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Negotiation Tactics

By texasrolla, January 26, 2007

If you are a seller of your vehicle and you want to be leave very little room for negotiation on the price, how would you response when a potential buyer call and ask "what is the lowest you will go"?

I've been saying "I'm firm on the price." However, that drives them all away. The truth is I might be willing to go a little lower, maybe 5%, but I don't want 'em coming over and low balling me and wasting my valuable time.

you could reprice your car. My suggestion is start with the lowest you could possibly afford/want to go, then add 13%. That is what dealers usually do in Australia for new cars (or so I have heard)

Buyers will always want the best deal possible. If someone asked me "what is the lowest you will go"? - I'd ask back"what is it you are willing to pay"? No fooling around - I don't wnat anyone wasting my time on the issue.

If you have a set price in mind - then advertise the car at that price. Don't screw yourself by low balling the price - sell the car for what you want to get. Granted - it will make the car much less popular to some buyers - but you WILL find someone that is willing to pay the price you want. Just depends on how long you are willing to hang onto the car - how badly do you want to sell it.

If someone is really interested in buying the car - then they could come look at it personally and work out the final price face to face. The over the phone business is OK to a point - but unless they are willing to come up to your price, they are just wasting your time.


I usually ask for more then I would normally expect to get, and then negotiate down to a happy amount for both buyer and seller.

It lets the buyer feel like they are getting a deal.

I sold my project car today and got more than I expected, because the buyer didn't really try to get it for less.

Some people will not haggle and they will pay the asking price.

Congrats on your sale.

I agree on being firm on my asking price over the phone and not wasting my time if the buyer would not meet that over the phone. I also agree letting the buyer feel like he/she is getting a deal is important too. Both parties should feel happy at the end of a deal. I also also agree haggling too much over the phone is probably a waste of time, especially since the buyer hasn't even seen the car yet.

I would advertise it over what you expect... Also round numbers... If you want 5,000 for it Advertise it for $5,500.

Also... I strongly suggest you meet people at a neutral location... A parking lot near by... Don't bring them to your front door….

I had a LOT of weirdos inquire when I sold my truck… People calling over and over at 12:00 at night and stuff

Probably the best negotiation tool is to be sure you have your car priced correctly. I would go to one of the auto trade web sites, such as or (Kelly Blue Book) and go through the process of pricing out your car for private sale. Be honest in your evaluation of the car's condition, and be sure to include optional equipment in the pricing checklist. The number you get will be the price you should advertise. I would allow for around a five percent negotiation factor, but don't add that 5% to your asking price, because the potential buyer can determine that the same way you did. The price you should be willing to accept will fall between the "private sale" asking price and the average retail price of the car.

Also -- don't try to use silly price "kickers" like claiming that a high-mileage vehicle has only "highway" mileage. None of the auto pricing guides make any distinctions as to how the mileage was accumulated on the car. The only thing that matters is the number that is displayed on the odometer. For example, my Corolla is now over 4 years old, but has less than 45,000 miles on it -- that 's mostly short trip, stop-and-go city driving. However, my car is in great condition, and I am not going to accept one penny less than it's true private sale value were I to sell it that way. And if it had 30,000 more miles racked up at highway cruising speeds, I wouldn't be able to ask for, or get, any more than the pricing guide would allow for an '03 Corolla LE in "Good" conditon with 75,000 miles on it.

The best way to maximize the amount you get for your car is to make sure it is immaculately clean, everything on it is working properly, and all maintenance items are up to date. Make sure the tires match all the way around, and have good tread. Depending on the age of the car, minor scrapes and small dings are to be expected, very few used cars can truly rise above the "Average" condition level as described on the auto trading web sites. So, don't let a small scratch or a dent somewhere deter you from asking for what the car is truly worth. On the other hand, don't claim the car is in "Excellent" condition unless it truly does look like it is showroom new.

The reasonable answer to "how low can you go" should always be "how bad do you want to sell the car?" If you have no motivation to sell for more than 5% less than the average private sale price as determined above, don't go any lower than that. But don't say that over the phone. Have the buyer actually examine and test drive the car, then ask him if he is ready to buy it today. If he says "Yes, but I need you to come off your asking price," counter that with "Do you have cash?" If he does, then you can start to come down in small steps until you reach that 5% off level. Whether you go below that, and by how much, will then be determined by how badly you want to sell.

BTW -- I've only privately sold two cars in my life, both times while stationed overseas and selling to fellow servicemen. In both cases I get my full asking price by being realistic, making sure the car was worth the price, and by not appearing anxious to "unload" the car. If you have something someone wants, and your price is fair, you'll get it.

