Buying a used car from a dealer can put you through a roller coaster of emotions. The highs include the thrill of finding a new ride that meets your needs, both practical and emotional. The lows come when you have to deal with the issue of negotiating the price of your next vehicle.
Most people neither enjoy nor have much experience in haggling over the price of a big-ticket item like a car. Being in this situation, across from a used car salesman who goes through this process frequently, can make you feel as helpless as a small fish about to be attacked by a great white shark. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and it doesn’t usually end well for you.
Fortunately, there are ways to defend yourself. Consumers are in a better position than ever to find and negotiate a good deal on the used car of their choice. Let’s look into how you can do this with your next used car purchase, as well as some options for those who simply don’t want to go through any type of haggling-related ordeal.
A note about used car pricing
The issue of used car pricing can be summed up by the saying, “All new cars are alike, but no two used cars are alike.” What does this mean? While every new car is fresh off the assembly line, each used car that you encounter will have a different story. Some were well taken care of, some were terribly abused, and most will fall somewhere between those extremes.
As a result, there can be a lot of pricing variation between different used cars of the same year, make, and model. To make things more complicated, these price differences may or may not reflect the actual condition of these cars. A shiny example with no dents or scratches and a clean interior may have been poorly maintained, and the reverse can also be true. It can be hard to know exactly what you are buying.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous used car sellers take advantage of this to present bad used cars as great ones. If you fall victim to this practice, you could overpay for a used car that will likely require expensive repairs for as long as you own it.
Some dealers have negotiable prices, while others do not
If you are the type of car buyer who can’t wait to go up against a used car salesman and start haggling over the price of a used car, there are plenty of used car sellers who will be happy to engage with you. They include:
- Used car departments of new car dealers
- Independent used car-only dealers
If you want to buy a used car the same way you buy all your other merchandise, you have these options:
- Used car superstore chains (CarMax, etc.)
- Independent “one-price” used car dealers
- Online and mobile used car buying apps (Carvana, Shift, Vroom)
How to negotiate with used car dealers like a pro
If you plan to enter into the price negotiation process, you must be prepared. The best way to start is to do your research and understand the actual market value of the car you plan to buy. Sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can give you used car values tailored to your specific market. Be aware that values can vary greatly based on factors like age, mileage, and condition.
Another good preparatory step is to get preapproved for financing at a bank or credit union. This lets you keep the financing separate from the price negotiation at the dealer, making the process much simpler.
Once you have a good idea of the maximum amount you should be spending for it, you can search for the specific used car you are after. Make a list of these vehicles and the dealers offering them for sale, then plan a trip to see them all. Checking their Vehicle History Reports through CARFAX or other sources is also worth doing, even though these reports are not always completely accurate.
At each dealer location, insist on taking the car for a test drive first. If you have any concerns about the way a car drives, strike it off your list and move on to the next one. When you have narrowed your search down to two or three finalists, it’s time to begin the negotiation. This way, you can play one dealer against another. You should be the one leading the process, not the dealer. Explain that you have done your research and you know what the car should sell for in your area. Offer them a price that you are willing to pay, based on your research. Tell each dealer that you are looking at several cars at different dealers, and the first one to meet your price gets the sale.
Stay focused on the price and don’t get drawn into a discussion of monthly payments – they will do this to distract you from the price negotiation. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, get up and leave. If the dealer tries to bring financing into it, tell them you want to deal with the price issue first, then you will discuss financing. If the dealer can legitimately beat your preapproved financing (and be sure to check all of their numbers), you will have the option to finance with the dealer.
When you are satisfied with the dealer’s price, you can agree to the sale – contingent on its passing POMCAR’s pre-purchase inspection (more on that below).
How to buy a used car from a no-haggle dealer
Step 1 is the same as if you are planning to haggle –research thoroughly, so that you know what the used car you are after is worth in your area. Getting preapproved for financing before you go car shopping is also a great idea in this case. The next step is to search for the car you want. Search the no-haggle dealers’ websites, as well as the listings on the websites and/or apps of the online used car sellers (you’ll need to download their apps to your phone first).
All you have to do now is find specific used cars of the type you are after, at or below the price you want to pay. Make a list, test drive each one, and buy the one that has the best combination of condition and price – after it passes POMCAR’s pre-purchase inspection, of course!
In the case of used car apps that deliver the car of your choice to your home, these companies will usually give you a satisfaction guarantee that lets you return the vehicle if you don’t like it. Simply schedule your POMCAR pre-purchase inspection for shortly after the car is delivered – if there is a problem, you can send it right back!
Now that you have discovered what seems like a great used car, there’s just one more thing…
Once that you have found what you think could be a wonderful used car, you should know exactly what you are buying, and whether you should buy it or not. That’s where POMCAR comes in!
When making a commitment to buy your next vehicle, you should always make your purchase contingent on its passing POMCAR’s pre-purchase inspection. POMCAR will send a qualified technician to thoroughly check out your prospective purchase. Our technician will perform a comprehensive 270-point inspection which will cover:
- The car’s identity, details and mileage
- Tires and brakes
- Exterior and undercarriage
- Electrical and lights
- Road Test
- Fluid checks
- Diagnostic scan for error codes
Following our inspection, POMCAR will provide you with a detailed report of the car’s condition and safety-related systems, including photos of any noted problems. Once you review your POMCAR report you can buy with confidence – or avoid a problem vehicle, depending on the results!
To set up your POMCAR inspection, get started here. Have fun shopping for your next car and remember – POMCAR has your back!