This post refers to negotiating with a private seller, not a dealer. I will (hopefully!) write a post later on about how to negotiate with a seller, which is a whole different story.

So you’ve found a car you love? Now it’s time to negotiate the deal. It’s important to not let on to the seller that this is a car you can’t live without. Here are a few tips on how to negotiate, and why playing hard to get is often to your benefit.

1. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions from a private seller, even before you look at the vehicle.

a. Why are you selling the car? People don’t usually sell a car they love. Maybe it really is a great car, but the seller can no longer afford it, but maybe there are considerable repairs that need to be made.

b. How many miles are on the vehicle? Keep in mind that about 12,000/year is average. If the car has high miles, ask if the car is primarily driven on the highway or around town. (Highway miles are less taxing on the car.)

c. What condition is the vehicle in? Ask about specifics, like the paint, tires, AC, etc. This not only gives you a good idea of what condition the car is in, but also allows you the opportunity to access how honest the seller was with you when you actually look at the car. If the car is in worse condition than you were led to believe, there may be other hidden problems. Ask if there are any existing issues you should be aware of.

d. Do you have all maintenance records, including tune-up and oil change receipts? Although the majority of people do not have all records, they should be able to provide records of major repairs. But remember an owner who was attentive enough to keep all records likely was meticulous about taking good care of the car. Also, keep in mind that keeping all future records is a major selling point, and will likely expedite any future sales.

e. How much are you asking for the car? This question implies the price is negotiable, and the seller’s response will likely give you a better idea of how much they are willing to negotiate.

2. When all questions are answered to your satisfaction, schedule a time during the day to look at the vehicle. Be sure to take a copy of the Used Car Buyers Checklist with you.

3. Once you decide you are ready to make an offer, it’s time to play hard-to-get. In order to make it clear you aren’t completely in love with the car:

a. Tell the seller you aren’t completely sold on one (or more) feature(s) of the car. Maybe you don’t like the color, or prefer a manual to an automatic transmission.

b. Tell the seller you are interested in the car, but it is out of your price range.

c. You have looked at other cars you like just as well, but are in a lower price range.

4. Once you have established your reservations about the car, or the price, reiterate that the car is priced too high for you, and ask what the seller’s best price is.

5. Negotiate till your heart’s content, but be aware the seller will only go so low. If the car is indeed a good vehicle, the seller knows he will find a buyer who is willing to pay a fair price. Only you can decide how much you are willing to pay (and how much you can afford).