Monday, May 2, 2016

10 Tips For Haggling Over A Used Car

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Before you grab those car keys ask yourself if you're getting the whip for the best price imaginable.
Before you grab those car keys ask yourself if you're getting the whip for the best price imaginable.
Haggling — some people love it, some people hate it. People who like it tend to enjoy the feeling of pushing for a great deal. People who hate to haggle like getting a good deal, but let's be honest: The entire process can be uncomfortable because typically the things we buy have a clear price with no room for negotiation.
One exception to the rule of set pricing is cars, and used cars have even less clear pricing than new cars do. When it comes to used cars, the price can vary due to the year, make and mileage of the car, as well as what features it has and the area you buy it in. The last thing that can impact a used car's price is the negotiation. Botching this part of the process can lead to paying more than you should. Use our ten tips to haggle your way through a great used car deal.

10: Do You Even Want to Haggle?

We know, it's weird to start out a list of used car haggling tips with one that implies negotiating may not be the way to go. The thing is, not everyone likes to haggle over used car prices and not everyone is good at it. If you don't want to do all the research and preparation needed to negotiate a good price on a used car, you're not going to do a great job haggling and could end up paying way more than is fair for a used car.
Deciding not to negotiate doesn't just mean showing up with a blank check. A number of used car dealerships, like Carmax, offer no-haggle pricing that's fair. Buy a used car from a dealer like that and you may not get as low of a price as you would have otherwise. But, it will save you some stress.

9: Set a Target

Once you decide you actually want to negotiate the price of a used car, you need to set a target. You should do this before you start car shopping, so you don't waste your time looking at cars you can't afford. Having a clear target price is the best way to anchor your negotiations because it will keep you focused and ensure that you don't allow the seller to push for more money than you can pay.

To figure out your target price, look at your budget and see what kind of car payment you can handle each month. If you're paying cash for a car, you can just decide how much of your money you want to use. You can find a ton of online calculators that will take your monthly payment and tell you the used car price you can afford. Once the target price is set, you'll know what number to aim for in your negotiations.

8: Find the Right Car

With a target price in hand, start searching for used cars that fit your budget. Finding the right used car and learning all you can about it is a key part of used car price negotiations. Once you've decided on the make and model, as well as the model years you're willing to buy, dive deep into all the features and options the car has available. You'll also want to research common repair issues and any recalls the automobile has been subject to. Having all that information can help you haggle and gain a better price. You need to know as much about the car as the seller does.

Before you even take a look at the car, have the right price in mind.
Before you even take a look at the car, have the right price in mind.

7: Know What's a Good Price

Let's say you've decided you can spend $15,000 on a used car and found the exact make, model and year you desire. It fits your budget and is the one you want, so it must be a good price, right?

Not so fast. Just because you can afford to pay $15,000 for the car does not mean that's a good price for it. In fact, the auto may be worth much less than $15,000, and paying that price for it would be throwing some of your money away. So should you do?

There are a number of tools available to shoppers to help determine if a used car price is fair or not. Kelley Blue Book is one of the more established and popular used car valuation sites. Newer sites like CarGurus and iSeeCars also track used car prices so you can make sure you're paying a fair price for a used vehicle.

6: Know What a Good Price is for Your Area

Used car prices depend a lot on the area the car is being bought and sold. Big four-wheel drive trucks, for example, are in higher demand in northern rural areas than they are in southern cities. If you're shopping compact cars in an urban area where there's a high demand, you'll need to adjust your negotiations to reflect that the seller probably can get other offers for the car. Unfortunately, you're going to probably pay more. If, on the other hand, you're haggling over an all-wheel drive crossover in an area that doesn't see a lot of snow, you'll have the upper hand because demand for that kind of vehicle will be low.

As you research used car prices, look for regional variations. Setting your target price based on the national average of the car you want to buy could throw a wrench into your haggling. You could end up offering more than you should or too little for your area and stall the haggling process before it even gets started.

5: Know the Impact of Mileage and Options

Compared to used cars, new car pricing is easy because all new cars have the same number of miles: basically zero. They also have a set price for their features and options. Two used cars that are the same year and make, for example, can have vastly different miles on them and different features.

Before you negotiate on a used car price, understand how mileage impacts used car prices. The more miles a car has, the less you should pay. Similarly, a fully kitted out used vehicle with all the bells and whistles will command more money than the same model with just the basics. If you don't need a lot of car tech, you can score a deal by looking for a stripped down model. Also, if you are looking at buying an automobile with a lot of miles on it, you can use that to try and get the seller to lower the price. Look at the prices on cars of the same make and model with similar mileage to bolster your case.

