13 Negotiation Tips When Buying a Used Car

13 Negotiation Tips When Buying a Used Car

 13 Negotiation Tips When Buying a Used CarNegotiation is key when it comes to getting a good deal, usually, sellers will expect a degree of ‘bartering’ before a final price is agreed. There is a difference between submitting a well-constructed offer with some rationale behind it and just throwing in ‘Low Ball’ offers which tend to annoy people.

In the article below we talk through the things, you can use to your advantage when you’re looking to shave some money off a potential purchase. The points below have no particular order and some may or not be relevant to the particular situation, however, the point is to ‘think outside the box’ rather just asking for money off.

Let’s Begin.

1. Length of MOT Remaining

Buyers tend to feel more confident in purchasing a car which has a new 12-month mot (or as close to this as possible). The reason being a VOSA trained mechanic would have recently checked over the vehicle and given it a clean bill of health for another year. If a car only has a short time remaining before a new MOT is required, then there is always a risk that unexpected costs can arise during the test, some of which can be very costly.

If a car has a short MOT remaining we suggest that one of the terms of sale should be the seller puts a new 12 month MOT on the car before the sale. The clear benefit to this is that the seller would then be responsible to fix any MOT failures should they arise. If the seller is unwilling to put a new MOT on the car we suggest a price reduction is suggested with an explanation as to why and the risk you’re taking on.

2. MOT Advisory Information

Following on from the above point, if the car has ‘advisory items listed on a recent MOT this will usually be an indication of impending work. The most common types of advisory items are tyres, brakes and suspension components which may need replacing. We firstly suggest you ask the seller if these particular items have been fixed. If not then we suggest you obtain a quote for what it would cost you to replace these items. A simple way of doing this it phone a local garage and asking them what they would charge you for that particular job, you don’t need to obtain the cheapest price at this stage were just after obtaining a general indication. Once we have the figure we need to explain to the seller how much it would cost us in the near future to get these particular items fixed. Bare in mind the seller has no obligation to get these items fixed, therefore we suggest trying to work with them and explain you will look to perhaps knock ‘half of the cost’ of the outstanding work off from the price. We feel this approach works better and comes across as you being fair rather than asking for large chunks of money off with no justification.

3. Fault Codes on the Vehicle

This can be established two ways, either by the seller telling you the fault exists on the dash. Or you discovering the fault through the inspection process. Either way, we always suggest hooking up a Diagnostic tool and pulling the correct fault codes. Once you have this information you can do some research as to what the problem is and how much it is likely to cost you. Even if you find the fault is minor and an ‘easy fix’ we still suggest that you consider requesting a suitable price reduction as you be investing your own additional time in sorting out the issue. Remember to explain to the seller what you have found and what it is going to take to get it fixed.

4. High Number of Previous Owners

A high number of generally speaking lowers the overall value of the car, be sure to ask exactly how many owners the car has by doing an HPI check and also verifying this by checking the log book. In theory, a lower number of owners means a car should be a little better looked after (however this is not always the case) you will be perhaps expected to reduce the price on the car when you come to sell it for this reason, so try and negotiate a discount into it from the onset

5. Missing Paperwork

Paperwork that accompanies a car such as the V5, Service Book, Owners Manual and Old Invoices and receipts all add value to a car. A good comprehensive paper trail which documents all previous service history and repairs increases confidence in the vehicle. On the other hand, a car that is lacking paperwork reduced confidence in the vehicle and reduces value simply because it cannot be proved that it has been maintained. We strongly suggest that if a car does not have a complete set of paperwork you request a reduction the price to reflect this.

6. Little or No Service History

Following on from the above point, it’s critical to have accurate records how the car has been maintained. A Car that has an up to date service schedule and invoices which prove key maintenance has been completed hold more value if the new buyer feels they won’t have much upfront cost. Having ‘some’ service history and a few invoices here and there is not the same as having a FULL-service history. If a car does not have a full history which means all stamps/invoices are chronological back to the original manufacture date then we suggest negotiating a reduction in price to reflect a car with ‘partial’ history.

