Finding used cars for sale these days is easier, thanks to the Internet’s help.  Classifieds websites like Craigslist, eBay, and especially car classifieds search engines like allow you to easily search for used cars for sale from thousands of websites. But how can you determine if you’re getting a fair price? For that matter, how can you stretch a deal to its limit and get a fair price for the used car without prompting a seller to walk away from the deal?

Here are some suggestions and tips that will help you in negotiating the price for a used car.


  • Get a vehicle history report – Find out the vehicle’s VIN number and get a vehicle history report. Used car dealerships should be able to provide you with a vehicle history report, but get the VIN number and request your own report to double check the report’s accuracy.  Private sellers should be able to provide you with the VIN number from their insurance or car title or from under the windshield.  Go online to request a car history report from sites like Carfax or This will provide you with a detailed vehicle history, including any accidents.
  • Perform a thorough inspection of the vehicle – Used cars can be good deals, but sadly, there are a lot of lemons out there and plenty of people who want take you for every last buck. Perform your own inspection and if the used car appears to pass muster, take the car to a mechanic whom you trust and ask his or her opinion on the condition of the vehicle.  Take note of what needs to be repaired or changed and get price estimates on the fixes.
  • Determine current market value range for the car – Use either the Kelley Blue Book ( or the site to calculate the market value.  These national automotive vehicle valuation and information companies evaluate used cars by make, model, year, and retail vehicle sales in your area to provide good price ranges for fair market value.  Adjust the current market value to account for any special options (e.g., navigation, leather, etc), mileage, and car condition.  Assume the car is of average condition and select “Good” condition.  Once you’ve done that, you can select to see 3 values in KBB: private party price, trade-in price, and retail price.  A reasonable price range to use would be between the private party price and the retail price.
  • Determine an offer price and the maximum price you’re willing pay – If you’ve determined the seller is asking a fair price, offer to buy the car for some amount off the asking price.  Determine the maximum price you’re willing to pay by factoring in the KBB/Edmunds price range, the repair costs that will be required, and your budget.  Don’t offer the maximum price you’re willing to pay as the first price.  Make your first offer price $500+ below what you’re willing to pay.  (But be willing to pay more—just don’t let them know it!) Pretend you don’t hear any questions they might ask right after you make the offer and let them think it over in silence.  If they counter-offer, be willing to raise your price a small increment at a time.
  • If you determine that they’re charging too much, show them how you calculated the current market value.  Tell them you would still like to consider their car, but there is no way you can pay more than market value and you are open to a better offer from them but will have to continue your car search otherwise. Private sellers especially may be too impatient to let you get away and offer to lower their price!
  • Get a loan before arriving at the dealership. That way, you can avoid the extra complication of having to talk to the dealer about getting a loan and avoid any unnecessary extra fees the dealers may pile on top.
  • Do not show your emotion. This is an odd but important step to remember. Whether dealing with used car dealerships or used cars for sale by owner, don’t let them know when you’re excited or that you definitely want the car. This will make them less likely to negotiate with you when it comes to the price because they’ll have you pegged as a sure sale. Let them know how thoroughly you’ve been researching the used car they have for sale and that you’re also considering several others for sale by someone else.

Be confident in the negotiation and do not be afraid to walk away if the price isn’t right.  In this market, there are plenty of used cars for sale, particularly trucks and SUV’s that are in over abundance with little buyer demand.  As long as you’ve done your research and armed yourself with the necessary information about the car, the chances are good you won’t get ripped off and could end up with a great deal.

For more information on used cars, visit which provides tips, advice, and commentary on searching and buying used cars.  The blog is written by the team at, a search engine for used cars for sale, created by people who think buying used cars are better than buying new and who are passionate about building a better tool for users to search for used cars.

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