help us haggle with a dealership!
January 23, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

shopping for used BMW's for my girlfriend and found one we are interested in. need tips for the haggling process.

i'm very bad at the whole haggling thing, hence this question. there is a used BMW (I believe it's a 2001 or 2002) that appears to have what i perceive to be a reasonable asking price ($11,300; the car has a little over 80,000 miles). we found the car at a 'hall honda' dealership in virginia, if that matters. the car in question is a recent trade-in.

they indicated before we left the dealership after checking the car out that they would take 'a few hundred' off the price, but what are some other effective strategies for ensuring that we get the best possible price on the car? the only catch is that we need the car as soon as possible. we're going back tomorrow morning and are hopeful that we can get the car then. i just tend to be a bit of a pushover, as is my girlfriend, and as i struggle with asserting myself in those situations, any tips are greatly appreciated.

posted by austere to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: i forgot to mention that she would be making a down payment of $7,000, or perhaps closer to $8,000.
posted by austere at 1:29 PM on January 23, 2010

I've always used the Rizzo Method. With used cars it is a bit different, but a good starting point is 3-5% over the Bluebook value of the car. You do need a complete feature set to do this.

I use Ebay's recently closed listings as a reasonable guide to what the private market is setting the price at.

Used car dealerships run thin margins, I've always just accepted their counter offer. But do make an initial lower offer to see if you can at least get a bite.
posted by geoff. at 1:35 PM on January 23, 2010

First of all, have the car looked at by a mechanic who you trust before making an offer on this car. They will help you determine the real value of the car.

Although BMWs hold their value, $11k is a lot of money for any car with 80,000 miles.
Also, don't just consider the "right now" price, consider the overall price. For instance, BMW recommends synthetic oil. Six or seven quarts of Mobil 1 can cost close to $50, plus the cartridge filter and labor and an oil change can run close to eighty or a hundred dollars. That's just a routine oil change.
There's a reason that BMW got traded in to a Honda dealership: the previous owner got tired of the cost of ownership and wanted to get out of that car before the mileage got to high and the cost became too great.

the only catch is that we need the car as soon as possible.
Do not be in a hurry when buying a car. That puts you at the mercy of the salesman. If you're only interested in one vehicle and you're in a hurry to buy it, you'll wind up paying whatever they want for it. Take your time and find some competitive options.
posted by Jon-o at 1:38 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

We own 2 BMW's. We purchased both used. My wife's 325i we purchased from a large national used car chain my x3 was purchased from a BMW dealer under their certified pre-owned (CPO) program. My advice is to buy through the dealer. I was able to get the unlimited maintenance and a warranty for up 100,000 miles. We couldn't do this with her car. Unless you are going to do the repairs yourself you want a warranty, and you should consider going to the dealer. They are great cars but the repair bills are steep. Keep in mind that many of them require synthetic oil which means a very expensive oil change, though less often.

I just had the sunroof on the X3 repaired and with out the warranty it would have been $750.

I made the mistake of taking the 325i to the local national chain oil change place and looked up to find 2 guys over the hood and one over each fender. They had not change the oil on one of these and tossed out a part they needed.

Tips on negotiating: (Disclaimer: some of these could cause the dealer to throw up his hands. You need to be okay with that if you want to get a better price)

You have to negotiate from a position of power. You don't need his car, he needs your sale.

I ended up getting my X3 for about 15% less than the dealer was asking.

1. To verify the price go to the Kelly Blue Book site and look at the actual values on the car.

2. Ask for a free car fax report. If there is anything on there that stands out use that.

3. Loose all attachment to this car. You have to be willing to walk away. If time is not on your side, make the deal think that it is.

4. Look up other similar cars online. If there is a better deal out there bring it up.

5. This one is crass, I haven't done it myself, I have seen it done and it worked. Go to another dealer find a car you are interested in as much or almost as much. Go to the dealer with the car you really want. Start negotiating with them. If they won't come down then call the sales guy from the other dealership and start negotiating right in front of the sales guy who won't negotiate with you. Literally pith them against each other.