7. Car Due For An Expensive Repair

This will require you to have done some research on the car you are looking to buy and understand its maintenance schedules. A great example of this a timing belt change which is required when a car reaches a certain age or mileage limit/ The best way to go about this is to phone up the service department of the main dealer and get them to confirm maintenance schedules. You can then use this information to determine if the work is required. You will find lots of cars being sold at key maintenance points which means sellers are looking to offload cars rather than pay for the repair. Your job is to identify and work the cost of the repair into the price you offer.

8. Tyres

Tyres can be Costly to replace and depending on the type of vehicle can even run up to £300+ for one tyre, Tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three-quarters of the tyre in order to be road legal in the UK. We suggest using a tyre tread depth gauge in order to measure all 4 tyres (and the one in the boot if it has one) to see what tread is left and if its towards the lower end you can negotiate a discount per tyre that will need replacement. We also suggest you check to see if the car has the same brand and tyre of all around the car, for example, a car could have two Michelin tyres on the front and two Dunlop winter tyres on the back which affects the quality of the ride.

9. Exterior

Usually, the first thing people see when they look at a car. Any signs of damage which would not fall under normal wear and tear should be highlighted to the seller, deep scratches and scuffs can be costly to repair depending on the colour and type of paintwork the car has. Faded headlights that need restoration, door locks that don’t work and missing bits of trim all reduce the value of a car. Be sure to thoroughly check for any obvious signs of corrosion on a car and look as far as underneath the vehicle as much as possible to determine if expensive items such as the exhaust is covered in corrosion. Read our guide on how to determine if a car has been in an accident which should further help you in this area.

10. Interior

Similar to the exterior, be sure to do a thorough check and make sure every button inside the car works as it should, if not it should be noted down to be presented to the seller later. Be sure to check for things like excessive wear on the driver’s seat bolster, rips and cigarette holes in seats and stains on the interior and carpets. It may well be the car need a good professional valet in which case you need to establish the cost of one and factor it into your offer. Be sure to check critical components such as the air con, climate control, sat nav, radio etc are working as these can all be terribly costly to repair later on down the line. Read up on common faults of the make and model you are looking at and check to see if any of those faults exist on the car. For example, MK1 Seat Leon Cupras are notorious for leaking water through faulty door seals and wetting the interior carpets.

11. How Long Has The Car Been For Sale

Determine how long a car has been on for sale by checking listing information from sites such as Gumtree, eBay and Autotrader along with asking the seller. Generally speaking the longer a car has been for sale the more motivated the seller will be to get rid of the vehicle, this is better coupled with some of the other previous pointers we have given you above. Be sure to thoroughly check the vehicle however as there may be an ulterior reason the car hasn’t sold for example it may have a faulty component the seller does not want you to know about or a questionable past.

12. Comparables

Using our guide on how to determine the value of a vehicle, you can find a few comparables of similar cars listed cheaper or with more options or lower mileage etc and present this to the seller as rationale as to why you are going to offering less. Remember to compare cars that are only very similar. in effect ‘compare apples to apples’. Not all sellers will be very receptive in you telling them their car is overpriced therefore you will need to be a little bit more tactful when presenting this information

13. Driving Experience

We always suggest you test drive a vehicle to determine if is operating correctly, as you are driving be sure to listen out for any unusual signs of suspension noise which can indicate a repair. This is also a good time to thoroughly check the clutch and gearbox engage properly. Other things to note are, does the car pull to one side? Is there any strange colour smoke or sounds from the vehicle upon driving? All of these can be valid negotiation points to present to the seller when requesting a discount off the price of the car.


Assess every car on a case by case basis, all of these considerations will not be suitable for every car. The main takeaway is not to expect to go and see a car and think you will be able to knock several thousands of pounds off the price just because you said so. Instead, you need to fully examine the car, understands what it needs and respectfully put forward a proposal with why you are going to offer less money. We have honestly tried both methods and have found that our success rate in securing good deals tripled by using the second method. One thing we don’t suggest is to highlight every fault to the seller as soon as you find it, this can tend to annoy the seller and look like your just there to find faults with the car. A better approach is to make a mental note of each item you notice and present all of your findings at the end along with your offer. Will this work on every occasion, No! However, you will find that it will work a hell of a lot better than just throwing in ‘low ball’ offers and hoping that they stick.


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