’ll be ready with facts and figures of your own. The goal is to buy a car according to your figures; i.e., your choice of a car at your price. Here’s how:

    • You start the bargaining with a direct question like "What is the price of the car?" It’s a given that you should not accept this price. Look somewhat disgusted, shake your head, settle back in the chair – you’ve got a long way to go.
    • No matter what you do, do not fall for this one: "If I drop the price anymore, I won’t make a cent."  You can be almost 100% certain that, if you buy a car and drive it off the lot, the dealer will make money.
    • Do not divulge your MAA, no matter how many times the dealer asks you "what will it take to put you in this car?"
    • When the dealer says, "I want to make you a really good deal but I"ll have to go and talk to my boss," the dance has begun. It’s another given that the "boss" will approve the first offer. Don’t be fooled – there are many more to come.
    • These are the required steps of the "Dealer Dance" and if you are expecting them you will be much more relaxed and on top of this bargain talk. Let them "run it by the boss" as many times as they want.
    • When it’s obvious that these steps are exhausted (and you are beginning to feel exhausted too), tell the dealer exactly what you want – name the deal makers and your top figure and when the dealer plays the "boss" card again, be ready to shrug your shoulders and say: "Well, I think I’ll keep looking around."

    This is the moment of truth when you have to decide what you can live with and when it’s time to "fold ’em" and walk away or "hold ’em" and go home with your new car. Whatever you decide, you have learned how to bargain for a used car and you are now in the driver’s seat. It’s time to dance out of there with the car of your dreams.

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