How to Negotiate Car Prices

When you want to know how to negotiate car prices below the MSRP, you need these great car negotiation tips to succeed in getting a low price.

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The haggling culture of the car-buying world can seem like a challenge, especially for people who only buy a car a few times in their lives. That being said, you don't have to be a master negotiator to aim high. Not everyone knows how to negotiate car prices below the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), but with these basic strategies you might be able to set yourself up for a better deal.

1. Begin Lower Than Your Maximum Price

One of the first questions asked when you speak with a dealership sales representative is your price range. While this is a logical question, it could also pin you in: if they can get the price under your maximum, they feel like they've gotten it low enough. With this in mind, consider making sure to shave a percentage off of your maximum price and give that as the top of your range. You aren't being dishonest either: given the taxes, fees, and other costs, you probably do want sticker prices to be lower than your top price.

2. Resist Emotional Attachment Statements

When you're talking to a representative, they may notice if you're getting emotionally attached to a car. If you mention how much a family member will love it or how it'll be perfect for a new baby on the way, they may use this as a way to keep you at the negotiation table, even if you're actually ready to walk away from a particular deal. You can be as emotional or unemotional as you want to be privately, but if a sales representative notices this is your ideal car, they may use that as leverage for staying at a higher price.

3. Understand What's Included in the Price

Figuring out how to negotiate car prices below the MSRP can be tricky because financing, car payments, and various fees and taxes can cloud your view of the actual price. To make sure you're negotiating prices that can actually be negotiated, ask very clearly to see what the list price is—as well as all the non-negotiable additional costs—so that you have a final price to evaluate, not just a sticker price. If a seller isn't willing to give you these numbers, you might consider looking elsewhere; you have a right to know what you're actually going to pay.

4. Act Like You Aren't in a Hurry

If you know you need to buy a car very soon, consider keeping that information to yourself when you go to talk to a sales representative or in any email communication. Negotiating online, for instance, can offer a lower pressure situation because you can leave out information about the urgency of the car purchase and think through your responses very carefully. Sales representatives may be less likely to let a price go down as far if they feel confident that they're making a sale one way or the other.

5. Knowledge Is Power—for You and the Seller

One common refrain in great negotiating is to have a lot of information and planning. You want to research cars online, for instance, so that you have an idea of what a good price is for this car with these qualities. You also don't need to give a sales representative any information that isn't relevant to your purchase needs; since they are experienced negotiators, they may see certain details as reasons not to budge on pricing.

Strategies like these could help you avoid paying more than is fair for your next car.

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Laura Leavitt
I love a good spreadsheet and will happily calculate compound interest all day, but my biggest focus is helping people achieve their financial goals. That could be saving up for a dream car or calculating the right car payment for your budget so you can get a reliable daily driver. I research and write about personal finance so that making great financial choices becomes easier for us all.