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Negotiating for Used Cars

Once you are comfortable with the idea of buying a vehicle, negotiate a deal. If you plan to pay in cash, let the seller know this. Cash can do wonders for an agreement.

Know the fair value of the car beforehand: Negotiate politely. If you think the price is too high, make a persuasive case to support your argument. For example, you could point out that the vehicle needs some work, that the body or paint doesn’t justify the price, or that you have seen lower prices elsewhere. If you want to test the price, you can explain that the car isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but at a lower price you might be interested. You can also let the seller know that the car is worth the price, but that you can only afford a lower price because of budgetary constraints. Make an opening offer that is low but in the ballpark of the seller’s asking price—do not be unrealistic. Expect to spend about an hour negotiating. Don’t be afraid to walk out if you’re not getting anywhere: you don’t have to buy the car.

Only enter into negotiations with a salesperson who makes you feel comfortable and who can make a deal: Decide before you go to see the vehicle how much you can spend for the vehicle and walk out if the seller cannot meet this price. Leave if you get tired or hungry or if you feel pressured. Don’t be hurried into a decision. Don’t be distracted by pitches for related items. Expect the salesman  to try to improve the deal before you reach a final price.

Closing the deal at the dealership: At a dealership, the person who deals with financing and insurance will probably try to sell you a number of additional products, including service warranties and other dealer-installed options. Most, if not all, of these products are unnecessary. Review the contract thoroughly before signing. Ask questions about anything that dramatically increases the price. You will be asked to provide proof of insurance before you drive away in your car. Finally, you should inspect the car before you take possession of it. If any work is required or any repairs have been promised by the dealer, get the promise in writing in the form of a due bill—a written acknowledgement that the dealer will provide service at a future date.

Closing the deal with a private owner: Before any money changes hands, make sure you will be able to register the car in your name. No registration means no deal. Request the title, sometimes called the pink slip, and have it signed over to you. No title also means no deal.

If the seller has not paid for the car in full, the lender still owns the title to the car. One way to deal with a seller who still owes money on the car is to close the sale at the office of the lender, where the title is held. Once all of the paperwork is complete, relax and begin enjoying your new purchase—a good used car.


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