by Christopher Boyle
LONG ISLAND – Back in the day when you would simply break out the Sunday newspaper and browse through your local used car listings, it was usually difficult to find the exact car your were looking for but easy to haggle the price down with its owner once you did; conversely, thank to the World Wide Web, things today are quite different.
Back before the internet, a used car seller – be it a private individual looking to unload their current set of wheels to upgrade to a new one or a dealership that moves dozens of cars a month – both were only selling to a very local segment of society. Fast-forward to today, and the wonders of the web have made it easier for consumers to not only find the right car anywhere – be it next door or out of state – but to also find the best prices and compare them to sellers near and far. The competition that has arisen out of this evolution in used car buying has become fierce, but that convenience to consumers also comes at a price; in modern used car shopping, price haggling – one nearly an art form among savvy shoppers – has largely become a thing of the past.
Nowadays, people looking for a “new-ish” car will look on any number of used car websites for specific makes and models, and then typically filter their search results by price, lowest to highest. But when an interested buyer strolls into your typical used car dealership armed with this information, ready to haggle, they may find themselves surprised that the seller in question is much less willing to budge when it comes to their sticker price compared to days of old. This recent phenomenon is for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that most shoppers today tend to focus on the idea of shaving dollars off of the asking price as opposed to simply finding the most bang for their buck.
The fact is, even under ideal circumstances, vehicle dealerships have a much greater ability to play with numbers on new vehicles as opposed to used ones due to the deals they can cut with manufacturer, including incentives, factory rebates, and with the greater leeway they tend to have when to comes to setting up loan options for buyers. With used cars, in stark contrast, a dealership – not to mention a private seller – has none of these factors in play, giving them much less ability to offer discounts on what it likely an already rock-bottom price due to competitive pricing.
But why is that price already so low? Well, it’s because the buyer already did their research online and is most probably visiting the dealership that showed up at the top of their “price, low to high” search results. And the reason that car showed up at the top of that particular search is because the dealership knows that they’re not just competing for sales with the establishment down the road or across town…with the advent of the internet and the ability of consumers to easily find the best prices around, they’re literally competing with sellers across the state or even farther away, depending on how far a person is willing to travel for a good deal.
To get found these days a seller needs to do the very same homework as that their customers are doing and consistently research and restructure their prices in order to attract business on a regular basis. As a result, their prices often lack the wiggle room that they ordinarily would, so when a seller asks for a deal on a vehicle they may be disappointed to discover that most dealerships can only go down a fraction of what they were hoping; hundreds, perhaps, instead of thousands. There might be more room to negotiate on a pricier car, such as a Mercedes, but for standard or even budget pre-owned vehicle fare, profit margins are already too razor thin for most sellers to budge much.
Therefore, in this new market shaped so drastically by the internet, it’s up to the buyer to understand the new approach to pricing forced upon dealerships and, instead of going in to haggle and haggle some more, it’s more useful to compare the lowest-priced vehicles that fall into your search parameters and, from there, compare them and see which one is in the best condition. Other factors to consider when it comes to the price and value of a car is if it includes a factory certification, a warranty, or any other number of amenities while still maintaining the same relative price point as the other vehicles that came up in your search results that might not offer these incentives.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t ever ask a seller to come down on their asking price; just understand that it’s not going to be a drastic amount. The days of brow-beating a tacky-dressed salesman into taking as much off his sticker price as possible are all but over; instead, the real focus of any consumer should be getting the greatest value for their money, as the competition from the internet has already helped shave significant dollars off the price.