So you want to buy a car. Where do you start?
At baseline it is easy to believe that we will fail. After all, isn’t that how every car negotiation we’ve ever heard, seen or talked about end? What should I ask for? Even if I did, how would I stick to my guns when I asked for it? Ultimately we worry: how will I get ripped off?
This fear of getting ripped off presents one of the most significant variables when buying a car. You’re already in a combative mindset with a winner take all mentality going into the negotiation (and that is really what buying a car is all about, negotiating). But is conflating combat with negotiation the right way to go about it? How can you maintain a strong but fair position in your car buying process?
Thus far this year over 300 different mass market car models sold in the US with hundreds of possible configurations for each one.
Where do you even begin? Compounding this analysis paralysis, many car models are deceptively similar in size, shape, build and functionality. Heck, some are even the exact same car with different exterior nameplates ( see Toyota FRS vs. Subaru BRZ )).
So let’s start there. What do you really want in your car? There may be a few non-negotiables: automatic vs. manual transmission, side airbags etc. but outside of those, some features will inevitably be more important to you than others. You should be pretty clear on which features these are before entering the negotiation. It might be helpful to build a spreadsheet of what you want and their relative importance to other features. Here’s a list of car features from Consumer Reports to get the ball rolling.
|Model XYZ||Very important|
Keep these on hand with you as you negotiate and refer back to them if you feel lost.
Don’t forget that this negotiation isn’t just about you, it’s about the seller too. They’ll have their own interests and priorities driving the negotiation alongside yours. Thus, figuring out these drivers should be a top priority. Here is a list of potential drivers:
Like your own interests and priorities, map out what you think is important to the seller. Use this map to anticipate what your seller might give on (and what you could give in return.) For example, if the seller prioritizes selling a specific color and you care less about color, you might be able to leverage color for one of your other priorities (like model, trim or add-ons.)
Because we’re making educated guesses, be prepared to throw away these assumptions as you learn new information during your negotiation.
|Buyer interests||Seller interests|
|Color||(not important unless in stock)|
|Trim||(same as above)|
Now that you have a good handle on your interests and your seller’s interests, you should feel comfortable exploring the market. In this case, the internet is your friend and will help keep you (and your seller) anchored in realistic negotiations around price.
A few things we recommend:
|Car Model/Make||Price||Color||Additional Features|
With prep out of the way, it’s time to build your first offer. Use your interests (Step 2) and your compiled research (Step 3) to guide your process and start high – you want the counteroffer to end up in your desired range. Don’t worry if your offer looks different from this template; after all, we might be looking for different things in our purchase. The bottom line is that you want to start on solid ground and having this written out will prepare you well for negotiating.
Going in there with your “I would be happy with this deal” number in mind is critical. If you can get the deal you want in a limited amount of time, it should be seen as a positive outcome.
Since we can’t be there with you in person, here are a few tactics to keep in mind. Don’t worry, you got this!
This was a grueling effort, but you did it! Get out there and celebrate your newfound negotiation skills. For more tips and strategies, visit our blog, or play one of our games.