8 steps to negotiating a private car purchase

Negotiating a private car purchase can be a little riskier than buying a used car from a dealer. But, if you negotiate smartly, you may be able to get a better deal with a lot less hassle. Here are some tips for negotiating a private car purchase:

Step 1: Ask the seller a lot of questions
If you’re responding to an ad, call first to ask about details: the mileage, its condition, what standard and added features it has. You need those details for the next step.

Step 2: Do your research
Before you try negotiating a private car purchase, you need to know what the typical price is for similar vehicles. Many good Internet sites provide calculators to help you do that. Armed with knowledge about the car, its mileage and its features, you can get a good idea of what you should expect to pay.

Step 3: Test drive the car
If you like the car, part of negotiating a private car purchase is asking to have it inspected by your own mechanic. Most car sellers know you want assurances the car isn’t going to fall apart a week after you seal the deal. Ask, too, whether the car is still under warranty, and if you can take a copy of the warranty with you to the mechanic.

Step 4: Ask some more questions
At this stage, you’re starting to negotiate the car purchase. See if you can get a sense how much the seller will come down. Has it been on the market a long time? Is the seller trying to sell quickly so he has cash for a down payment on another car?

Step 5:  Make an offer
You might want to offer slightly less than what your research has indicated the car is worth, but don’t insult the seller. If the car needs mechanical work, take that into consideration. Stay calm and friendly – make the person want to sell the car to you because you’re going to take care of it.

Step 6: Be prepared to make a counteroffer
Buyers and sellers rarely agree on a price in the first round. Perhaps the seller is willing to throw in new tires to seal the deal, or pay for some needed repairs.

Step 7: Double check the paperwork
Make sure the seller has all the proper paperwork in hand before you hand over the money.

Step 8: Drive away
Enjoy the feeling of knowing you’ve just gotten a great deal on a great car.


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