4: Where You Buy Impacts What You'll Pay

Part of haggling the price of a used car is understanding the seller's costs. While you're trying to get the best deal, the seller is trying to make the most money. When you're dealing with a private seller, you can often get a lower price on the same car because a private seller doesn't have a lot of costs associated with selling. On the other hand, a dealership has to pay for things like utilities, staffing costs, advertising and other overhead. Keeping the seller's costs in mind will make you a better negotiator because you'll be able to understand where the other side is coming from. You'll also be able to shop around for the seller with the right combination of price and services for you.

The inspection is arguably the most important part of the used car buying process.
The inspection is arguably the most important part of the used car buying process.

3: Use the Inspection to Your Advantage

You want to have any used car you're thinking of buying professionally inspected not only to make sure you're not buying a lemon, but also to give you some potential leverage in negotiating the price. The inspection can turn up issues with the car that you may decide are too severe and you just want to walk away from. The inspection can also turn up small issues or potential issues (like a part that may soon be worn out) that you can take back to the seller to get them to lower the price. If, for example, the inspection finds that the air conditioner will need a charge, you can ask the seller to lower the price to reflect the fact that the car will need repairs soon.

2: Do It in Writing

Part of the reason people don't like haggling is because it can feel uncomfortable. That's something that a lot of car sellers and dealers are counting on. They negotiate all the time so they're likely more comfortable doing it than you are.

One way to lessen the discomfort is to negotiate via email or text message. This can help you keep some of your emotions out of the process and just focus on the facts. You'll buy time to think about what the seller is offering and to consult your research to make sure you're getting a fair deal. It's a lot easier to walk away from a bad deal when the seller isn't right in front of you. Also, you'll have a record of the agreed-upon price if you ever need it.

1: Be Nice!

This last tip is for both buyers and sellers: be nice! Many people go into used car price negotiations feeling adversarial. The seller (or the buyer) isn't out to get you. They're just trying to get the best deal for themselves — just like you are. When you're negotiating, be polite. Don't diss the seller or the car. Stick to the facts about what the car is worth given its condition, mileage and the area you're in. Look at used car price haggling as less of a competition and more as a process for getting both people to a deal that they're happy with. With the right attitude and plenty of research to back yourself up, you'll be haggling like a pro in no time.


10 Red Flags For Used Car Buyers

Rusting is one of those issues that fundamentally ruins a car.
Rusting is one of those issues that fundamentally ruins a car.
Buying a used car is a smart financial decision. In short, you get a car for less money than buying new. What you trade savings for, however, is the protection a new car offers. New cars come with protection because ... well ... they're new. No one's messed with them, their parts haven't worn out yet and nothing's happened to them.

Used cars, on the other hand, have histories. And while most used cars are fine, there are a number of issues used cars can have that make buying them a waste of your hard-earned cash, instead of a smart financial choice. Luckily, there are some pretty clear signs of when you should walk away from a used car.

10: Excessive Rust

Almost anything on a car can be fixed or replaced. The question is, should it be? When it comes to excessive rust, the answer is often no. While rusted out body panels can be replaced, it's expensive and time consuming. Rust on the frame means that the frame —the very bedrock of the car — is rotting away. Replacing a car's frame, even if you just replace part of it, is expensive and runs the risk of weakening the car overall. While some rust is to be expected on a used car, look out for excessive rust with bits of metal flaking off, and avoid cars with rust in key areas. Let's put it this way: some rust on the floor pan is OK, but if Fred Flintstone could drive the car, you're better off walking away.

9: Funk in the Trunk

Buying a stinky car seems like a bad idea from an olfactory perspective, but a trunk with a set-in funk can also be a sign of larger issues. Avoid used cars with musty, moldy or mildew-y interiors as this is a sign of possible flood damage. When a car suffers flood damage, most insurance companies consider it a total loss because the water damages almost every system, from mechanical to electrical to even — you smelled it — the carpet. Trying to fix a flood-damaged car will quickly eat up any money you saved when you bought it.

