Haggling is not a natural thing for most of us, but many are getting the hang of it. As we get used to trying to make our money go further, there's signs that more of us are looking at price tags as simple suggestions rather than set in stone.
Negotiations are about anchors and adjustments. If a car dealer puts a price sticker on the windscreen they are setting an anchor and it will normally be as high as possible. Your job as the buyer is to adjust the price away from it. When the salesperson accepts the lower price most think it’s a good deal, however according to experts that’s not so. Unless you know the real value, you’re unlikely to adjust enough.
For used cars, there are free and easy to use valuation tools on the net such as the glass website. For new cars, have a look at internet forums and these will reveal that car dealers have a rather jaundiced view of the prices in various magazines.
Looking at a price guide is good because it gives you the starting points of a negotiation. You then need to look for the other clues for a car’s true price and whether a dealer will be ready to negotiate.
Before you visit a dealership you need to be armed with as much information as possible to back up your assertion that the model you're interested in is overpriced. If you’re looking at a new car, check if it's about to be superseded by either an all-new or mid-life "facelift" model. Some dealers won’t tell you, so check the manufacturer website.
For a used car, try to find out how long a trader's had it. The longer they’ve had it, the more receptive they may be to a deal. Consider its colour and equipment, too. Is it red, black or bright pink? And is it the only car of its type you've ever seen not to have alloy wheels, electric windows and air-con? They are all items owners of other models will have paid extra for, so are negotiating points on the price.
Taking a thorough test drive followed by an even more thorough examination of both the car (preferably by a professional) and its paperwork will likely throw up some more bargaining chips. Damage and potential repairs have a cost that can come off the asking price. Missing documents make the car's history less certain, providing another bargaining point.
If the car's road tax and MOT are about to need renewing, they are another negotiating tool. If the owner won't come down on the price enough, suggest they put it through a MOT test, not only is it saving you the cost of the test, it's saving you the price of potentially expensive repairs.