How to haggle

According to a recent study we’ve lost the skill of negotiation when buying a car. Yet if you go about it the right way there’s no reason why you shouldn’t become a successful haggler and shave a useful wedge of cash off your next purchase…

The results of research carried out by Auto Trader, is shocking. Apparently, 71% of younger car buyers are put off from price negotiation as it makes them feel uncomfortable with an astounding 56% of car buyers who bought a car in the last six months claiming to have paid the full asking price. More surprising still, 34% of those surveyed identified haggling as a more uncomfortable experience than asking for a pay rise, complaining about food in a restaurant or even asking for a free upgrade on a flight. Possibly due to the fear of having to negotiate, a quarter of all women surveyed claimed they would rather go to the dentist rather than buy or sell a car.


So why have we all lost the habit of haggling? Basically, it’s because it can make us feel uncomfortable. The survey also identifies the fact that more people compare car prices online and by going for the best deals they are happy to pay the asking price. Said Auto Trader: “Online search has evolved to the point where consumers can compare cars of the same age, similar mileage and engine size – amongst a huge variety of other variables that could affect price – and when these searches are more comprehensive: prices become more transparent. As consumers and car dealers have the same expectations on price, the need for awkward haggling that has become intrinsic to the car buying process is eliminated – as both parties have easier access to clear information on car price comparison.”

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That’s all well and good – but it only really applies to newer car purchases. What if you are about to do a deal on a nice early Golf Mk1 or a fully restored T25 camper where such online comparisons either don’t exist or are largely irrelevant? Here, we reckon, there’s still scope for ‘talking turkey’ and learning how to haggle – but it’s a case of treading carefully, building up a rapport with the person you are negotiating with and not letting things get too personal. And that goes for the person who’s buying – as well as selling.

With being made to feel uncomfortable identified as the main reason people don’t like haggling it’s important to not offend. And the thing that’s likely to result in a seller chasing you up the road is the bombshell ‘silly offer’. Especially if you’ve just taken up an hour of their valuable time viewing their pride and joy. If you’re keen on going in low broach the subject politely over the phone instead. Ask if they would they be able to take anywhere near the amount you are thinking of offering. If all you can hear is wild laughter or if the phone goes dead, you’ll have your answer without wasting anyone’s time. On the other hand, if they’re at all interested they’ll take your number just in case.

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If you prefer haggling in person after viewing a car the well-practiced method of negotiating is to simply ask, “Is there any room for movement on price?” If it’s a yes, you’re half way there and chances are you’ll arrive at a figure that’s acceptable to both parties. If it’s a no, don’t get the hump. It simply gives you the option of walking away or paying the asking price if the car’s really worth it without anyone’s feelings being hurt.

The whole haggling process can be just as stressful for the seller. If you feel like you’re being bullied into taking less than you wanted, just say you’ve got other people keen to view. You can take their number and if it doesn’t sell, call them later. At this point they might up their offer in which case you can then choose to close the deal. You risk losing a sale by turning down their initial bid, but at least you won’t have the bitter aftertaste of feeling that you’ve bailed out too soon and sold too cheap.

A lot of it comes down to the simple matter of paying a fair price – and if you’ve done your homework and looked at lots of cars for sale you’ll know what this is before you’ve even arranged a viewing. Sure, there’s usually a bit of room for negotiation – but never assume. Be honest from the start, don’t mess anybody about, be polite and realistic. That way there will be no reason to get hung up about haggling.


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage




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