Negotiating tips to help buy a used Toyota Camry?
December 26, 2010 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Tips for negotiating the price of a used car, namely a used Toyota Camry, years 2007-2010?

I'm in the market for a used, or if the price is good enough, new Toyota Camry. I'm considering all trims and the years 2007-2011, though I'm leaning towards the 2007 and 2008 models because those seem to be the off-lease cars.

I have looked at rental cars, I'm not comfortable going down that road. Private party listings turn up accident vehicles and salvage/rebuilt titles. Not interested in that either. I'm trying to find a single owner clean title or a off lease vehicle.

The budget is 10,000 to 14,000. My mileage range is 20k to 70k.

I have considered saving and waiting to buy a new Toyota Camry LE around 18,500 assuming I can negotiate that and if I run out of patience with trying to get, what I consider, a good used car. My auto markets are the Dallas, Texas and Houston, Texas.

However, my problem comes to negotiating with dealers. It seems dealerships have first crack at the off lease cars. These cars command a premium over former rental cars because they are presumably treated better. They generally tack on a "preowned certified" warranty which seems to be raising their asking price compared to private sellers.

While a "fax blast" may work for new cars, does that hold true for used cars? This past week I dropped by a few dealerships trying to bargain on 2010 Toyota Camry LE's with 40k miles and rental histories. They first asked 19,995 which was the retail sticker, I told them that's unreasonable, then they quoted their internet special of 16,900, I then showed them Hertz Rent to buy sells similar cars at 14,500, they came down to 15,900 and told me no one would sell a factory certified Camry for less.

I walked away because I figured if the best 2010 Camry is going for 15,900 I might as well buy a new 2011 for about 3,000 more and get a new car with a full warranty and 0 miles on the odometer.

I am in no particular hurry to buy a car, though my current car, a 2000 Camry, is developing overheating issues on long trips, causing me to rent a car every time I need to drive out of town. I rather save the $1200 a year I give the rental companies ($100/month) and get my own long distance trip car.

But I'm here asking if you have successfully negotiated better. I mean, it's December 2010, surely there must be some motivation to close a deal before the end of the year?
posted by abdulf to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
As I've recommended before, Remar Sutton's Don't Get Taken Every Time is excellent. You should also read through Consumer Reports' free online car buying advice. The book will give you an excellent understanding of how dealers convince customers to pay more than they need to, and how to beat them at their own game.

When my wife and I shopped for a late-model used Honda over the summer, I saw the same sort of thing you're seeing -- sticker prices on used cars inflated to near, or even higher than, the price of new ones. Nevertheless, we kept looking at used cars. We found our Honda on the lot of a VW dealer which was affiliated with a BMW dealership that had taken the Honda as a trade-in. The VW dealer originally advertised our car for just under $17K (well above blue-book dealer retail value), but had dropped the sticker to $15.8K (exactly in line with blue-book dealer retail) before we even looked at the car. We test-drove the car and liked it, but expressed hesitance over the price. Instantly the sales manager offered to knock off another $1000. About an hour later I offered $13K (just above blue-book private party value), and they said they'd get back to me. The next morning the sales manager called me and accepted my offer.

You can absolutely negotiate for a used car, but the dealers play a lot of games to keep the prices high. Reading the book really helped my wife and me understand the tricks that were being tried on us. It actually made the process rather fun.
posted by jon1270 at 9:03 AM on December 26, 2010

As a former car salesman, I have three pieces of advice:

1. If you're going to buy new, you should be able to pay about $100 over the invoice price of the car. That is about as a good a deal as you can get. Find the car you want on a lot or have a salesperson help you figure out what you need if they don't have exactly the options you want. Make note of the option packages and the exact sticker price. Go to and build that same car making sure you have the exact same sticker price and then you'll know what the dealer's invoice price is. Getting down to $100 or so over the invoice price before rebates is about as good a deal as you're going to get.

2. Don't worry about the price or anything associated with it until you're sure that this is the car you want. Don't worry about pointing out every little thing that is wrong with the car until you're done with the test drive and have determined that you want to buy that car on that day.

3. The easiest way to get a good deal on any car at a dealer new or used is to make it clear that you're going to buy a car. Use phrases like,"If you can get the price down to X, I'll buy the car right now." Salespeople and their managers never work harder to make a deal work than when they know that the only thing keeping them from the sale is the price.

I've handed out tons of advice about buying cars on ask.mefi in the past and a lot of it should be relevant to you so you might want to take a look at my comment history too.
posted by VTX at 9:35 AM on December 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have gotten some good ideas from this website:
posted by brownrd at 9:55 AM on December 26, 2010

Also worth noting is that you don't have to buy the factory certification just because a given used car is offered with it. Factory certification is like the extended warranty that Best Buy tries to sell you when you buy a DVD player; it's not an integral part of the car.
posted by jon1270 at 9:58 AM on December 26, 2010

Best answer: My husband and I have been trying for about a month to buy a used (2008) Honda Odyssey, and we're seeing the same sheanigans you are seeing. I came in to say what Jon1270 just said, that the Factory Waranty does add something (and some value) to the car.

Salespeople and their managers never work harder to make a deal work than when they know that the only thing keeping them from the sale is the price.

In my experience, that hasn't been true. We've made very reasonable offers on two vans now, and in both cases ended up walking out of the dealership empty handed.
posted by anastasiav at 10:24 AM on December 26, 2010

I second It helped me get a new Toyota Corolla back in 2005 for $400 *below* invoice. (I had other dealers in the area telling me that I'd be a fool not to take that deal, because there was no possible way they could match it.)
posted by snafu at 11:25 AM on December 26, 2010

Response by poster: I ended up purchasing a new 2011 4 cylinder Auto Toyota Camry LE on December 31st. Turned out to be a good day to buy a car, used methods detailed at - basically called a lot of dealers, sent them a letter stating I was buying a car, asked them for bids, then gave them a chance to rebid. Bought the car for $20k out the door (after incentives and taxes and fees), which was a good deal from what I've read.

End of the month, end of the year seems to be a great time to buy a new car. Just wish I figured out how to do better with a used car.
posted by abdulf at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2011

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