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Should I negotiate when buying a used car?

Dealers want more transparency and trust in the market, so an increasing number of cars are being priced at market value from the outset. However, there may still be times when you need to negotiate.

Andy Pringle

Words by: Andy Pringle

Published on 27 July 2015 | 0 min read

The used car market is changing, and the days of having to negotiate a car’s price are numbered. Dealers want more transparency and trust in the market, so many – and particularly those on our website – are moving towards a no-negotiation position by pricing their cars to the market value from the word go. There may well be no need for negotiation at all.
That said, this isn’t yet a universal position, so it’s still important to do your research. Make sure you know how much the car you want to buy should cost. If you can find similar cars being advertised, don’t be ashamed of taking a printout of an advert for the same car that’s cheaper (bearing in mind age, mileage and spec). This can help work in your favour when sealing the deal with the seller. If there are only a few examples of the car you’re after on sale, use a valuation tool like Auto Trader’s free service, to look up how much the type of car you’re after is worth. Also, don’t forget to do the same with any car you're selling. After all, there’s no point saving loads on the new car if you’re short-changed on the other half of the deal. As with the car you’re buying, use our free valuation tool before you start any negotiation, no matter who you're dealing with. If you're selling to a private buyer, the 'Private' price will allow you to assess any offer you receive. If you're part-exchanging, use the (lower) 'Part-Exchange' price. Then, when you’re looking through the adverts on our site, look for adverts from dealers who have the part-exchange box in the right-hand column. Those dealers are working with Auto Trader to promote trust and transparency in the used car market, and when a customer clicks in that box, the same valuation is sent to both you and the dealer. That means both sides will start any conversation about a part-exchange value from the same point. The price is calculated from Auto Trader ads, dealer websites, car auctions and fleet services, so it is the best guide you can find. The only major assumption is that your car is in good condition, so it’s possible a dealer may offer a different price once they’ve seen your car.
And if you do need to negotiate?
As above, not everyone is yet operating this system, so if you do need to negotiate, be firm, but before you start, pick a maximum price you’re prepared to pay for the car – and a minimum price for your part-ex – and don’t deviate from
them. If you’re not getting the deal you want, simply get up and walk away.