How to Negotiate with a Car Salesman


If the thought of negotiating makes your skin crawl, you’re not alone. While some thrive on the thrill of seeing what they can get, others would rather just pay the asking price and call it a day. No matter where you fall on this spectrum, it’s best to give it some thought before going into a car dealership. Knowing how to “wheel and deal” is not only necessary in this realm—it’s expected. In fact, there’s an art or even a dance to the whole process, and as long as you understand that you will do well. Need some guidance? Read on for tips on how to negotiate with a car salesman.

Come With Competing Prices

You likely already know what car you want, so have an idea of prices that you can get at other dealerships. As with any negotiation, this gives you some leverage. You can call other dealerships or simply use an online comparison tool. Keep in mind you’re not talking about your trade-in value or monthly payments at this point. You simply want to tell them the price of the car with taxes and fees that other dealerships have quoted you.

Know Your Price

If you walk into the dealership without even a ballpark figure of what you want to pay, things will not go well for you. Also, be sure that you’re not simply thinking of monthly car payments when you come up with this figure, as some car dealerships will use this against you. They’ll extend contracts so that you’re ultimately paying more. Not only that, but you must also consider that a car will cost you more than what you pay up front. As this US News article points out, “Remember that your monthly payment is only one component of car ownership. There are fuel, insurance, parking, and maintenance costs to consider.”

Remain Cordial

This should be a given in negotiations if not in life in general. We understand that things might be a bit emotional or even heated at points if you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, but resist the urge to yell or be rude. They obviously have more wiggle room than they’re letting on, and your attitude could be half the battle.

Be Ready to Walk Out (No, Really)

There are other fish in the sea, as the saying goes, and no one knows this more than the car sales staff. They might act overconfident but the truth is they know that you have the right to walk out at any point, and that’s the last thing they want to have happened. However, you can’t just threaten it if you’re waffling on the offer. The best thing for you to do is to actually do it. In the end, if you don’t find another offer that’s a huge improvement, you can always go back and leverage your first visit during negotiations.

Avoid the Dealerships on Weekends

This one is kind of a no-brainer, as you really don’t want much competition for the sales staff’s attention. Research when the downtimes are at your local dealership. If you’re interested in a specific dealership, like one selling used Audi in Maryland, find out when this business is the slowest so you’re not (sometimes literally!) rubbing elbows with fellow shoppers. Not only will you get a more personalized experience, but your negotiation is also likely to go more smoothly. You can also strategize to make your visit to the dealership at the end of the month. As this Forbes article notes, “Again, salespeople and managers are often under pressure to find one more deal before the month ends. A deal that didn’t make sense on the 25th might make sense on the 31st if the month hasn’t met expectations.”

Or Just Don’t!

If the entire process makes you want to vomit from stress, perhaps negotiation just isn’t for you. In this case, you can consult an auto broker from your lender or an auto club to go out and negotiate on your behalf. Of course, they charge a fee but the peace of mind this could give you might be well worth it.

Negotiating with a car salesman is probably not high on your list of favorite things to do but follow these tips and you could be on the road to getting the car of your dreams at a price you can afford.