Monday, January 12, 2009

How to negotiate like someone who hardly knows what they are doing

We bought a new car!

Well, okay, actually it's really quite old.

But!! It's newer than our current one, which is what counts. And it's all blue and shiny. Hooray! It also has special features like power steering, air conditioning, and other things that have been standard in cars since 1753. Such as paintwork. And suspension.


Here is a photo, not of our actual car, but a stunt double:

And the technical specifications, for those who like that sort of thing.

I would like to state for the record that I hate cars, and I hate buying them. I also hate driving them. I would like nothing better than to live without a car, and I'm not just saying that for my green credentials. But it turns out to be quite difficult to live in this city without one, and an annual public transport ticket for both me and Geekman would cost more than a car does to run. By quite a lot.

The absolute worst part of buying a car is the negotiating. I have no clue what I am doing. Our friend Jana, who was visiting when we first started test driving cars, gave us the advice that we should begin by pointing out all the flaws with the car, and why it is overpriced, and then make an offer. Unfortunately(?) this car had no flaws. And was not overpriced.

But, watch and learn from the master. This is how my negotiating went:

Geekman, whispering: "I'm going to stand over there in the corner and pretend this isn't happening, okay? Good luck."

Me, to the owner: "Um, yeah. We like it. It's a good car. [Frantically tries to think of any problems with it or features that are lacking. Fails. Moves straight to step two in the negotiating process.] We'd like to offer you $4,500 for it."

Car owner: "Huh. You know, these are listed on Red Book for $7000–9000."

Me, with an inspired, yet traditional comeback: "No they aren't."

[At this point I realise I might be digging myself a hole, because the next obvious step is to pull out the notes I made about the Red Book listing, and while it wasn't $7000–9000, it WAS a range that meant this guy's asking price was totally reasonable.]

Car owner: "You've got to look at the features, anyway. This one has power steering and aircon and a good CD player."

Me, at a complete loss for any further bargaining tactics, also thinking that his price really is quite acceptable: I stare blankly.


Car owner: "Yeah, okay, you can have it for $4,500."

I guess the good thing about buying privately instead of from a dealer is that the seller is likely to be equally clueless as you are.

Now that you have observed my mad negotiating skillz, here's a quick quiz for you.

Imagine you are the seller. Which of the following are NOT selling points, and therefore should probably NOT be emphasised while potential buyers are inspecting your car?
(a) "It's really quite tinny. You get a lot of road noise."
(b) "It's a beaut car, but. It's never had no issues or nuthink."
(c) "I wouldn't drive it on long trips like to Sydney or somewhere. The engine's not really that powerful."
(d) "It runs off a tank of petrol literally forever."

(a) and (c) are things you probably shouldn't tell a potential buyer.
(b) is acceptable, and will add to your Authentic Australian cred.
(d) is something I probably won't complain about if it turns out to be truth rather than grammar.


BrightStar (B*) said...

nice work! I love it! I use a similar negotiating style, something more general, though -- like, I really don't want to pay that price. I'd like to pay less. And then just look at the sales dude until the price drops more.

Bardiac said...

Well done!

Cute car, too! One of my friends has a car that looks a lot like that and really likes it. I hope yours treats you well and doesn't get broken into!

Grace Dalley said...

Yay! Well done! Is that you and GM in the picture, or are they also stunt-doubles? ;-)

Psych Post Doc said...


Here's to hoping it really does run "literally forever" even if it's on more than one tank of petrol. :)

geekman said...

Just so everyone's clear: I wasn't hiding. I was giving him the Negotiating Stare of Doom.

Ju said...

Awesome post!

If you move forward to buy a car, here is a tip:

When buying anew car you should bring a piece of paper to the dealership and make sure you do all the math of the finance calculations yourself. The point is not that they will do the math wrong. The point is you will see exactly how the deal is structured. Do not be afraid to take the time to do this or look like a fool.

Here are five other steps that may save you thousands if you follow them next time you buy a car: