In search of a better deal, most people haggle with car salespeople over everything from the sticker price to the pricey protective undercoating they urge you to sign up for.
But did you know that you can also negotiate and get a better price on everything from home appliances to your groceries?
“Anything is up for negotiation,” says consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch. Bankrate spoke with the price-haggling ace to get tips on how to negotiate a better price on products and services that you might not know you can land for less.
Here’s how to ask for and get better prices.
How to haggle
Before you set out on your quest for bargains, it’s important to understand the etiquette of the haggle. Your attitude when asking for a discount could determine whether you’re given 10 percent off or shown the door. Here are a few important things to remember:
- Be polite. Store clerks and managers don’t have to give you a price break. If you work someone’s last nerve, he or she is likely not going to do you any favors. “The nicer and kinder you are, and polite, the more opportunities you’ll have to get what you’re asking for,” Woroch says.
- Be prepared to walk away. The willingness to leave an item on the table if you can’t get it for the price you want to pay is the essence of successful bargaining.
- Be discrete. Don’t ask for a discount loudly in front of other customers. The clerk or manager will be forced to tell you no.
- Take no for an answer. Sometimes, the seller isn’t able or willing to come down on the price. Don’t take it personally. If it’s clear there is no bargain to be had, then you have a choice to make: Buy at full price or walk away.
How to negotiate better prices
The success of your price negotiation depends on more than just your friendly demeanor. Here are tips to improve your bargaining power.
- Time your approach. You’re much more likely to get a bargain if you come at a time when the owner or salesperson is motivated to make the sale, such as the final day of a month at an auto dealership or 10 minutes before closing time at a retail store the night before Christmas. The best timing for a bargain will vary depending on whom you’re buying from and what the product is.
- Research your purchase. “Knowledge is power,” Woroch says. “The more you know about something the better you can negotiate.” If you show that you are really knowledgeable about a product, she adds, “you put yourself on the sales associate’s playing field so that they don’t feel more powerful than you.”
- Talk to the right person. “If you’re not able to negotiate with the person you’re speaking with,” Woroch says, then ask for someone who has the power to help you. A sales clerk might not have the authorization to give you a price reduction that a manager could.
- Ask for add-ons. An additional service or perk, such as free shipping or free parking, can be easier for managers to give away than a reduced price on a product or service. “It’s always easy to ask for those add-ons for free,” she says.
- Emphasize your brand loyalty. When negotiating for a lower price or a free add-on, Woroch suggests emphasizing your loyalty to that company. Let them know how much you buy from them. They have an incentive to keep you as a good customer.
- Buy in bulk. When you buy multiple items – whether it’s a washer and dryer or a case of laundry detergent – you can usually negotiate a price break.
- Be persistent. “If you’re not successful the first time, call back,” Woroch said. You could get a different person on the phone who will have a different answer to your request.
13 things you can bargain for
Woroch, who has experience negotiating the best prices on a range of consumer goods and services, ticks off 13 purchases where haggling can save you money.
1. Clothing at large retailers
When it comes to negotiating a deal on clothing or other items at a large retailer, “it’s usually about price matching,” Woroch says. If you like to shop at a certain department store because you have a rewards card or you like the return policy, you may feel caught in a bind when an item you want is on sale for less at a competing store.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask for the same low price.
“All you have to do is call customer service, open a live chat (online) or go to the store,” Woroch says. Show that you found it for less at another store and, she notes, “they will typically match that price.”
2. Clothing at small boutiques
Hit the sale racks if you want to negotiate a better deal from a boutique store. “At a boutique, independently-owned retailer,” she says, “when they are selling last season’s items on sale” they usually don’t have a warehouse store where they can send stock that doesn’t sell. As a result, tell them you would like to buy it at a lower price, she suggests, and the retailer may be happy to move the item out of the store. If accessories are on sale, she recommends asking for a better deal if you buy two.
3. Used items
Everyone haggles at a garage sale, but you should also feel empowered to make a counteroffer with someone who is selling something online. You’re more likely to be able to negotiate a lower price if you see a lot of the same item for sale on the internet. “That person might not be getting many offers,” she says.
4. Perishable foods
Check the sell-by dates of perishable foods, such as steaks or pre-packaged salads in the grocery store. If something is nearing its expiration date, Woroch says, talk to a manager and offer to buy it at a reduced price.
5. Shipping and delivery charges
If you’re purchasing something online or buying a large item that you need delivered, free shipping is “an easy thing for them to throw in,” Woroch says. “Oftentimes [free delivery] is a good bargaining chip” when you’re negotiating the price of a large purchase.
