Negotiating with a private seller
You don’t have to know the art of the deal to buy privately — just a few simple tips
If you’re not a trained salesperson, negotiation can be tricky to master. You’re looking for a new car, you have a modest budget and those cars listed in the private sales market seem very appealing. We receive lots of calls from AA members asking for tips on how to secure a great deal with a private vehicle seller.
The savings can sometimes be greater than you’ll get with a dealership, and compromising on a price that works for you and the seller can be easier — if you follow some of these handy tips.
Benefits of non-professional salespersons
Unlike dealers, private sellers aren’t always disposing of a car to make a profit. In fact, few people expect to receive what they initially paid for it — they may be just keen to get as much money as possible to contribute towards their next purchase.
If your seller has already found a vehicle that they’re interested in or they’re moving away, they’re more likely to be interested in a quick sale. This opens up the opportunity for financial negotiations. However, don’t rush a purchase to save a couple of hundred bucks without doing the necessary checks first.
Know before you go
Private sellers are less likely to be able to share the mechanical ins and outs of their vehicle. Not everyone is a car expert and many will only be able to tell you about the clever techy functions that they’ve actually used and loved most when driving their vehicle — which isn’t necessarily going to be all it has to offer.
Discover its history
Find out if there is outstanding finance on it by completing a vehicle history check. An AA Vehicle History Report will help establish if there is any finance outstanding, if it has been reregistered (perhaps due to an insurance write-off), been recorded as stolen by the police or if it has a wound-back/clocked odometer.
Find its value
It’s also important to make sure you’re paying a fair price by investing in a vehicle valuation report. An AA Vehicle Valuation Report searches more than 100,000 makes and models of New Zealand cars to provide the market price, the mileage and condition plus features and specifications.
Get an inspection
When buying from a private seller, there’s little coverage if things go wrong with the vehicle. If you’ve done your pre-checks, and are comfortable with the price tag, consider investing in an independent AA Pre-Purchase Inspection conducted by a mechanical expert.
This report will make you aware of any underlying issues that may need repairing or impact the car passing a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspection.
If you know the vehicle is in need of some repair work, this can be used as a negotiation tool to bring the price down, as long as you are prepared to pay for the repairs.
By involving a third party in this process, you’re benefiting from an independent perspective on the vehicle and a seller can at least consider the opinion to be unbiased.
When it comes to the actual negotiation, we recommend following these five simple steps:
1. Show an expression of interest.
2. Explain any concerns that you may have around the vehicle’s condition, price and potential future repair costs (these could be discovered on your road test, prepurchase inspection, or other checks).
3. Ask for further information, such as the vehicle’s servicing history and evidence of any repair work that has been completed.
4. Make a reasonable offer and support it with your reasons for the offer. Negotiations are all about compromise and being realistic. Don’t go too low if it’s not necessary — this could alienate the seller from the get-go.
5. State your terms and always ask for a new WoF as a minimum requirement. Dealers can’t sell a car without a WoF that’s older than
28 days, however, private sellers can opt out of this requirement. That’s not to say they should.
Negotiate with confidence by doing your research first. It will make you aware of what the vehicle is worth, and help you to decide what you’re prepared to pay for it.
Negotiation may not be something we’re all used to, but it’s worth putting the effort into it, as buying a car can be one of the largest purchases you make.