Want a Great Deal? Know When to Walk Away

Curious to learn how to negotiate a car price with a dealer? Certain red flags can help you know when to use your bargaining chip of walking away.

Couple discusses car price in a negotiationShutterstock

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For anyone thinking about buying a car, a source of potential worry is whether you're getting a good deal on the car or overpaying. Even if you don't know how to negotiate a car price with a dealer, you still want to pay the most reasonable amount possible given your needs.

One way to ensure you don't overpay is to shop as early as possible and bring a lot of research to the table. Here are just a few times when you might consider walking away from a car negotiation.

It's Not the Car You Want or Need

It can feel easy to start down a path with a car dealership salesperson toward purchasing a particular make and model; they are trained to help you start this process promptly. However, as you start to learn more about the car and think about how you'll use it, you may realize it isn't the car you need. For instance, some people may need to regularly transport more than five people, need room for multiple tall passengers, or need a car with great storage options for long trips.

If you get into a negotiation and realize that no amount of discounts could make up for the lack of certain features, you may consider walking away.

You Notice Deceptive Tactics From a Salesperson

Potential buyers might be taken aback if they catch their salesperson using deceptive tactics, even if it's unintentional. For example, if they said one thing while discussing the car but you discover something different on the CARFAX report or in some of the other documentation they share, say something. Similarly, if an email discussion mentions one price but the price is higher in-person, you should mention it.

If you find yourself in such a situation, give the salesperson the opportunity to admit the mistake, since mistakes can happen. If they double down and insist that something wasn't deceptive when it really was, recognize this is something they're willing to do and could do again. They may not be worth trusting with your car purchase.

If you are attempting to negotiate a car price and the salesperson goes from trying to convince you with persuasive details about the car to getting angry or aggressive with you — or even guilt-tripping you — this could be a reason to walk away and take your business elsewhere. There are plenty of dealerships where sales representatives are taught to negotiate skillfully without deception.

You Want to Wait for a Lower Price

If you start shopping for a car at the beginning of the quarter, the beginning of the month, or during a popular time like tax refund season, you may find car dealerships simply aren't as interested in negotiation. They may present a number and be fairly unwilling to budge because they aren't in a tough spot — they hold the cards.

If you are confident a lower price could come later in the month or at a time when fewer people are shopping, you can walk away and come back during another time when negotiation is more likely.

Take note that the chip shortage may also impact negotiation for a lower price.

You Know the Online Prices and Can Do Better

One of the big reasons you can now go into a negotiation well-armed with data is that there are so many online car shopping sites. The online prices can give you an idea of what a great deal looks like for the car you want to purchase.

If you find that the car dealership won't match the prices you're seeing elsewhere, you can walk away and consider continuing your purchase online.

Understanding Your Leverage

As you can see, one of the biggest advantages you have over a sales representative is your ability to walk away from negotiations and consider other options. If you are willing to take your time, you can shop around for respectful, honest treatment along with the right car for you.

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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.