How to drive a hard bargain when buying a car

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The Independent Online

It might not be very British but haggling with a showroom salesman over the price of a new car can save motorists an average of almost £1,600.

It might not be very British but haggling with a showroom salesman over the price of a new car can save motorists an average of almost £1,600.

Researchers found that it pays to bid for a lower price than accept a dealer's listed price without question and British car buyers stand to save a combined £4bn a year if they do so.

A slowdown in new car sales is leading to an increase in the bargains available, with even premium brands such as Mercedes-Benz willing to offer discounts.

A survey conducted by What Car? magazine, which collated figures over a year, found that the biggest bargains were to be gained from Citroën dealerships, where a discerning bidder could lower the price of a vehicle by an average of £2,883.

Dealerships willing to make the most generous cuts tended to be in the North-west, while buyers in Wales achieve the poorest deals with an average discount of £1,322.

The magazine sends out a team of shoppers who do not identify themselves to traders every month. They bargain with showrooms to give the reader a recommended "target price".

Tim Pollard, the deputy editor of the magazine, said prospective car owners should never expect to pay the price on the windscreen in a showroom. "Buying a new car is the second biggest expense after buying a house, and no one buys a house at list price. People are used to seeing a price and bidding for lower than that because they are dealing with such a lot of money," he said.

Mr Pollard added that while many had realised the benefits of the "showroom haggle", there were some who were still naive enough to buy a car without bidding. "I think the British are not particularly good at haggling. They find it a bit unsavoury, but I also think that people are more switched on to it now, and are prepared to save money through haggling," he said.

The magazine's bidding tips included visiting the dealership in person rather than attempting to reach a satisfactory offer on the phone, as well as asking for add-ons if sales staff were resistant to dropping the price further. "If the salesman suddenly grinds to a halt and you're pretty near a good deal, then ask for free options such as alloy wheels or a CD player."

The most generous discounts, after Citroën's 18 per cent, were MG Rover, which offered 15.8 per cent, or £2,597, discount, followed by Proton, for which the haggler could shave off £1,345 (13.3 per cent), and Renault, which took almost 13 per cent (£2,118) from the price.

The national average discount of £1,578 is higher than in previous years. What Car? magazine said that the figure was £1,337 in 2004, £1,200 in 2003 and just £997 in 2002.


The Independent haggled with five dealers for a VW Golf 1.4, five-door diamond black pearl, which has a recommended retail price of £12,495, plus £335 for metallic paint. What Car? found the average price after haggling was £11,814 (without metallic paint).

Alan Day, Embankment, central London

List price: £12,495, plus £335 paint cost possibly knocked down to "under £12,500 with free air conditioning and free paint".

Dane County, Cheshire

List price: £12,495, knocked down by £500. "There will be the discount but no add-ons," said the salesman.

Dovercourt, Battersea

List price: £12,830 with paint, with the £335 costfor the metallic paint knocked off.

SG Motor in Norwood, south London

List price including paint: £12,830. Agreed to knock "around £500 off".

Gilbert Lawton in Altrincham, Manchester

List price: £12,830 knocked down to: £12,425.

Salesman offered either paying the full list price with free extras (alloy wheels was briefly mentioned) or the knock-down price above. "It's up to you whether you want a deal on the price or the extras. We can do either."