Notes on Negotiating for a Car

Five years ago!

As I finish this post, I’m thinking about the meme that complains about the essay that inevitably comes before a recipe on a poetry blog. So I’m going to lead with John’s four key tips for negotiating a car. If you want the context for why I have car negotiation tips on a poetry blog, the essay will be at the end.

Four Tips That Served Me Well in Auto Dealership Negotiations

  1. Make sure that you have access to the full amount of money for the car you want to buy. If this is a private sale, always carry cash–even if the amount is a little unnerving. If it’s a dealership, make sure you have a check.
  2. Initially offer 30% below asking price. They will scoff, and you will remind them that you have all the money to pay 30% below asking price right now.
  3. They will come down, inevitably. Private people are persuaded by hundred dollar bills, and salespeople prefer less profit to no sale.
  4. If they resist, gesture toward leaving. This both is and isn’t a bluff. There are always other cars, and you can in fact look elsewhere. This is not your dream car. It is a mass-produced machine.
Why Have I Posted Car Negotiation Tips to a Poetry Blog?

You are probably wondering what negotiating for a car has to do with poetry, or anything else I talk about on this blog. And I’ll admit, I’m not usually one to talk about finance, or finance-related topics, in any of my writing. I have, however, written a number of poems about driving. And this morning, I realized I’ve been a happy Subaru owner for half a decade! I bought my preowned Outback in the summer of 2016, and even though the car is now 12 years old, it’s still going strong!

I’ve always been slightly ashamed to admit that I paid full sticker for the 2008 Volkswagen Beetle I had before the Subaru… that one I also bought preowned in 2011, but though it was only a year older than the car I now have, within five years, my beloved convertible Beetle was sadly proving to not be a reliable vehicle. Each year, one of the window regulators broke. In the last year I owned it, the trunk wouldn’t work, the rear window fell in, and the rear struts went out. By the summer of 2016, I was ready to cut my losses and move on.

Of course, being embarrassed over paying full sticker, I was reluctant to go car shopping again. Words cannot express how much I loathe having to negotiate for anything. The one and only time I had to negotiate for my salary, I honestly felt like I was going to die. I am not being hyperbolic. I would rather have a root canal than negotiate for anything. I was aware, however, the extent to which I’d really lost out by paying full sticker for my Beetle.

John happened to be in Morocco when this whole excursion was happening, but over Facebook message, he wrote me an excellent negotiation outline that served me well. I followed it step by step, and got a car I wanted at a shockingly low mileage, especially for Austin, where you are lucky to find a used Subaru with less than 100,000 on it already.

Over the years, friends have asked me for the method, but as I only used it once, I didn’t commit it to memory. However, it was useful. And at some point, I will have to buy another vehicle… but I only hit 100,00 miles on my Outback in December 2019, and I’m angling for 300,000 before I get a new vehicle. But between people asking for negotiation tips, and the difficulty of finding old information in the Facebook messenger interface, I’m reproducing the negotiating outline here, for anyone who wants it. May the odds be ever in your favor when it comes to a vehicle negotiation.

(Also, may you never have to wade through five years of old Facebook messages to find the one you are looking for. This might be the most time-intensive blog post I have ever written, just because of the terrible Messenger interface.)

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