Six negotiation tactics to use when buying a first- or second-hand car

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
6 January 2022
4 min read
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Shopping for a new or used car can be a time of excitement, but also a time of stress. 

The amount of choice on offer, combined with the myriad buying options, can make what is already a large purchase even more daunting. 

So, we’ve come up with a list of things you should consider that could help you make the right choice when splashing out on a set of wheels, whether they’re fresh from the factory or second hand. 

Auto Trader data shows that 17 per cent of nearly-new used cars are now more expensive than their brand-new equivalents. 

Reset your expectations 

We live in a time where car prices have skyrocketed. 

Thanks to a global chip shortage, compounded by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, vehicle manufacturers have been unable to get as many chips as they require for their vehicles. 

This has led to car makers placing the chips they can source into more profitable, and thus more expensive, models... leading to fewer cheaper new cars on the road. 

Used cars haven’t escaped a price increase either - because there are fewer new vehicles available, demand is higher than ever for used models. 

Data from Auto Trader shows the average price of a used car has risen by nearly 28 percent year on year. What’s more, Auto Trader has reported that 17 percent of nearly-new used cars are now more expensive than their brand-new equivalents. 

In other words, it’s currently a seller’s market. 

There are more car buyers than there are cars available, so don’t expect to find too many deals. 

With that said, it might be worth buying a new car – if you can find one -- instead of a used one, as buying used perhaps won’t save you as much cash as it would have done a couple of years ago. 

A new car will get you a longer warranty, the likelihood of better reliability, not to mention a cockpit with that new car smell. 

Time it right 

While you won’t be making major savings due to the brave new world we live in, there are some specific times of year that might allow you to make relatively decent savings on a used car. 

You might want to delay your used car purchase until just before new number plates are introduced in September and March, as lots of people tend to part exchange their old cars for new models at that time. 

That means dealers might find themselves with more used cars in stock. If these months don’t save you cash, they might at least give you a bit more in the way of choice. 

As for new cars, it can sometimes work in your favour to wait until August and February, just before the plate changes, as many people delay buying their new cars in order to get models with a new registration. 

Rocking up to a dealership and asking for a deal on a pre-plate change car could work in your favour. 

You might also want to consider using a broker to get the best price 

Ask for more 

Due to the car shortage, negotiating on the price probably won’t get you very far. 

A seller probably won’t have to wait long for someone else to come along and pay the full amount, but that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate on something. 

You may be able to wrangle extra breakdown cover, paint or wheel protection, accessories, a warranty extension, or more. Don’t be shy! 

Check your trade-in value 

With used car values rising so quickly, your existing car may be worth a lot more than you think it is. 

Hop onto Auto Trader to check the value. If it’s significant, it may save you a good amount on the car you want to buy next. 

Use a broker 

Everyone knows dealerships sell new cars, but you might also want to consider using a broker. 

These companies buy new cars in bulk, often at lower prices negotiated with the manufacturer, which allows them to sell cars for less. 

As brokers don’t require huge premises like a fancy dealership, they often have smaller overheads, which means they can pass further savings onto the customer. 

They may not have as broad a range of cars as a dealership, nor offer you the same level of guidance (you won’t be able to sit in or look at the car before you buy it) but if you know what you want, they’re a worthwhile option. 

3 things to do right now...

Compare brokers and dealership deals 

Check the value of your trade-in on Auto Trader 

Get a personal loan quote

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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.