Car Negotiation

I think I am getting better with this. I should work as a used car hunter for hapless tourists or new migrants. My clients cannot be Singaporeans though, as most Singaporeans shun the old cars that I specialise in. I'm talking about cars 15 years of age. The first car I bought here was a 1995 Toyota Corolla Seca for $3,000. On hindsight, it was a bad deal (by my current expectations) - though by no means was I ripped off. It was reliable and never failed me mechanically until I got into an accident which ended my relationship with Barry White.

I am still driving the second car to work. It has been a year already since it took over the duties of transporting my family and I around the streets of Perth. I bought Goldilocks out of desperation because I had struggled a week without transport after the accident. Patrick had to drive me down to Mandurah to view Goldilocks. It left me very little room for negotiation and the seller probably knew that too. Fortunately, we agreed on a fair price at $2,100 for the 1998 Daihatsu Pyzar. When I was searching for a car for Jen lately, I found a seller of another 1998 Pyzar, same color as Goldilocks, listing it for $2,800. I guess I didn't fare too badly. I always told myself if I ever get a second car, not only I will NEVER allow myself to be ripped off, I will get a satisfactory bargain or it will be no deal. 

The problem with Perth was that the place is huge. You need a car to hunt for a car if you are seriously looking for a real bargain. Else, there are always the convenient dealers to visit to buy a car and receive butt sex at the same time. Since I already have a car, I am no longer in a desperate situation. That is the first rule of negotiation, which I learnt from the blogger recently. If there isn't room for negotiation, I will receive none, simple as.

So I went hunting. My budget was $2,500 and I intended to find the best possible bargain for this price. On the other hand, friends were urging me to take a look at other options, so the initial shortlist looked casually like this:

We test drove a White Toyota Camry on Saturday morning. It was in decent condition in my opinion, the owner listed the car for $2,500. The owner was a Bangadeshi student from Curtin University. He also stated he would be returning to his country on the following Monday. Bad mistake. He left himself no room for negotiation by telling his potential buyers that. If we went into negotiation, it would be finally a role reversal where I wasn't the one with no room behind my back. If I were to make an offer, I would simply tell Baya I would do it for $2,000 and walk away. He would call me if he couldn't find his buyer in time.

The thing I found out about buying used cars (which probably applies to any other things) here was that the higher the price we are dealing with, the more we can haggle. So, for a buyer of used cars of the lowest range (0 - $3,000), it will be always difficult to get a big discount on the asking price compared to say, the $10,000 - $15,000 range. Still, there are savings to be made even for cheapo buys and I shall prove that to you.

We ended up striking off many possible options from the shortlist. I will go into details in my next post, including details of the final choice we made. Here was how the negotiation went for our eventual buy. The owner listed his car for $3,900. I went down and did the test drive and was happy with what I saw. I told Jen that I was going to buy that car for her and I was sure she would like it even though she didn't even sit in it.

With that, I finally did my first ever REAL negotiation in my life. All my life, all I could show for was measly money through petty haggling with night market vendors or similar. When it came to the bigger money items, I was contended with $50 off the price. It wasn't that I was generous but simply didn't know the techniques to do this properly. This time, I wasn't desperate - which was the perfect scenario for me to start my negotiation lesson. I loved the car, to be honest. It was a love-at-first-sight. I was even prepared to pay the original price the owner asked for, because it was a fair price for the car of that profile and specifications in Western Australia. I could only get it cheaper at the Eastern States. Besides, the condition of the car was great. I would go into that in my next post. To me, the owner asked for a fair price.

But I told myself despite how I like the car (trust me, I seldom get excited over a car), I was prepared to walk away if I could not knock the selling price to $3,500 from $3,900. I was sure even if I didn't buy the car at $3,900, somebody would, asking seeing the complete package that the owner offered. In negotiations, there was no place for sentiments.

The owner was a very rich man. During the test drive, he revealed his sold one of his two GTOs so that he could pay up his new ocean-overlooking double story house in South Fremantle. Still, he had one GTO left in his garage with his brand new Landcruiser and another brand new Ford Fiesta. If he sold the old car he advertised, he would free up one slot in his 4-car garage. This man would either be generous or damn stingy.

Tip 2: Carry Balls. That was what I learnt from the above mentioned blog. I did.

"Terry, I love this car. It is an old car but you guys managed to keep it in tip top condition, I'm really impressed." I wasn't lying, I meant it. If it was a piece of wreck, I wouldn't even be interested.

Terry the owner went on telling me how to take care of the car in detail. I was really impressed because I had never met a car seller so meticulous and sincere. He was a great bloke.

Tip 3: Act Poor. 

"Terry, I've got a budget issue. The wife wouldn't be too happy if I spent above the budget. A little might be possible but the problem is that my budget is way below your asking price."

"How much is your budget?"

Tip 4: Offer a 20% discount to asking price, negotiate and try to meet halfway to get a 10% discount.

"$3,200" I reckoned if he would back down a little and offered $3,500, I would bite his arm off. That was the scenario I was hoping for.

"How about $3,400?" Terry counter offered without hesitation.

My heart skipped. Oh yeah! That's $500 off the asking price. I pushed my luck further because I felt this was the day to claim my first ever full victory.

"Can you do a little better for me please?" (still acting poor and small)

"Alright, will you be happy with $3,350?" Terry returned.

Tip 5. Do not ask for anything more when your negotiation opposite cut his price twice. Take it or leave it at this stage.

I took it. $550 off the asking price of $3,900. A 15% discount. Some may do better than this but I felt that was decent cut for a noob. Besides, there are other factors that made the deal greater than its price suggested which I would share later.

I was pleased, more for the successful negotiation than the car itself though when it sank in after a few days, I realised what a gem I bought which made me happier ever. The wife was pleased. My mother was pleased with the number plate of the car. Even the grumpy old man was happy.


  1. shall get u to help me find a used car when u come over my end for vacations....I can nego but srsly? I am darn clueless in choosing cars

    1. Much as I'd love it, I can't afford the luxury to fly there for vacations. However, it's good news that you decided to give driving another go. Sure you can do it.