How to Negotiate With a Car Salesman

RelayRides blogger Eric Rosenberg has advice for dealing with one of life’s greatest challenges: negotiating with a car salesman.

We all have an image of a used car salesman in our head. Picture it: a sleazy guy with a moustache in a plaid sport coat standing under a giant inflatable gorilla trying to peddle a crap car at a premium price. If you go into the dealership or used car lot prepared, you can beat the salesman in the negotiation game. Here are some tips to get the best price on your next car.


While you may not be an FBI hostage negotiator, you can certainly use strategic negotiation techniques to get the best price on your next car.

You can press hard on the price, which is a big out-of-pocket cost. Just asking can save you thousands of dollars. But that is not all you can negotiate. Always start with a low offer, but not so low that they will be offended or walk away.

You can use “the nibble” to get the car salesman to throw in extras without raising the price of the car. Maybe free oil changes for a year, maybe extra floor mats, maybe a free detail coupon.

Go Late in the Month

Car salespeople usually work on commission with a quota. A quota is a minimum sales level to qualify for a better bonus tier, or sometimes to keep their job.

Quotas are usually a monthly goal, but can be quarterly. If you go toward the end of a month before the quota has been reached, you might be able to get a better deal because you are helping to nudge them closer to the quota.

You can get the inside view of one car dealership from this interview on This American Life.

Avoid Buying in the Spring

While the weather is getting nicer and a new car might be the perfect item to make it a great summer, buying a car in the spring may cost you more.

The salesman knows that you just got your bonus and tax refund sometime in the last few months, as have most Americans, so they assume your bank account has a little more padding than usual, and they use that to hold prices higher.

Go In At the End of the Day

Sales is not an easy job, and car salespeople work long hours. At the end of the day, just like anyone else with a job, they just want to go home. Armed with this knowledge, you should have a slight advantage negotiating with someone who has one foot out of the door.