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How to Negotiate Price When Selling a Used Car: The Best Tips

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Selling a car has never been easier. News reports of record-breaking car sales encourage sellers to take their chances and cash in on national sales highs. 

But experienced car salesmen take years to learn how to negotiate price during a transaction. If you’re looking to sell a used car, take a look at these tips on improving your negotiation skills to get the best deal.  

What’s It Worth?

The starting point of any price negotiation is fair market value. Use online car valuation tools to set a sales price for your used car.

These valuation services won’t always factor in every upgrade. Use the estimate you receive as a recommendation on pricing. 

Based on your financial situation you might need a higher return on the sale in order to pay off debts or put a down payment on a more reliable vehicle. 

It’s ok to factor in your own profit goals as long as it doesn’t put you too far out of the sales range. Buyers have access to dozens of price comparison tools online to determine whether they’re getting the best deal.

Listing the Car 

The next step in the process is listing your car for sale. Your used car listing is an important part of the negotiation process.

This step is where buyers assess whether your car is a good deal or not. These car features are among the most attractive to buyers when shopping for a used car:

  • Low Mileage
  • Well Maintained
  • Full-Service Records Available
  • Non-Smoking Owner
  • Only One Owner

If you can include three or more of these features in your listing, you are ready to compete with thousands of other buyers.

Set your bottom price, the lowest possible amount you are willing to take, based on your research of other cars with similar desirable features. You are ready to begin negotiation once you know how your car competes with others. 

Setting Up the Negotiation

There’s a psychology to negotiation. Some people love the process of going back and forth about cost while others dread the idea.

If you fall into the latter category, you can train your brain to become a better negotiator by practicing these tactics in advance.

Create Urgency

This first negotiation strategy involves creating a sense of urgency to move the sale along. You experience this every time your local grocery store offers a buy one, get one free sale on an item. 

Even though you might not necessarily need the item right away, the knowledge that it won’t be on sale next week is enough to prompt you to make the purchase. 

Whenever a buyer contacts you about the car, let them know you have other people interested. Set up a time in the next few days to show the car.

Avoid allowing buyers to wait longer than a week to set up a showing time. This implies the car will be available and your goal is to imply that it won’t. 

Don’t Hate the Haggle

You may be the biggest introvert, but when it’s time to sell a car you can’t get the best deal without negotiating with other people. You’ll get a variety of outrageous offers that require some back and forth.

Some buyers are just testing the waters to see how much of a discount they can get. Explain your pricing position to keep the conversation going.

If the buyer is serious, he or she will understand your bottom price and accept the price or back off. Anyone just throwing around random numbers without listening to your end of the negotiation isn’t serious about buying a car. 

Be Knowledgeable

Get a vehicle inspection on the car before listing it for sale. This inspection gives you an objective starting point for negotiation. 

If it’s in great condition for the number of miles on the car, mention this when the seller hits you with the first lowball. Being knowledgeable about the car from a mechanical perspective makes you seem more prepared and less likely to back down in negotiation. 

Let Them Walk Away

Negotiation is about confidence. Never let a buyer’s emotion drive you into accepting a price below your bottom price. 

Be willing to let them walk away if negotiation gets too ridiculous. Once you’ve given educated responses on your price, you’ll feel more confident when you thank them for their time and send them on their way. 

Let them know you have other buyers on the way who are offering more than the asking price. 

How to Negotiate Price with a Dealer

Dealership transactions are much simpler than dealing with a private buyer. Car dealerships have criteria in place for accepting used cars.

The first thing they will research is the trade-in value of the car. Their price won’t likely stray too far from this amount which saves you the trouble of haggling.

The upside to selling to a car dealership is avoiding the general public. You are working with experienced car salesmen who understand the value of your car’s features.

Trade-in values can be fairly generic. If your car is above average in desirable features, mention this to the dealer after the salesman makes an initial offer.

Sealing the Deal

The car selling process isn’t always quick. Online car listings can get lost in a sea of information on classified sites. 

Using trusted car listing websites helps you connect with qualified buyers faster. Understanding how to negotiate price means you can lock in a good deal without going through dozens of buyers. 

For more information on selling your car, check our blog for updates. 

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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