Dealer Negotiations Trade-In Negotiations

Negotiating with a Car Dealer? Here’s How to Win

What is negotiable when it comes to buying a new or used vehicle? When you’re negotiating with a car dealer, there are many details that extend far beyond the purchase price. What if the asking price of the car is non-negotiable? There are still many areas and ways to spend less money—and some of them may begin before you even start shopping for your next car.

Settlement Amount (if your previous vehicle has been declared a total loss)

In the event of a total loss, insurance companies will likely undervalue your car, as this is how they make money. In some cases, it pays to get a second or third opinion. It could increase the amount your insurance company pays you by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Longer Rental Car Term (if your previous vehicle has been declared a total loss)

If your previous vehicle is a total loss and your insurance company is partially or fully covering the cost of a rental car, you may be able to extend your rental car coverage by simply requesting more time. This gives you more time to make informed buying decisions and begin negotiating effectively for your next vehicle.

Trade-in Value

If you are trading in a vehicle, dealerships will generally give the lowest possible value on a trade that they feel they can get away with. But if you have strong negotiation skills, you can obtain substantially more money for your trade.

Cosmetic Repairs to a Pre-Owned Vehicle

If you’re purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, you may have some negotiating room over certain cosmetic repairs. Perhaps you’re considering a car that is missing hubcaps on all four wheels. The dealer has possibly overlooked this because it’s a popular look now. But you want hubcaps, and the replacement cost is nearly $400, even for inexpensive ones. What a score to get those written in as part of the deal, at no cost to yourself!


Accessories are another area where you may have room to negotiate. This is true for new and pre-owned vehicles. For example, you may be considering a pre-owned vehicle. You can see that the car’s existing floor mats are worn and dirty. Negotiating successfully for new or all-weather floor mats can net you over $200 in value. If you’re looking at a new vehicle, you may garner similar savings by negotiating for upgraded floor mats.

Extended Warranties for New or Used Vehicles

Did you know that you can negotiate up to 30% off a dealer’s asking price for an extended warranty? This holds true whether the car you’re considering is new or pre-owned. It can be an extra measure of comfort if you’re risk-averse, or if your friends or family have advised you family not to purchase a warranty. You’ll have an extra level of security without feeling like you’ve overspent.

Dealer Service Plans

An in-house service plan is a perfect example of an extra revenue stream for a dealership, because it can be quite difficult to compare dealer service plans. Therefore, it’s in your interest to negotiate this if you’re interested in such a plan.

At Car Pal, we work with an aftermarket company that assists us in comparing prices and terms for interested customers. We help our customers agree upon acceptable costs for dealer service plans, and—most importantly—retain coverage for any unexpected repairs.

Interest Rate or Term

If you’re financing your vehicle, it’s important to know that a car dealer can and will mark up your interest rate as much as two points. Negotiating the rate may save you thousands—for example, as much as $1400 over the life of a $25,000 loan.

Transportation (if vehicle shipping is required)

If the vehicle you want is only available from a distant dealership, your local dealership may arrange to have it shipped in. This is another area where you may save costs by negotiating skillfully. Your local dealer may be willing to absorb the cost to help move a particular vehicle.

Car Pal works with several transportation companies, and depending on the region or particular route, we can shop shipping costs for the best pricing.

Title Work

If you choose to let the dealership handle all your title work, you will save valuable time in avoiding a trip to the DMV, which may help you save money. Having the dealership handle the paperwork associated with buying a car can make sense, especially when you’re buying the car in-state.

At other times—for example, if you’re purchasing a vehicle with cash—it may make more sense for you to go to the DMV on your own. If you decide during your negotiation process that you will handle your own title work, you’ll be saving time for the dealer. You can use this decision to your advantage to lower your final price.

Signing Paperwork Remotely

Signing your paperwork remotely may also save you valuable time, and possibly money (for example, if you must take time away from your work). If the dealership is within a reasonable distance, they may be willing to deliver the vehicle and the paperwork directly to you, the buyer. It may not sound like much, but if the dealership is 100 miles away and they’re willing to bring your paperwork and your vehicle to your location, you will save at least five hours of time.

Using a Credit Card Toward Your Vehicle Purchase

It’s a well-kept secret that if a dealership allows you to charge part of your vehicle purchase on your credit card, they must pay a certain percentage back to the credit card company. This is why most dealerships have a limit—usually between $2000 and $3000—on how much buyers can charge to a credit card. In some instances, a dealer will break this limit to help get a deal approved with a bank. If your credit card provides benefits such as cash back or points, it’s a nice win for you!

Length of Hold on a Check You Write

In some cases, a dealership will hold a check issued from your bank account and/or a loan you’ve taken outside of the dealership’s banking institutions. They may tell you that you can pay with a personal check or an external bank check—but then may hold the check before depositing it. It’s important to discuss this hold time during your negotiations, and ask the dealer to confirm your agreement in writing. An unexpected, lengthy hold on your check could result in extra costs to you in the form of extra rental car days or other transportation costs before you take possession of your new vehicle.

In one case, a dealer told a Car Pal client that payment via wire or bank check would be fine. The client’s federal bank overnighted a bank check to the dealership, but the dealership still imposed a 14-day hold on the check. The client had to rent a car for two weeks longer than anticipated. However, because Car Pal had confirmed in writing that either form of payment would be fine, we had grounds on which to ask the dealership to refund the client’s extra two weeks of car rental.

Car Pal’s Advice for Vehicle Negotiations

You may feel that you’re a good negotiator, and you probably are. But dealerships have been honing this skill on a regular basis for far longer than you have. The dealership generally wins IF you aren’t knowledgeable and prepared with skills of your own.

It’s a best practice to tread gently but firmly for the win. If you take an aggressive (or overly greedy) approach as you embark on your negotiations, it will generally backfire. While it may be counterintuitive to use a gentle and friendly approach, dealership representatives may sense that an aggressive buyer will not be happy with any reasonable discount (even if the dealership agrees to spend its own money on accessories, or to transport a vehicle to your location, for example). Dealers also know that a reluctant, disgruntled buyer is one who might write a negative review or survey response. For dealerships, bad reviews are worse than simply parting ways without making any deal. Don’t assume that a dealership wants business at any cost—they don’t. Be pleasant, but don’t be a doormat; be firm, but don’t be a perpetually tough customer.

If you choose not to negotiate on your own, there’s no need to stress. Just call your pal—Car Pal—and we’ll handle everything for you!

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