/ Money, Motoring

How haggling can save you £3,000 on a new car

Sue sitting on a car

‘I’m here to buy a car, not wash your windows.’ Haggling over the price of a new car can result in you saying some of the strangest things, as I learnt when I helped a Which? member buy an Audi recently.

Let’s face it; buying a car isn’t always a fun process. And haggling with a car salesperson is the most stressful phase of it – and 45% of you agree according to our poll.

So when I agreed to write an article about helping Sue (pictured) buy a car, bartering with a salesperson was inevitable. But it was also quite interesting, so I wanted to share a few pointers from my experience of negotiating with a car salesman.

Haggling: tactics the salesman used

Know the price the car is listed at: After giving details of the exact engine, transmission and spec of the car we wanted to buy, the salesman initially offered us the list price (the full retail price quoted for that model). Laugh off the suggestion of paying full price for a new car – you’re there to do a deal.

Don’t be fazed by time on your own: In an hour-long negotiation process, Sue and I spent almost half the time unattended. Our salesman twice left us to ‘speak to a manager’ and another time to inspect the car we wanted to trade in. This is a tactic to make you sweat, but keep calm and composed.

Don’t fall foul of showroom speak: When the manager of the dealership took control of negotiations he said: ‘You always pay more from a dealer, as we offer a personalised service and we have a showroom to upkeep’. Remember, you want a car for the best price; you’re not there to cover the cost of polishing their floors or cleaning their windows.

Don’t pay for anything you don’t want and didn’t ask for: Each time a new price was quoted to us it included a £500 GAP Insurance and Paint Protection pack, which wasn’t requested or described to us in any detail. You do not have to pay for additions like these, so make sure you question everything they include in the price.

Haggling: tactics I used

Be armed with broker prices: I scoured a number of online brokers for the best price on the exact car we wanted, printed out the deal and took it with me. Say: ‘If you can’t match their price, I’ll just buy through them.’ The dealer bettered the broker price, by £1.

Get a trade-in value for your car: We took the car to the dealer Sue bought it from and asked what they’d offer as a trade in. We wanted the Audi dealer to match this, which they almost did.

If you’re a Which? member you can read the full article on how haggling helped Sue save £2,925 on her new Audi A3 in the February 2014 issue of Which? magazine.

So, how much have you saved on a new car by haggling? Have you got any tips to share with the Which? Convo community?


As a recent poll showed, most people find haggling the worst part of buying a car. I am happy to shop around but I hate haggling, which is one of the reasons I don’t change my car very often.

Perhaps we should be looking at ways of achieving a good deal without the haggling. I don’t like the way that Which? is promoting haggling and wonder if we will be encouraged to negotiate over the price of a loaf of bread next.

I agree with you wavechange. I shop around too. If my insurance company are stupid enough to quote a daft renewal figure I go to a comparison site and buy elsewhere. I’m not wasting my energy and time with such companies.
I also buy from a car supermarket where I know the price is better than elsewhere (or I don’t bother going), and the service too, from previous experience. I check the trade price for my current car and make sure I get that, and I don’t have to waste time haggling.
Why should we play games with companies if we don’t want too? We should get them to be straight with us the first time.

I’m not in favour of the promotion of haggling either – it’s not consistent with campaigning for a fair and transparent market place. I also deplore the puerile behaviour of the motor trade ranging from the juvenile to the barrow-boy in character. People end up going around saying “I got a very good deal” instead of “I bought a very good car”.

Information is the key to consumer power. There are sites that list the actual selling prices of houses. Is there such a source of data on car sales? Probably not since there is no central organisation [like the Land Registry for house sales] gathering all the details so it would have to rely on customers entering the prices they have paid and, because there are so many specification variables and customisation options, true comparisons would be difficult. So the consumer has little power and the dealers exploit that.

The curious aspect of the car trade is how few big companies are involved – there is no independent power to stand up against the manufacturers. It seems to me that most dealerships are franchises with only a small local presence and the franchises are in the grip of the manufacturers. To prevent true competition, the territory of each franchise is strictly controlled and exclusive. With most dealerships also running a thriving part-ex and second-hand trade there isn’t much room for independent used-car dealers these days except for older vehicles. I suppose the competition authorities are happy with this on the basis that there is plenty of choice [unless you want a particular make, of course].

