How to haggle to buy a used car
You might have read the Infographic at Auto Buyers Guide for First Timers on this site earlier. It is an excellent overview of some of the things you need to watch for when buying a second-hand car. If you have digested that information, here are a few additional things you should look for, specifically to get a better deal…
Price. Check prices. Du-uh. This is the first thing you should do before buying or selling a used car. There are plenty of UK sites selling used cars, such as Autotrader and motors.co.uk. In Canada, we run Monster Auto used cars, which is similar. It is easy to see what the going rate is for any vehicle at any of these websites.
Go online and see what everyone else is charging. If you try to haggle the price too low, you’ll lose the deal. But you don’t want to be stuck paying as much as everybody else is. Don’t worry about haggling a rock-bottom price. As long as you are paying a good price, generally speaking, the money will be saved in how you haggle over the specifics.
If you establish a general price with the seller that is at or somewhat below average for the same make and model of the same year with a similar odometer reading, you are ready to look for…
Rust. Yes, I know, you probably did a quick walk-around and noticed that there was a little rust here and there. Or – lucky you! – no rust at all.
Really? No rust at all?
Did you check under the vehicle? Underneath the car are all sorts of crucial apparatus that might very well be rusty. There are cables and wires and fasteners and most likely a fair amount of the exhaust system exposed. If these are fairly rusty, it could be a sign of bigger repair costs in the next couple of years.
Should you avoid a car with underside rust? No. All cars will have some rust after a few years. And sooner or later they will have lots of rust underneath. But the more rust there is already, the more you should haggle for a discount.
You might want to make ask for all records of rustproofing that might have been done – before you start haggling over it. No records? Your haggling position just got a tiny bit better.
Brakes. Test driving the car is a good start, as the Infographic suggests, certainly to see if one side pulls more than the other. But have someone who knows what to look for check the condition of the pads and the rotors. People often miss one or the other.
If any of the brake pads or rotors look like they’ll need to be replaced in the next year, haggle for them to be replaced BEFORE you put your money down, as a condition of sale.
Tyres. The Infographic points out the cost of replacing nearly bald tyres. As with the brakes, haggle for new tyres if it looks like they will need replacing within the next year.
Wipers. Are the wipers ship shape? Or will they need to be replaced soon? If they will need replacing within the next year, haggle for new ones.
Oil change. When was it last changed? Ask for the records. If it has been at least six months, ask them to do the oil and filter change.
Hey, you are buying a car from them. It’s a big investment. It’s your right to expect a car that is ready to drive down the road without having to worry about taking it straight to a garage.
Brakes, tyres, wipers, oil. What do all these things have in common? If they are all up to speed and no major repairs are imminent, you will have bought a car with no maintenance costs for the foreseeable future. In other words, without forcing the seller to make a deep price cut (which might be psychologically difficult for him to do), you have struck gold.
Check out also the official list of safety items from the UK government. These items, just by virtue of being on this list, are the hardest for a seller to refuse to bring up to top condition before selling.
Haggle over price? Not if you can haggle over maintenance and run a repair-free car for the next year. Now go out and drive that car carefully. Your haggling won’t mean much if you run the car through a store display window.
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