6. Call your "father\uncle" who is "helping you with the down payment" and you have to run the offer by them to get approval. Don't do this in front of the other dealer. Let him know you are doing it. This may give him the impression that pressuring you will not make a difference since you are not the decision maker. Your benefactor cannot be present and is making a judgement on the numbers only.

7. If you could wait the end of the month is the best time to deal. Sales departments are more desperate to meet their quotas. This doesn't apply in every case.
posted by empty vessel at 1:56 PM on January 23, 2010

You have good advice on this thread, and I have just one more thing to add. It is always a good idea to get numbers on comparable cars elsewhere, and then be ready to use a lower price to bring down the ask on the car you are looking at. To do this effectively, you have to actually go to other dealers, then return to the one that has the car you want and politely let them know that you saw xxx for xxx price elsewhere. It is also key to courteously convey that you are ready to buy now, though you need not, but only for a price that works for you, and show you mean it by actually driving away (preferably to another dealer to look at comparables.)

I have done this to buy new and used cars in the past, and it works very well if you are telling the truth throughout and willing to be patient about getting to the price you want.
posted by bearwife at 2:08 PM on January 23, 2010

I was in a situation a couple of years ago where I had a small amount of time to by a car, and eventually reached the very last day to find a car so that I could drive across the country and start a job. There were two easy things I did that helped with the used-car-buying process.

First, I lied to all the salespeople I talked to that day and told them I had weeks to make a decision, even though I really needed a car by the end of the day.

Second, I did some comparison shopping between two or three dealerships and got the carfax reports for the cars I was looking at. I then used this as a bargaining tool between the dealerships. It helped to write down on the reports what I was willing to pay for each of the cars, and pretend I had these offers from other dealerships, even though I did not, to help me negotiate with each salesperson.
posted by andoatnp at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2010

The large down payment will really not get you anything. If the dealer arranges financing he gets point on your loan. If you borrow less he makes less on the loan commission.
posted by empty vessel at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2010

i forgot to mention that she would be making a down payment of $7,000, or perhaps closer to $8,000.

One of the suggestions in this excellent comment was to find a car loan at a decent rate from a bank or credit union, so you can (threaten to) reject the dealer's finance if it isn't competitive.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:45 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also from the thread to which Mike1024 linked, "Confessions of A Car Salesman" is a great read and can help you understand what goes on behind the scenes.
posted by tellumo at 3:01 PM on January 23, 2010

If it's a 3-series from the early 2000s, ask about the window regulators. They're known to fail and are $300-400 to replace per window.
posted by squorch at 3:15 PM on January 23, 2010

I don't know if this is the right place to say this, but a BMW isn't a car you get because you can just afford it. It's a car you buy because you can afford all the other crap you have to deal with to keep it going. If it's a status symbol you want, an older used BMW isn't going to impress anybody. If it's reliability and LCO you want, an older used BMW isn't going to impress you.
posted by klanawa at 4:01 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to put this in a little perspective, you can probably find a 2005 Acura TSX, with a Certified PreOwned Warranty for about $16000. If you're putting a down payment of $8000, your payments can be less than $220 a month, on a three year loan at 7%.
You'll have brand cache, a fun dynamic car to drive, good build quality, Honda reliability, and a warranty. You might wind up paying a little more per month as far as a car payment goes, but you won't have the expense of major repairs and non-warranty service will be much cheaper. In this case, you might wind up saving money by buying a more expensive car, especially when it comes to depreciation. In four years, the BMW will have almost 130,000 miles on it and it'll be 13 years old, making it basically worthless. You'll have a much harder time selling that than an 8 or 9 year old Acura with less than 100k on the odometer.
I know you might have your heart set on the BMW and I'm making the big assumption that you're not financially flexible enough to pay for all of the repairs and service, but think about it any way. If anything, buying a reliable car with a warranty will seriously cut down on the Pain-In-The-Ass factor of car ownership.