One of the reasons I don’t like haggling is that it disadvantages those who are not up to haggling, including the elderly. To allow for haggling, prices are inflated, so that those who do not haggle pay more.

Haggling has been mentioned in several recent Conversations. I would be grateful if Which? would drop this and go back to fighting for ALL consumers.

I second that. When you go to buy a car there are so many things in your head that scrapping with the salesman [I’ve never heard of a woman being appointed to these positions, more’s the pity] over the price of this and the cost of that, and the “we can give you a free boot mat if you upgrade the upholstery” nonsense, is probably beyond the abilities and certainly the inclination of most people, not just the elderly. These geezers are trained to “negotiate” [do a deal] and “speak to the manager” [pile on the pressure]. Do you think we should start the Crooked Dipstick award scheme to find the worst car salesman?

Haggling seems to me to be a very individualistic activity which seeks benefit for oneself at the expense of society as a whole. As Wavechange points out, it can only result in inflated prices for everyone, and in fact, if haggling becomes the norm all prices will become completely meaningless. And worse still, it disadvantages the most vulnerable members of society, something about which we should surely all be concerned.
I agree with Wavechange and John Ward that Which should not be promoting haggling, but should rather be campaigning for fair and transparent pricing, and for responsible consumerism generally.
It’s no wonder car salesmen and insurance companies (to give just two examples) spend so much time and effort trying to get us to spend more – it’s just their way of haggling, and if we want to haggle we can only expect them to do the same.

If I am not mistaken, there is actually a central database like the Land Registry which is the modern equivalent of the glasses guide, not sure who collects the data but it comes from various feeds from Auction Houses, Dealers, Classified ads maybe and is presented to subscribers (i.e. dealers, car buying companies etc) … So why cannot this data be made available to the general public? Simple they don’t want you to have it.

Despite being a retail purchaser I always go in and talk to fleet sales – the discounts are more akin to the online brokers … Broadspeed.com is a subsidiary of Inchscape so get price online then contact an inchscape dealer directly to get rid of the the online broker charge.

NukeThemAll says:
13 February 2014

Actually, some readers might find the repeated references to ‘the elderly’ as folk who are unable to fully enter into the car-buying process as somewhat patronising if not downright ageist (which is now illegal, don’t forget). If someone is that far gone that they can’t understand what the situation is in a car showroom or garage, I’m not sure they should really be driving.

And before the trolling starts, a friend of mine used to be a car salesman (so I know a lot about the tactics). His view is that ‘the elderly’ are actually the hardest bargainers, and invariably the best-informed (perhaps they have the time and patience to do their research properly). He has very clear views on who his easiest (read ‘most profitable’) customers are likely to be, but that’s another story.

And my friend says he’s never ‘taken advantage’ of someone and done the dirty. Well, he would say that wouldn’t he, having been a car shark (sorry, salesman!). Ed, if you’re reading this, only joking mate, don’t send the boys round.

NukeThemAll – The Which? poll showed that most people find that haggling is the worst part of buying a new car. I don’t doubt that because many people have said this and it reflects my own experience and that of close family.

There is no doubt that some elderly people are happy to haggle but I don’t think there is any doubt that, on average, confidence declines in the elderly. That’s a fact and is not ageist.

I’m sorry to have to tell you that haggling is as old a mankind and you are not about to change this because you don’t fancy it. Sorry.

By the river says:
27 January 2014

I wonted a bigger car I have a Nissan Juke so I took a x-trail t31 for a test drive, liked the car I used to own one many years ago a T30. Long story short we went into the show room and dealer went into his talk, your cars worth this and the x-trails this price. My hubby was in heaven looking at the cars and I could see the salesman thought this was going to be easy. I sat there quietly as he continued talking after he finished I said our car and £2k I kept still and said no more. He panicked turned to my hubby and said I see why you brought her, he then said no he couldn’t deal and continued talking. I waited till he finished said you have some play on these figures and once more my car and £2k deal or no deal, starring at me like a rabbit in head lights as I slowly started to rise then said deal! That’s me saving £1500. Thank you then I allowed myself to smile as I signed the paper work. So keep your nerve decide what you can afford and if nothing else you may of lost a hour out of your day or saved yourself some money on the deal you won’t . Good luck and play the game you may save some pounds.

