Negotiation Tips for Car Buyers (and everyone else)

As a collection agent and a business owner, I spend a lot of time in negotiations. I’m fascinated by how negotiation tactics vary from situation to situation. I try to learn from negotiations outside of work and apply them to my work, and vice versa. Ask my kids, I’m very good at using active listening to get them to ask me for less money. Recently, I was talking to a friend about car shopping and realized that there are many aspects of car buying negotiations that easily apply to other negotiations.


Research looks different depending on what kind of negotiation you’re doing. For me, when working on a client’s account, I need to research the history of the account and also try and find a little bit about the company and the person to whom I’ll be talking. If you’re researching a job salary, you want to research what others in your field, in your geographic area, and at your level make. For a car, you want to know the dealer cost or the invoice price of the car. You can easily find this information on websites. Some websites will even help you discover what other buyers in your area have paid for the same car. Salespeople may try to start the conversation talking about monthly payments or money down. It’s important to know the actual cost of the car, and get that as low as possible before you start negotiating other matters.

Avoid Distractions

Multi-tasking is a natural part of our world today, but it can be very damaging when it comes to negotiations. I always tell agents to focus on the person they’re talking to, no checking Facebook while on the phone. The same is true of buying a car. A friend of mine told me about how much her kids loved coming with her to dealers when she was looking for a car. The dealerships all had donuts and soda and a few of them even had game rooms. All of these things are done on purpose. Believe it or not, having a donut may make you feel indebted to the dealer, which may subtly affect your negotiations. If your kids begin to get antsy, you may not push as hard for a good negotiation. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t eat the donut or bring your kids, just be aware. Speaking of distractions, some of the conversation and questions about monthly payments and interest are just that, a distraction. The more numbers swirling around, the more confused you’ll be. That’s why you want to get the actual price of the car as low as possible before you start talking about other issues.

The Higher Power

It’s almost a stereotype of car sales, “Let me talk to my manager and see what he says …” This negotiation tactic hasn’t changed, because it works. By putting the hard decisions off on someone else the salesperson makes you feel like only they are on your side. In business negotiations we see it all the time, “My lawyer says …” If you are car shopping alone you can use this tactic to your own advantage by deciding that you need to run the numbers by your spouse at home. The salesperson is unlikely to want you to leave without a deal and may come down on price.

Get it In Writing

It’s the first piece of advice on almost any agreement. Get it in writing. You may wish to take the written offer to another dealer and try and get a better deal. Having an agreement in writing can save you so much time and pain later on.

Stay Calm

Your old car is about to break down. Your about to have a baby and need that minivan right away. Whatever the reason you need a new car, calm down. You can always rent a car short term. Although there are some negotiations such as a new job where you want to show your passion and dedication, car buying is not the place. Staying calm will help you make better decisions and negotiate better. Remember, you can always walk away.

Not all of the negotiations we do here at The Kaplan Group are as fun and rewarding as buying a new car. But, we hope these tips help you whatever you’re negotiating.

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