Skip to Main Content

How to negotiate the best price on a car

Row of cars
Alan Schein Photography/Getty Images
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

Buying a new car is exciting but negotiating for a lower price can feel intimidating. Preparation is the key to feeling confident and pushing for the price that you deserve.

5 steps for negotiating your car price

Set yourself up for success when negotiating by getting preapproved for a loan and researching your options. These steps should help you feel more prepared to negotiate with the seller and help you get a deal that fits your budget.

1. Figure out the essentials

Before negotiation can begin, think about what kind of car you want. If you don’t already have your dream set of wheels picked out, consider your needs. Consider your budget, the amount you intend to drive and who you will be driving. Have an idea of what you will be spending, and when you negotiate, keep this number in mind.

2. Get preapproved for financing

The next thing you need to do is look into financing. Most car dealerships offer in-house financing, but it is rarely the best deal. In fact, it will likely be marked up so the dealer makes more money.

You will find better offers from banks, credit unions and online lenders, so compare offers at your local bank or credit union and check auto loan rates online. Securing financing before you visit a car lot will help you stay firm — you will know exactly how much you have to spend, and that means less temptation toward upgrades and pricey add-ons.

So, consider getting preapproved for financing before going to a dealership to buy a car. This will give you an idea of what loan amount you qualify for, which can help you compare other loan offers. Also, use an auto loan calculator to see what monthly payments may be like at different rates and loan terms.

3. Research the car

If you don’t already have a make and model in mind, it’s time to research. Look into the car’s reliability ratings and overall maintenance cost. If you plan to stick with it for 100,000 miles or more, you will want to make sure it won’t break the bank with repairs.

If you have singled out an exact used car at a specific dealership, this is when you can run a report on the car’s history. But don’t get too attached. One key to good negotiation is to know that a similar car is frequently just as good.

4. Shop around

Unless you know exactly what car you want, down to the make, model and VIN, shop around. Check out a few dealerships in your area over the course of a few weeks. Get a feel for what cars are available and speak with a few different salespeople.

It is harder to negotiate — and easier to overpay — for a car if you try to buy something too quickly.

5. Read up on negotiation tips

When it comes to negotiating your car price, it is important to know that salespeople expect you to negotiate. Don’t feel bad asking, but make sure you have a plan.

  • Come prepared with price reports or comparison sheets. These can be found on websites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. If you have done your research and know what a fair price for a car is, or know another dealership is offering a different deal, share that information. This will help you settle on a better price during negotiation.
  • Stay firm. Even if you are nervous about asking for a better deal, try not to show it. Be confident and tell them the price you are looking to pay. Firmness also means confidence in knowing what you deserve. If you know you have good credit, for example, use that to your advantage when discussing dealership financing.
  • If you can’t get to the price you want, don’t be afraid to walk away. You will either find another car and a better deal elsewhere, or you will go back to the dealership another day and try to negotiate again. But it does show you are serious about getting a good deal.

Next steps

Buying a car takes some effort, but when you are spending that much money, you want to be sure to get the car you want at the price you want before you close the deal.

Take some time before arriving at the dealership to prepare so you can negotiate with confidence and knowledge about how much you should pay.

Learn more

Written by
Rebecca Betterton
Auto Loans Reporter
Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She specializes in assisting readers in navigating the ins and outs of securely borrowing money to purchase a car.
Edited by
Auto loans editor