How to Negotiate When Buying a Car Private Party

by Debbie
(Dublin, GA)

Question: I have read here how to negotiate the best price when selling a private party car, but how can I negotiate the best price when buying a car from a private party? THANKS!! Debbie D.

Answer: To learn how to negotiate when buying a car private party, you must know three words...Cash is King!!!

A big help here is going to be to know whether or not the car is owned free and clear or if there is a lien on it. If the seller has a $12,000 lien and you show up with $10,000 cash it's more than likely not going to happen.

On the flip side, show up with $10,000 in actual green cash (see safety note below) and someone with a free and clear car they're trying to sell for $12,000 may just jump on that offer at the thought of a quick and easy deal.

Safety Note and Disclaimer: Flashing that much cash could be dangerous under certain circumstances, be very careful and use sound judgment.

It may be best to make a cash offer without actually presenting any cash. Once it's time to finalize the deal use a money order or cashiers check (both are similar to cash). Ultimately the choice is yours and yours alone. I cannot be held responsible for what you choose or do not choose to do.

Even though Cash is King, not everyone has the type of cash lying around to make this kind of offer. If this is the case, then I'd suggest you get Pre-Approved for a private party auto loan.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. How rare is the car?

    If it is very rare, then don't expect a lot of wiggle room to negotiate unless the seller is very desperate.

    On the other hand, with a very common car you can simply point out to the seller that there are currently hundreds of them for sale and you just can't justify paying their full asking price.

  2. Was the sellers ad OBO (or best offer) or
    a "firm" sales price?

    If OBO, then you know this seller is going to be more motivated than someone listing a "firm" sales price.

  3. He/She who speaks first will typically lose. (Alternate approach to the cash one above)

    Start by asking something simple..."I like the car, but money is a little tight right now, what's the absolute lowest cash price you'd accept right now?" The words "cash" and "right now" are key to that sentence.

  4. Devalue the car, but be polite.

    As mentioned above (#1) you can use the common car objection to full price, then begin to point out the small dent on the fender and ask them how that happened, ask them about the scratches, the smoke smell, the high miles on a near new car, the low tread on the tires, etc.

    Trust me, if you look at a used car long enough you can usually find a healthy dose of flaws. Car salesman do this all the time with customers trade ins. It's called the "silent walk around."

  5. Reference guides like KBB and NADA.

    Even though neither buy or sell vehicles you can use the information to help a seller lessen their thinking with regards to how much they are asking.

  6. Don't show too much excitement when looking at or test driving the car.

    If you were to walk into a dealership and essentially start doing cart wheels after the test drive, then a salesman is going to fight tooth and nail to keep every penny. If you show little emotion, then they're going to think that in order to make this deal they are going to have to "buy" your enthusiasm with a discount or some sort.

I'll finish this how I began and say that learning how to negotiate when buying a car private party is a simple as knowing that Cash is King!

If you want to make the most aggressive offer, then you need to show the buyer the cash to prove you are serious and ready to make a deal now!

Hope this helps,

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