Buying and Selling

The ultimate guide to negotiating with a private seller

If you’re not a trained salesperson, negotiation can be a tricky beast to master.

You’re looking for a new car, you have a modest budget and those cars listed in the private sales market seem very appealing. We receive lots of calls from AA Members turning to us for tips on how to secure a great deal with a private vehicle seller.

The savings on offer can be greater than you’ll get with a dealership, and compromising on a mutual price that works for both yourself and the person getting rid of the car can be easier – that’s if you follow some of these handy tips.

Benefits of non-professional salesperson

Unlike dealers, private sellers aren’t always disposing of a car to make a profit. In fact, few people expect to receive what they paid out for it – they’re most likely just keen to get as much money as possible to contribute towards their next purchase.

If your seller has already found a vehicle they are interested in or they’re moving away, they’re more likely to be interested in a quick sale and this opens up the opportunity for financial negotiations. However don’t rush a purchase at the expense of saving a couple of hundred bucks without doing the necessary checks first.

Know before you go

Private sellers are less likely to be able to share with you the mechanical ins and outs of their own vehicle. Not everyone is a car buff and many motorists will only be able to tell you about the functions that they’ve actually used when driving their vehicle – which isn’t necessarily going to be all it has to offer. That’s why it’s important to complete your own checks beforehand.

Find out if there is outstanding finance on it by completing a vehicle history check, and make sure you’re paying a fair price.

When buying from a private seller, there’s little coverage if things go wrong with the vehicle. If you’ve done your pre-checks, and are more comfortable with a price tag, consider investing in a pre-purchase inspection conducted by a professional beforehand. It’ll make you aware of any underlying issues that may need repair or impact a Warrant of Fitness pass. If you know the vehicle is in need of some repair work, this can be used as a negotiation tool to bring the price down.

By involving a third party in this process, you’re benefiting from a subjective perspective on the vehicle and a seller can at least consider the opinion to be unbiased.

Negotiation time

When it comes to the actual negotiation, we recommend following these five simple steps:

  1. Show an expression of interest.
  2. Explain any concerns that you may have around the vehicle’s condition, price and potential future repair costs.
  3. Ask for further information, such as the vehicle’s servicing history and evidence of any repair work that has been completed. If the vehicle has been modified from its original spec, make sure this is backed up with documentation too.
  4. Make a reasonable offer and support it with your reasons for a lower offer. Negotiations are all about compromise and being realistic. Don’t go too low if it’s not necessary, or you could alienate the seller from the off-set. They don’t have to be an expert negotiator to know if they are being ripped off.
  5. State your terms and always ask for a new Warrant of Fitness as a minimum requirement. Dealers can’t sell a car without a WoF that’s older than 28 days, however private sellers can opt out of this requirement. That’s not to say they should.

Negotiate with confidence by doing your research first. It will make you aware of what the vehicle is worth, and help you to decide what you’re prepared to pay for it.

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