Be prepared to haggle

Money one year ago

There are bargains to be had if you’re prepared to haggle when buying a car. Four out of five Brits are haggling and getting results, according to research by Hitachi Personal Finance – a statistic that has astonished TV personality and motoring expert Quentin Willson.

Haggling on cars. It might sound the last thing you’d expect any success from, but think again. “Twenty years ago people would have been mortified to have been seen haggling,” says Quentin, but all that’s changed with more people willing to negotiate to get the best deals.

Follow these simple steps and you’re sure to drive away with a bargain:

  • Cash at the ready – if you have the cash in the bank ready to buy, tell the salesman exactly that. He’ll take you much more seriously
  • Bold bargaining – never pay the asking price. Try for a 20 per cent discount
  • Discount deals – understand that car makers are struggling in Europe so need to sell cars here – sometimes at a loss. There are big discounts all over the UK
  • Freebies – look for free insurance and free servicing deals – they can save you loads
  • Clear exchanges – don’t get confused by part exchange prices – the only figure that matters is the price to change from old to new. Dealers can bamboozle you with figures on your old car

Time your purchase

Dealers have been told to sell new cars, which means salesmen have targets to reach either monthly or quarterly – so do some research and time your purchase to get the best deal. Remember: if buying used from a dealer you get all the customer protection available. Your rights are very limited when buying privately.

With car makers struggling in Europe there’s never been a better time to haggle as dealers and manufacturers are under pressure more than ever to sell – sometimes at a loss. The internet has also dented dealers’ authority.

“We all complain about not having enough money,” says Quentin. “Buying a car in the right way is a fantastic opportunity to make the money you’ve got work harder.

Always plan ahead

Options like built-in satnavs and cruise control aren’t worth much come part exchange time – metallic paint, alloy wheels and air conditioning are the only extras worth paying for. Don’t order special colours like green or yellow. White, red, blue or black are favourites and will always guarantee a good resale.

How to negotiate a good price

If you’re buying privately and lack confidence, remember that the seller isn’t confident either. “We deal with these situations every day of our lives,” says Quentin, “and buying a car’s no different. Don’t get too emotionally involved – just put yourself forward and do it. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to negotiate a good deal.

“Once you know how much you can spend, you can relax. Negotiations should be gentle, friendly, sitting down, ideally involving tea. Talk about your children. Be firm, but enjoy it – then it’s easier for everyone. If the seller won’t come down to your budget, thank them and politely start to leave. Nine times out of 10 they’ll panic and say, ‘wait, I’m sure we can arrange something.’”

Be insistent

For used cars, insist on seeing the car’s service history and make sure there’s a beat parade of rubber stamps. A service history can add 10 per cent to a used car’s resale. Insist on at least a year’s warranty because three months is no good – and make sure you get a 12 months’ MOT so that you know you’re buying a car that’s been independently checked.

Quentin’s best bargain

“A solicitor was selling a Rolls-Royce Corniche worth £50,000 on behalf of an estate,” recalls Quentin. “I sensed he had to get rid of it on the day and was right – he accepted my offer of £25,000. Opportunities like that come around very occasionally and are fantastic, but don’t count on it. Sort your finance, stick to your budget and you’ll definitely get results.”

Hitachi Hints and Tips is intended to be informative and interesting. It does not constitute financial advice, and you should always do further research when making any financial decisions. All information was correct at date of publication.

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