I know this might sound like a derail, but ultimately, you're asking for haggling tips on a used BMW, indicating that you're not keen on spending too much money on this endeavor.
Most car buying advice will tell you to stay flexible and to have options. This is one of those options.
posted by Jon-o at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are willing to switch your luxury brand, I second Acura over BMW. I drove my Integra for 10 years and then sold it to a buyer I knew who drove it happily for many years more. Acura makes a great, great car.

And if you are willing to drop the luxury requirement, you cannot beat Subaru. My Outback XT can dust any BMW, no kidding, and is comfortable, reliable, capable of going almost anywhere, and generally great. You can also probably get a new one, using same techniques outlined above, for the price you're willing to spend on a BMW. I put some of my savings into a custom sound system from Car Toys.
posted by bearwife at 6:55 PM on January 23, 2010

A 11k car is probably in great shape, but if you notice a few things wrong with the car (low tread on tires, windshield rock chips, small oil leak, etc) you can use the cost of 'repairs' for these things to work the price down-

"I'd really like to get this car from you, but I am concerned about how much it is to fix so-and-so and I really don't want to spend more than $XXXXX, would you take $XXXXX for the car so I can get these small things fixed?"

Has worked great for me- I usually buy cars much lower in price (~4-6k) though.

BMWs are very fun cars and look quite sharp, but as others have mentioned be very mindful of the repair costs. Maybe keep 1-2k of the down payment aside just in case?
posted by gatsby died at 7:38 PM on January 23, 2010

This is for new cars, but there are some excellent haggling tips here: Rob Gruhl - How to Buy a New Car. Some of this is reiterating things mentioned above plus some other great tips.
posted by Locobot at 12:09 AM on January 24, 2010

If it's a status symbol you want, an older used BMW isn't going to impress anybody.

Who said status symbol? I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that they're buying a BMW because BMW makes some of the best-handling sedans in the world, not because they're trying to impress the neighbors. can probably find a 2005 Acura TSX...

Aw, c'mon. The TSX is a valid competitor if your primary concern is having heated leather seats and a sunroof, standard. There's no contest behind the wheel. The BMW is a proper driver's car with rear-wheel drive; the Acura TSX is a rebadged family sedan (the European/Japanese-market Accord) with front-wheel drive.

Now, I'm not saying the TSX is a bad car; I'd probably buy one over a comparable Jetta or another "sporty" FWD sedan. The six-speed in the TSX is fantastically slick and it's a well-balanced, well-proportioned car--unlike its obese sister, the Acura TL, which is a miserable driving experience. But again, if you're a driver that understands things like torque steer, you'll be disappointed with a front-driver like the TSX.

For the record, I drive a front-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf. It suits my commuting needs, but if I had access to hilly, twisty roads and sunny weather, I'd absolutely be driving something with rear-wheel drive. Ignore comments about "expensive" oil changes; all of the European makers recommend synthetic oil. Yeah, it costs twice as much, but the recommended service interval is 10–15k miles. I change the oil once a year in my Golf. It's brilliant, and I'm never going back to dinosaur oil.

Oh, and I'm saying all of this under the impression that you're looking at a 3- or 5-series. If you're looking at the abomination that is the X5, well, best of luck to you.
posted by bhayes82 at 2:29 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

DO NOT be in a rush. If you need a car to get around in, rent one for a month while finding the best deal. Rent-a-wreck cars are like $300 a month, cheapo economy boxes from chain dealerships are $500 a month. This is important: DO NOT BUY IN A RUSH.

You simply must get the car checked out by an independent mechanic, with no connection to the dealership. These services cost $100-200 and could save you thousands.
If you don't get it checked by an independent mechanic, you are SCREWING YOURSELF.

Also, while BMWs are beautiful driving machines, at 80k they are also Money Pits if things go wrong. Budget at least $2k for the first year, adding 20% to that value each year.
posted by lalochezia at 12:33 PM on January 24, 2010

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