Last but never least -- always insist on cash. NEVER give "credit" or "payment plans" or any other sort of financing deal. If the buyer needs a loan to buy the car, let him get it from his/her bank. You are NOT a bank. Do not give the buyer the keys and signed title/registration papers until you have 100% of the agreed price in hand -- either in cash or a cashier's check. And, in the case of the cashier's check, don't do the final deal at home. Take him, the car, and the check to YOUR bank and present the check for deposit into your account. Once it is accepted, THEN you turn over the keys and papers, preferably in the presence of a bank officer. An honest buyer should be more than happy to do this. If not, get a buyer who is.

Take him, the car, and the check to YOUR bank and present the check for deposit into your account. Once it is accepted, THEN you turn over the keys and papers, preferably in the presence of a bank officer. An honest buyer should be more than happy to do this. If not, get a buyer who is.

Nice post Larry..quality material for a FAQ or sticky.

I would say its even safer for you to goto HIS bank and cash the check.

Also, never accept a cashier's check over $1000 made out to the buyer and endorsed by him ( a self endorsed check) . You will not be able to cash it or even deposit it.

In 2001 I sold a civic for $4000. The buyer arrived with what appeared to be a legitimate cashier's check made out to himself. I asked him why he did this and he said he didn't have my exact name when he had the check made at his bank, so someone at his bank suggested that he make the check out to himself and just 'endorse' it on the back..making it good as cash. Sound ok? Sure..I've bought/sold several parcels of real estate and this is very common at closings, so I didn't think anything of it.

I phoned the issuing bank and verify they had a record of it, which they did.

Another note, make sure when he/she picks up the car its during normal bank business hours so you can call the bank to verify the check is real.

Imagine my shock when I took the check to my bank ( Citibank ) 3 days later to deposit it and was told I could not cash or even deposit it. Even though it was a valid good cashiers checks from a local bank! It seems with any check over $1000 that is self-endorsed, the endorser must be present and be able to provide photo id in order for it to be 'good'.

So now what do i do? It was at least 3 days since I handed the car & title over to the him and I'm stuck with a cashier check I can't do anything with. I called a friend who's an attorney and explained it to him. He couldn't believe it either, and he was practicing law for over 25 years! He called a bank manager that he knew to see if this is usual, and the manager said that it is, since there is no way to verify if the check was lost or stolen. My friend suggested I try to get ahold of the seller to see if he's meet me at his issuing bank to cash the check...HA. Can you imagine the scenarios running through my head at this point?

Thankfully, I was able to call the kid and explained what was going on. He agreed to meet me at his bank and we finally cashed the check. I am convinced there were at least 2 honest people left in the world at that and him. I thanked him and offered to buy him lunch, but it was no big deal to him.



The scenario you describe is precisely why I suggest that both parties be present at the SELLER's bank in order to deposit the check. The seller's bank is the one which will be receiving the deposit, therefore, if any problems should occur, it would happen there. At the buyer's bank, all the seller could do is get the check cashed, meaning he'd have to carry that cash to his own bank for yet another transaction -- unless the amount was small enough to fall within his personal comfort zone for "carrying around money." I've never sold a car for less than $6,000, and I don't want that on me when someone asks me "What's in YOUR wallet?"

Your stricture on self-endorsed cashier's checks is correct, however. Make sure the buyer has your full name, address, and telephone number in hand when he/she goes to the bank. Personally, I don't think I'd be doing business with anyone who didn't know that anyway.

why not take the personal cheque, and keep the car until the cheque clears. People do that here all the time...

why not take the personal cheque, and keep the car until the cheque clears. People do that here all the time...

What happens when, after the seller cashes the check, or better yet, a few different checks from different buyers, decides to leave town? default_blink


why not take the personal cheque, and keep the car until the cheque clears. People do that here all the time...
That is the best way to do it - hold onto the title and the car until it is confirmed that the check has cleared the bank.


Let there be no doubt that legal payment has been made.

If you want to do it another way - I have some Nigerian or British friends that will pay for it with one of their phony cheques.

Holding the title until the check clears doesn't protect the seller one iota. If the buyer intends to defraud the seller, he won't allow the lack of a title document deter him from skipping town with the car and leave you holding his bad check and your title. After all, he can dispose of the car on the "midnight auto parts" market very quickly and profitably, without anyone caring about any steenking title document.

In short, always follow the Golden Rule of the small businessman: "In God We Trust, All Others Cash!"


NEVER take payments for a car you are selling (unless you are a dealer and have legal recourses).

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