When Woroch shops online if anything in her order doesn’t meet the minimum for free shipping, she still pushes for the perk. “I call and I say I order with you guys a lot,” she says. She then asks for a “one-time courtesy” to waive the shipping fee.” Retailers can usually accommodate this request. It’s helpful to explain that you can’t do free in-store pickup (because you don’t have a location near you, don’t have access to a car or have a small child at home, etc.).
Woroch also recommends asking for free return shipping, if that’s not a service the merchant offers — especially if you are unhappy with your purchase or feel the merchant misrepresented the product. She recently saved $10 by negotiating for a return shipping label on a purchase she was dissatisfied with.
6. Appliances and electronics
There might be more wiggle room on a big purchase like a 12-burner stove. “The more expensive the item, the more room the retailer has to negotiate,” Woroch explains. The retailer has bigger profit margins on top-of-the-line appliances or a large flat-screen TV than on the bargain models.
To boost your chances of getting a better deal, Woroch says to compare prices and cite lower sales prices at competitors as a bargaining chip. It’s also good idea to ask for a discount when you buy more than one appliance. Ask for something extra as well, such as a free video game when you buy a console or a free carrying case for a new laptop. Ask for deals on floor models, too, if you’re looking to save.
7. Bank fees and credit card fees
When you get hit with one of those annoying fees, let financial institutions you do business with know you’re a loyal customer and that you would prefer they undo the charge. “If I was a good customer, they were more than happy to reverse those fees for me,” says Woroch, referring to bank overdraft fees and credit card penalties. When she’s had extenuating circumstances, such as the birth of her child, she explains this to the customer service representative and is usually able to have the fees reversed.
8. Real estate agent fees
When you sell a piece of real estate, you pay your agent a commission that’s a percentage of the sale price. The standard commission is 6 percent, but that fee isn’t set in stone.
“Shop around when it comes to a real estate agents,” Woroch says. “If you’re choosing between a couple of agents, see if one will offer a lower fee.” But don’t be cheap at the expense of quality service. A broker charging only 4.5 percent, for example, may not have the market clout or client base of a broker charging 6 percent. “Obviously you want to understand the value of someone’s services,” she adds.
9. Cable fees
Woroch checks in with her cable provider every six months or year, before her rate goes up. She asks if there are any available promotions. She has also negotiated for free repair service on a DVR that wasn’t working and was able to get a free replacement DVR box, in addition to money off of the bill. The key is to ask for what you want and make the case why you should get it.
Another approach is to ask for free trials, she says. When you start with a new service, you call your cable or streaming TV provider and say, “I’m a new customer. What can you give me to try out?”
10. Gym memberships
When you join a gym, ask them to waive the initiation fee. “You’re the customer and they want your business,” Woroch says. Other things you might negotiate for at the gym include free child care, personal training sessions and guest passes.
11. Hotel upgrades
“If you want to negotiate with your hotel,” it’s better to book directly through the hotel, she says. “I might call the hotel directly and ask if they can match the price” if there’s a better price on a travel booking site.
Hotels might be more likely to offer a room upgrade or add-on than a lower price. Add-ons could include free parking, free internet, a credit towards dining or a free continental breakfast. “These things are not big expenses to the hotels,” Woroch said. She added, “More and more hotels are charging à la carte fees for different services, so trying to negotiate those for free is always a good idea.”
If you’re a member of the loyalty program at a hotel chain, use this as leverage to ask for discounts or add-ons. In addition, if there was something that you didn’t enjoy about your stay, “definitely use that to your advantage” for an upgrade or something for free, she says.
12. Airbnb and VRBO
When Woroch books on vacation-rental site VRBO she sometimes negotiates with other homeowners who aren’t sold out. “If you notice at the last minute that this person has availability,” she says, they may be willing to cut their rate to fill an empty night. And if you’re looking for a deal on a stay at an Airbnb, you could ask for a pet to come for free or for an extra free day on top of a longer stay.
13. Car rental upgrades
When Woroch books a rental car, she says avoids the most expensive models with the hope of an upgrade at the sign-in desk. “What I usually do is book the cheapest car option.” Most often, this is the economy model. She checks carrentals.com for price comparisons to book the best deal.
“When I get to the rental counter, that’s when the negotiations start,” she says. “They’ll try to sell me on an upgrade.” But if there aren’t reservations and there are a lot of bigger cars sitting in the lot, she will negotiate for a bigger car at the economy price.