No-Haggle Pricing: What You Need to Know About ‘Negotiaphobia’

5 reasons you shouldn’t let anxiety over negotiating drive your decision on how to buy a car.

No-haggle dealershipsShutterstock

Article QuickTakes:

If you’re terrified of chickens, there’s a word for that: alektorophobia.

Fear the beard? That’s pogonophobia.

And if you’re creeped out by clowns, don’t fret, there’s plenty of room under the big top for one more coulrophobe.

But what of the heart-pounding, sweat-inducing anxiety some people experience when faced with negotiating for a new or used car? Believe it or not, there is no official term for that.

Yet the condition—let’s call it negotiaphobia—is real enough to have inspired a major culture shift in the auto sales industry. In 1990, GM introduced the Saturn with a twist straight out of another car-buying dimension: One price, paid by everyone. No negotiations required (or even permitted).

This fixed-price model proved so popular it outlasted the Saturn itself, which faded into history in 2009. No-haggle pricing is thriving today at dealerships across the country, from CarMax to Carvana, where what you see on the window sticker or the website is what you pay.

As consumers, we certainly find some comfort in buying a car the same way we buy a pair of jeans or a head of lettuce—transparent pricing and a low-pressure sales experience.

For negotiaphobes, it probably seems like an answer to their silent prayers. But is it?

Five things to consider about no-haggle pricing:

1. You may pay more for the luxury of not negotiating.

I’ve heard many a car buyer say they’d pay extra to avoid the inevitable, uncomfortable tug-of-war over price.

But how much? $100? $500?

No-haggle dealerships promise upfront prices, not necessarily the lowest prices.

A quick internet search for a 2017 Camry LE with about 20,000 miles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area returned 28 choices. The best price at a no-haggle dealership was $17,599. Five others nearby showed sticker prices of $1,000 to $2,000 less, before any negotiations. (There were also a few dealerships with higher prices.)

2. ‘No-haggle’ means no haggling on price, really.

The auto industry, which traces its roots to horse-trading days, remains one of the final frontiers where negotiating is not only acceptable, but expected. That history means paying a set price for a vehicle is still a fairly new concept.

Frankly, many customers don’t believe no-haggle means absolutely no-haggling.

“Knock a few hundred off the price” remains a common refrain from shoppers, even at a fixed-price place like Carvana, where the entire purchase takes place online first and then buyers can pick up the vehicle at one of the company’s signature vending machines.

Once a dealership adopts a no-haggle price policy, it really can’t make exceptions. Don’t go there expecting one.

3. You’ll still have to negotiate other aspects of your deal.

The price of the vehicle is just one of 4 key negotiations involved in most car purchases. And it might be the easiest to navigate, thanks to all the research and pricing information available online.

There’s still the matter of your trade-in, if you have one, financing, and extended warranty and other extras. No-haggle dealerships approach those aspects of a car deal much the same way other dealerships do: by offering you options and negotiating.

While you prepare for those discussions, keep in mind that shopping at a no-haggle lot can send a message that you’re uneasy negotiating, which may put you at a disadvantage when it comes to the parts of the deal that require some haggling.

4. No-haggle doesn’t necessarily mean less stress.

In these modern times, car customers have so much information at their fingertips (and on their phones) that haggling over the price of a car is not necessarily the in-person pressure-cooker many negotiaphobes perceive it to be. Websites such as TrueCar, Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, CarGurus and Capital One’s Auto Navigator make it possible to survey local inventories, prices and financing, all online. Most dealerships have internet sales staffs and will negotiate over the phone, via e-mail, or text.

I was at a college basketball game with a friend not long ago and he spent the first half negotiating for a new Honda CR-V. By the start of the fourth quarter, he and the salesman had settled on a price and set up a time to test drive and finalize the deal.

Technology has changed the negotiation game for good. Take advantage of it.

5. You’ll (probably) always wonder if you got a good deal.

Whether you negotiate or not, this particular worry will be baked into any large purchase. Psychologists have studied this very issue. And there’s no question haggling can add a layer of anxiety.

But by giving in to your negotiaphobia and limiting the ability to ask for a better price on a vehicle, be prepared to wrestle with another faux phobia—the fear of overpaying. (Collector’s Journal jokingly called it "Toomuchomoolaphobia.")

Ultimately, if your definition of “a good deal” is having a quick, low-stress experience, then a no-haggle dealership might be your best option. Just make sure to comparison shop online beforehand, so you feel confident that you’re getting a fair and competitive price on the car.

However, if saving money on one of life’s biggest purchases is your main motivation, then it may be time to face your fears and give negotiating another try.

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Rick Press
After a long career as an editor for a major metropolitan newspaper and website, in 2017 I joined Capital One as its Managing Editor for Auto Content. I’ve been fortunate to cover everything from breaking news and Super Bowls to CEOs and celebrities, and now I am excited to explore the connection we all have to our cars and help consumers navigate the car-buying journey. Let’s ride!