8: New or Mismatched Paint

A freshly-painted accent wall in your living room is a good idea. On a car, however, you want all the paint colors to match, and fresh paint isn't always a selling point. Like new or mismatched carpet, new or mismatched paint is an indicator that repairs have been made, which could mean that the car was in an accident. While some accident damage can be repaired, other accident damage can make owning that car a headache and a seller that's trying to camouflage accident damage is not someone who you want to deal with. Take a close look at any used car with fresh paint or paint that isn't quite the same on all the body panels of the car.

More Red Flags for Used Car Buyers

Warning lights should be an immediate tip-off that the car has some secrets left to be told.
Warning lights should be an immediate tip-off that the car has some secrets left to be told.

7: Warning Lights

We've all driven around for a week or two with the check engine light on in our car. After all, if the car is running it's easy to overlook a light on the dashboard. And, sometimes those lights do come on because of a bad sensor or because we didn't tighten the gas cap enough.

Still, if you're looking to buy a used car that has a dashboard that looks like a Christmas tree, that's enough of a red flag that you should reconsider. Sure, the lights could be on for a minor reason (again, that tricky gas cap), but they also could be on because of a bigger problem. If you really love the car, a trusty inspection from an independent mechanic can tell you if those lights are something to be concerned about.

6: New or Mismatched Carpets

Another tell of a possibly flood-damaged car is when the carpet doesn't match the drapes. Unscrupulous sellers will sometimes replace a car's carpet to get rid of the stinky tip off that the car was flooded. While new carpet could be a plus in a used car, it's not something most owners typically replace, so if you see it, be sure to grill the seller about it. There are other ways to check for flood damage, like a water line in the engine bay. A car that has been totaled due to flood damage should also have this fact noted on its title. Even if you can't tell for sure that a car has been in a flood, if you suspect that it has, it's best to just float on by and find a better one.

5: Control-Freak Seller

Anyone who is selling a car wants to show it in its best light, but buyers should beware of a seller that tries to control every aspect of a test drive — or one that doesn't consent to a test drive. On a used car test drive you should put the car through its paces. Drive it in a number of different situations (merging on the highway, highway speeds, stop and go traffic) and on a number of different roads so you know what it's like to live with. Beware of sellers that try to control the route or prevent you from using certain systems — the radio, air conditioner or heater — during your test drive. They might be hiding a serious flaw with the car.

4: An Anti-Inspection Seller

Getting a prospective new car checked out by an independent mechanic is just good sense. While you'll spend money ($150 or so) on the inspection, avoiding a used car lemon is more than worth it. Any upstanding used car seller should consent to having the car inspected by someone you choose. If the seller refuses to let you have the car inspected or insists you use their mechanic find someone else to buy from. Having a car inspected is a routine part of buying a used car, so sellers who refuse it may not be on the level. That's a deal you can feel good about walking away from.

If the price of your potential ride is too low, there's probably something fishy going on.
If the price of your potential ride is too low, there's probably something fishy going on.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

3: A Very Low Price

You're probably wondering how a low price can be a red flag. A low price is a killer deal right?! While maybe, once in a blue moon, someone finds a high-quality used car with no issues at an absurdly low price, the odds of that happening are pretty gosh darn low.

More often than not, a super low price on a used car indicates that the seller wants to unload it quickly and is hoping that the vision of the dollars you'll be thinking about saving are enough to blind you to the other issues the car has. Unless you're willing to invest your savings on repairs — possibly costly ones — on the new-to-you car, stay away from used cars with prices that are much lower than similar models.

2: A Bad Title or No Title

When it comes to cars, possession isn't nine-tenths of the law. You need a car's title to prove you own it and are legally able to sell it. If you're working with a used seller who doesn't have a title for the car you want to buy, stay away. Also beware of fake or improper titles. A car title is an official document issued by the state the car is owned in. It should have a state seal and other anti-counterfeit measures on it. When inspecting the title, make sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on it matches the VIN on the car, and that the name on the title matches the name on the seller. If you buy a car with a bad title, it could turn out that you're not the rightful owner of the car — which means you just threw your money away.

1: Outstanding Recalls

Being described as "outstanding" is usually a good thing, but not when it comes to automotive recalls. Automotive recalls are issued by the car's automaker (sometimes after an order from the federal government) when something is wrong with the car. Many recalls are issued because of defects that could compromise the car's safety. Fixing recalls is done at the automaker's expense, so someone who hasn't had a recall on the car taken care of may have neglected other maintenance issues. To find out if a car has outstanding recalls, you can enter its VIN at From there, you'll be able to see what recalls the car was subject to. The seller should then provide proof that the recalls were taken care of.