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How to professionally haggle

April 27, 2011

Ever need to buy something from a private party? A car, some kind of electronic appliance, a computer? Here is a few things to consider when you want o buy something from someone.

Knowing how to deal with the situation you are in. There are 3 different real-life situations I can imagine. Each one has it’s quirks and things to look out for!

Retail store

You can hardly haggle unless you are owed something from them. (defective product, poor customer service, etc.) I always say to look and try out the product in a store, then shop online.

Outlet/ lot

You can usually haggle, but they are very well-versed in how to shoot you down. They are professional salesmen and they know what makes you (the buyer) tick. They can offer warranties and professional service on top of your car. Using leverage that eliminates their “perks” works quite well. “Well, I really don’t need this extra stuff, I’ll pay (a few hundred less). Go there, find what you like, use it, inspect it all over physically and don’t be afraid to ‘abuse it a little’ by being a little rough with controls, handling, merely to test it’s durability to a bit of force. Call out every little detail to the salesperson and make a mental list of the biggest flaws it has. Don’t bring a notebook. It makes the salesperson feel less in control or intimidated. Write down your findings in your car if you need to, or type it in your phone.

Every little mannerism helps tailor a conversation in your favor, from sighing, the way you stand, the way you greet someone, etc. I will get more into professional (positive) manipulation in another thread.

Private Party

It is best to go to a person’s house to purchase something from them. The salesperson feels comfortable and empowered in his/her own house. You want the ‘haggled’ to be comfortable when you talk them down.  They are selling it because they want to get rid of it, and fast. They want two things. They want to get rid of it fast, to get as much money as they can for it.Use the rules below to gauge their desperation. Sometimes someone will want to get rid of something more than they want the money for it (an old engagement ring) or they want to get the money above all else and don’t mind waiting because it will not depreciate soon (A retail packaged iPad 2).

First and foremost, follow these rules wherever you go!


  • Flashing cash can make or break a deal. Use the cash when you make an offer. “I have $750 I’ll give you right now for this and we can call it even”. Don’t pull out more cash than your offer or the seller will feel insulted and could back off.

Make an offer that doesn’t upset the seller!

  • Don’t lowball the seller. It’s insulting to their assets, to their ability to price an product, and it can be interpreted as a personal attack. People take it very personally when you call into question their pricing policy. Haggling can be illustrated out as a trip across a frozen lake as the thinner ice (edgy haggling) leads to the shorter way across (lower price). When you fall in, the deal is over and he won’t even sell it to you.

Gauge / manipulate the desperation of the seller, ask a few questions!

  • “How long have you been trying to get rid of this”?
  • “Where did you get it””
  • “Are you the original owner””
  • “Is there anything about it that I should know about?” 
  • “Was it ever serviced?”
  • (If it’s a car, get a CARFAX. Don’t believe the seller EVER)

Find and Exploit Flaws to your advantage.

  • Look at he product for anything you may find as a “flaw”. Make a mental note of everything that could be wrong with it. If the sale will be more than a few hundred dollars, you should bring a notepad. This notepad will keep track of your purchase and it will intimidate the seller (in a good way). I carry a notepad to big sales and I make it very clear to the seller that I have been looking for a long time, I have seen other deals, and I know what I’m looking for.

If you don’t know about it, bring an expert!

  • Everyone has a friend who knows about cars, computer, electronics, sporting goods equipment, etc. Find that friend, pay them for their time (Or buy them a beer, it’s cheaper and more fun for the both of you).

When you are buying something, knock off it’s worth by pointing out the flaws you found.

  • Look at the product with scrutinizing eyes. Imagine you are judging a dog show. After getting everything together on your Notebook, bring each item up to the seller individually. After one item is resolved, note the resolution and go onto the next. Don’t recite everything you found at once or they will become overwhelmed and they could refuse to sell it to you and look for another sucker.

With that being said, here’s how to actually talk someone down!

Category of Product matters a lot. Depreciation of the product’s value has a lot to do with what it is! Here’s just a few that have varying depreciation rates. Each category has a ton of FORUMS, BOARDS, and FREE INFORMATION applied to it’s operability and value. Just look for it on the internet.

Cars depreciate heavily on a new car (purchased by some idiot) by a few thousand dollars . The next thing people look at is how many miles are on the engine / drivetrain. At 200,000 miles without an engine swap, most cars are worth less than $1000 and are not worth looking at, no matter how nice they were taken care of. Next thing to knock people down on are the price on the Kelly Blue Book, or Edmunds. Look the car up and print out the value of the car, use it to your advantage. If it doesn’t work to your advantage, don’t whip it out. It can be a double-edged sword if you are planning to lowball him further. Just don’t let a price on a piece of paper reinforce his argument.

Motorcycles hardly depreciate and hold their value if serviced regularly. They require less work than a car and many users work on their own.

Handguns / rifles don’t really go down in value unless there is a flaw publicly pointed out. Guns, especially rifles and shotguns go down in price depending on gun law leniency. Handguns are usually stable prices.

Computers (My Forte!) Depreciate HEAVILY after purchase, and every few months. Dual core computers with at least 2GB RAM are worth buying if you need a PC. Anything else had better be ultra-portable otherwise, don’t buy it.

Making an offer that benefits you and the seller

If they want $1000 and if it’s worth $1200, and you can point a few flaws out, call it $800. They will either shut off or try to reason with you. They may try to make it $900. Depending on what you are willing to pay, you may take it. You can ask for perks if you pay full price, or you can give him something to sweeten his deal that you don’t need. “I have an ipod at home that’s doing nothing. Want it?”

That’s it so far. I will edit this as people ask me to. Feel free to comment or question anything here.

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