/ 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.