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How to Negotiate the Best Price for a Used Car

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Haggling and negotiating are important parts of the used car buying process, but if you walk into a dealership without knowing how to negotiate, you’re not going to get a favorable deal.

There’s an art to negotiation, and you have to enter into your used car buying experience knowing that.

There are several phases to a successful used car price negotiation. The first phase occurs before you make your way to the dealership, and the second is at the dealership itself.

It’s a long and involved process, but fear not! This article will make sure you are armed with the knowledge and know-how you need to get the best possible deal on your next used vehicle.

How to Negotiate for a Used Car - Before Going to the Dealership

Much of the negotiation process happens before you ever step foot in the dealership.

You have to do your homework before you walk onto the lot. By approaching the dealership knowing precisely what it is you want (and don’t want), plus how much you’re willing to pay, you’ll have a much easier time.

Come Armed with Research

Make sure you conduct research before going to a dealership. Research is one of the most important elements of the car buying experience. You need to know what you’re looking for and what common pricing is for similar vehicles, both locally and nationwide.

To start off, take a look at CoPilot to find your dream car’s features and current market value. Once you have an idea of what you want, you’ll be able to use an online car payment calculator to find a vehicle that is a great fit and locate a dealership where the car is at.

Peruse that dealership’s online catalog and find a few other vehicles that you like. Go in with at least three options that have all been well researched.

used car research

Know Your Numbers

Buying a used car is a numbers game.

You need to get a decent vehicle without blowing through your spending limit. Before you ever approach a dealership, you’ll need to identify a budget that you’re happy with.

Use services like Co-Pilot to see a variety of local vehicles in your area and set budget filters so that you won’t be tempted by cars that are outside your comfort zone.

Finally, you need to know your credit score and possibly even get pre-approved before you go to the dealership. Talk to your bank about what interest rates are available for you. This will help you better understand what kind of budget you should be thinking about.


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How to Negotiate for a Used Car - At the Dealership

Once you arrive at the dealership, it’s time to get to work. There are a few steps you’ll need to take before you can drive a car off the lot.

Inspect the Vehicle

It’s important to visually inspect the vehicle before you test drive it. Make a note of every ding, scratch, stain, and flaw in and on the car. It would be helpful to have a notebook with you or take notes and memos on your phone. That way you won’t forget anything.

You may also want to bring in a mechanic or someone who is well versed in cars. This person can help you undergo a further inspection of the vehicle. This will also let the sales associate know that you have come prepared and aren’t about to be taken advantage of.


Check the Vehicle’s History Report

Ask the sales associate to show you the history report for the vehicle. A CarFax is helpful, as it will let you know a lot of important information. Look into the car’s previous ownership, accident history, title status, mileage, and more.

A vehicle’s history report lets you look into the car’s past. It can help you make an informed decision on whether you should buy the car and for how much. If you see that the car you’re interested in has been in and out of mechanics and suffered multiple accidents, it might be time to look elsewhere, or at the very least, negotiate a lower price point.

always check a vehicle history report

Test Drive the Car Before Buying it

Buying a car is a huge investment.

It’s a purchase that you’re going to be using for a long period of time. To that end, you can’t just rely on the information on a sheet of paper to let you know if the car is good enough for you. You need to test drive it to make sure that the car is a good fit.

During a test drive, you can determine how the car performs, how it feels, and whether there are any strange noises, smells, and sounds coming from it.

what to focus on during a car test drive

Shop Around and Find Other Offers

To get the best price for a used car, you need to shop around. Don’t commit yourself to just one dealership. You have to see what else is out there.

Take the time to look around, not only online but also in person, at a number of car dealerships to see a range of vehicles before making a final decision.

Always Negotiate a Good Deal

Don’t stop negotiating after the first deal.

Remember, car dealers add an extra margin on their listed price, usually upwards of 20%. If you don’t continue with the negotiation process, you could lose out on a great deal.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

If you’re not happy with the price, say no and walk away. Don’t feel obliged to commit to an amount you’re not satisfied with.

Many dealers will respond emotionally every time you try to get the price lower or get a better financing rate. This tends to guilt-trip a lot of buyers to settle for an amount they’re not happy with.


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The CoPilot app is the smartest way to buy a car. Search all listings in your area, get notified about deals, new listings, and price drops, or chat with one of our copilots for some hands-on advice.


In Conclusion

Negotiation is a science. Remember, used car dealers negotiate pricing every single day. This is something you, as a buyer, will only ever do a few times in your life. They count on that inexperience to help them craft a deal that favors the dealership’s profits.

By going in prepared, you can even the playing field and negotiate a deal that will put you in a good car at a fair price.