You've seen a car, test-driven it and now it's time to talk money. Don't start mumbling and shuffling your feet, because the aces are all in your hands.
Don't pay the list price for a new car. With the exception of a few prestige models and fashionable sports cars, the list price is a starting point for negotiations.
The thought of haggling brings some car buyers out in a cold sweat, but don't be intimidated. Dealers expect you to ask for a discount, and most will be ready to give a reasonable saving long before you resort to the thumbscrews. Remember, the salesman wants your business at least as much as you want that shiny new car. It's your money, so you're in charge.
1. Do your homework
Even if you have decided that a franchised dealer will get your cash, make sure you check out the prices available from other sources. Take the best quotes you can find with you. If the dealer knows you can buy the same car for £2,000 less online, he or she will be more likely to cut you a deal. Import prices can be useful, but most salesmen will be ready with a long list of pitfalls, some real, some not so real, which they'll say outweigh the saving. Use the best UK-sourced price, however, and their script won't wash. Challenge the salesman to get as close to that price as possible.
Sales staff cut deals for their living, and have a number of tactics to sell you a car at a price that best suits them. Know the games that are likely to be played before you even set foot in the showroom, and you'll be a step ahead. Ever heard the 'I can give you a special price but only if you buy today' line? Don't believe it. The deal that's on the table tomorrow will probably be just as good, or better. Remember, too, that you are legally committed to buy once you've signed the order form. Be wary of sales staff who tell you they need to ask their manager before giving you a discount. It might look as if they're working terribly hard on your behalf, but this can just be a ruse to stall your haggling. Ask politely to speak to a decision-maker. Dealers may be keen to shift their stock - don't accept a car that isn't the colour and specification you want. On the other hand, if the stock car suits your needs, use the situation to your advantage and press for a further saving.
3. Watch the cost to change
Some dealers give what appears to be a big discount only to undervalue the trade-in. Don't be duped. Equally, if a dealer thinks you're more interested in a good price for your old car rather than a discount on the new one, they might overvalue the part-ex and use this to resist haggling. Either way, it's the cost to change - the difference between the price of the new car and the value of your trade-in - which is what you'll have to pay. Focus on keeping this to a minimum rather than just chipping away at the asking price.
4. Don't forget depreciation
A huge saving on the list price looks great, but you should approach hugely discounted cars with care. Depreciation is the main reason. This is the loss in value all models suffer as they get older. Big discounts are often a sign that cars plummet in value as soon as they leave the forecourt. Huge discounts can also be a sign of a model about to be replaced.
5. Don't give up a discount for a special offer
Finance or insurance deals will always tempt buyers into the showroom. Some dealers then use such deals to resist giving a discount, saying that the special deal has eaten into their margin for negotiation. Sounds reasonable - but in most cases these special offers are paid for by the manufacturer, not the dealer. If in doubt, check with a UK broker or an Internet retailer. Should they be offering a big discount as well as a deal on finance or insurance, then don't be fobbed off with excuses about having no profit left to discount. Combining a healthy saving over the list price with a 0% finance package, for example, is one of the surest ways to a top deal.
6. Take time to shop around
It may be that in spite of your research and best efforts, the salesman doesn't deliver the saving you want. Don't panic. There are plenty of other places to buy. If meeting the Target Price has been your aim, What Car? can put you in touch with a more flexible dealer. Or you could do the same yourself by contacting another dealer in your area. Play one dealer off against the other. Or if you don't have the time to do that, there are plenty of brokers and Internet retailers ready and waiting to beat the list price for you.