James 6th & 1st says:
31 January 2014

If you are buying a new car, get a price from Drive the Deal online and ask your supplier to match it, or at least get close. You can usually get a value for a used car if you know the reg no and spec through various web sites, but you may have to pay a small fee. I have seen letters in the “ask HJ” section of the Honest John website requesting an opinion on various trade -in deals, though I guess he might get fed up with too many questions like that. You will also find information on buying your own Gap insurance through the Honest John web site, and it can save a lot if you avoid the deal the garage will offer you.

NukeThemAll says:
12 February 2014

Yes, it’s true that ‘haggling can disadvantage others’ but the daily to-and-fro of commercial transactions in a capitalist/consumer society is never a purely-altruistic activity – in other words we’re in competition with each other in some way all day and every day. That’s life. It was like that even in communist USSR……But back to car buying: I’ve posted before elsewhere that my recent experience was actually a revelation, with sales-men and -women (the latter do exist!) being professional and polite, making the process enjoyable. But then, I go armed with a Which? car valuation for my trade-in, and quotes for new cars from internet brokers, and work from there, having done a **lot** of on-line and brochure research. I make it clear that I’m willing to pay a bit more (but I never, ever tell them up front how much) for a local deal to build up ‘the relationship’ (a real laugh because of the turnover in the car sales industry, you’ll very rarely see the same staff a year or two on). I’m always excessively calm, cheerful and polite: at one dealership I was offered a derisory trade-in and full list price as ‘the deal’. Time to get angry? Stamp my foot and leave in a huff? Absolutely not. I smiled, said “thank you for the test drive and your time, it’s been great” and started to leave. I got as far as the door when the sales person rushes up and, well, the fun starts. The final deal offered after another 30 minutes was better than my wildest expectations. Usual advice: visit/deal at end of the month (sales targets) and perhaps end of the year, or a traditionally quiet period. It’s not rocket science, like rail and air fares, car pricing is essentially a dynamic market-driven item within certain constraints.

Chris Hargreaves says:
27 February 2014

I chuckled when I read this article. I always do my homework prior to buying cars. I am awaiting delivery of my new car next month and managed to get £10,000 off list for a factory order.

It’s a figure I always aim for and over the past two years have managed this on every vehicle I have bought. There are lots of saving to be made but the higher value the car, the bigger the savings.

Some dealers offer finance deals with big contributions. The sales person will tell you to take it out, get the saving then cancel the finance within a month and get your own HP in place.

But to get to these discounts some dealers make you work dam hard for it. Back in 2009 I sat in a garage for four hours before I lost the will to live. I’d been offered 3.5% off list of a factory order. As I got up to leave I was told he would again for the 1000th time need to speak to a manager. I told them to forget it and slowly walked to my car. Minutes later he ran out and said “can we do a deal today at 19.5% discount?”

I do not haggle, I just ask if the garage can match the best price I have found, which I have in writing. I have recently taken delivery of a £17K car for £12.5K, with no charge for the colour, makers mats, emergency kit (fire extinguisher, first aid, torch, triangle, hi-vis vests and valeting kit all thrown in for free. Paid £50 for spare wheel/tools. The car was delivered to my house and the old car taken away. It is worth shopping around outside your local area. I have never had so many extras free, and never from a main dealer.

I am buying a quality new car, built to order, and got 25% off the list price. It made the other option of buying a 9 month old ex staff car far less attractive.
It makes list prices a nonsense of course. No one gives away 25% of a profit. Happens with all products. How do you knock £100 off a Dyson vacuum cleaner, why are sofas half price, and how come you can get your double glazing “buy one get one free”? Because none of these products are worth the original price.
We simply have to understand this, and then “haggling”, or negotiation, becomes less embarrassing to we reticent Britons. In some other countries it is a normal way of life.

Tom says:
21 June 2016

I spent 10 months of my life selling cars for a major discount company and I can tell now that all my previous embarrassment about haggling disappeared during that time.

You wont believe the tricks they get up to. Here’s a tip… When you’ve finished and agreed on a price, just walk away and say you’ll think about it. Someone will either stop you at the door as you’re walking out and say “lets see if i can better that deal” (and he will) or just sit in your car outside the showroom for a while. The chances are a sales person will be still watching you.

Even when they say they are right down to the metal, I guarantee there’s still money to be saved.

The only trouble with this is you’ve got to be prepared to spends hours and hours haggling but it is worth it when you’ve saved yourself £1000’s!