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When haggling pays off

Since you can't avoid the car salesperson's negotiating ploys, your only defense is to recognize what he's doing. You then have the chance to use some of those tactics yourself -- becoming the fisherman instead of the fish.

It's called haggling. How well you do it could be the key factor in determining the price you agree to pay for your new car.

Here are some tactics you can use when negotiating a deal:

Invoke higher authority. In this tactic, the buyer and seller arrive at a tentative agreement, then one party has to get someone to OK the deal. Anyone who has haggled with a car salesperson is familiar with this tactic: You arrive at a price, then the salesperson has to get the sales manager's approval. Buyers can use this tactic, too. The wife says she loves the car but apologetically explains to the salesman that her husband won't budge unless the price is reduced. Or vice versa.

Never say yes to the first proposal. The first price the dealer tosses out in a negotiation will almost never be the best offer. So reject it out of hand. What's the worst that can happen? He won't budge and you go to another dealer.

Make sure to flinch. The most common tactical mistake that consumers make is to remain calm in the face of a proposal. It's better to flinch -- to appear shocked and surprised by an outrageous offer, even if it's not really unreasonable. You might think a stoic demeanor looks professional, but in the haggling business it will cost you.

Squeeze your opponent: You say, 'I'm sorry, but you'll have to do better than that.' Then you shut up. Too many people just can't stay quiet. They blink and fill in the silence with words that drain all the power out of their rejection. Keep quiet. Chances are you'll get a more reasonable offer.

Never offer to split the difference in price. Always wait for the other side to split the difference. It gives your opponent a feeling of winning and, if you split the difference again, it'll be in your favor.

Save a small concession. Hold back something you're willing to give up at the end so the other side can feel the satisfaction of winning something.

You might not feel comfortable using these tactics, but the experts say they'll be used on you.

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