How to Make an Offer on a Vehicle

two people shaking hands

Buying a vehicle can be intimidating, especially if it is your first time to do so on your own. It’s not something you do every day, but it is a skill that will come in handy in the future.

As you shop around, remember that the price tags on available vehicles aren’t necessarily set in stone. So, it is in your best interest to know how to make an offer on a car or truck that you want and negotiate it well.

Part 1 of 1: Make an offer

Step 1: Shop around. Before you buy a car, look around to get an idea of what vehicles are available in your area and the price at which they are marked. There are various resources that can help you find an affordable vehicle, including print and online classifieds.

You can also visit dealerships and look at vehicles, and test drive them in person. This will help you decide what car or truck you want to buy and how much you are willing to pay for it ultimately.

NADA website
Image: NADA Guides

Step 2: Consult online resources to determine vehicle worth. With an idea of what kind of vehicle you want, check to see how much it is really worth by consulting a website like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or NADA Guides. Vehicles are usually priced higher than what they are worth, so this step will help you determine what you can reasonably offer to pay for your desired vehicle.

Step 3: Narrow your options. Even when you decide the make and model of vehicle to buy, there may still be many cars in that model available for purchase. Whittle your list down according to factors like whether you prefer an automatic or standard transmission, your preferred color, your budget, safety features and other options that you want in your future vehicle.

Step 4: Test drive the vehicles on your list. If you find yourself genuinely interested in purchasing a vehicle, ask a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to perform a pre-purchase car inspection to make sure that everything is in good working order and note anything that may need replacement or repair in the near future.

  • Note: Such things are not necessarily deal breakers, but they will reduce the vehicle’s worth and, consequently, the amount of a reasonable offer.

Step 5: Choose a vehicle. Make a choice, and honestly assess what price range you are willing to pay. Once you make an offer on a vehicle, there is no turning back if the dealership or individual in possession of it accepts your offer. Be confident in your decision before moving forward.

Step 6: Decide on an offer amount. Consider the car’s worth, given its current condition and any repairs needed in the near future, to come up with a reasonable offer.

Although dealerships and individuals selling vehicles expect to negotiate on the price, you will not do yourself any favors by low-balling, or offering far less than a vehicle is worth. This only insults the person with which you are negotiating, and they will not be inclined to settle on a deal.

Step 7: Make an offer. Commit and make an offer on the vehicle of your choosing that is on the lower end of what you expect to pay, but is also fair to both parties involved.

Expect the other party to make a counter offer of less than the price tag and more than your initial offer. Respectfully point out any problems with the vehicle that affect its worth, and when you ultimately make a final offer, be prepared to stick to it.

Once you have made your final offer, be prepared to walk away, keeping your budget and dignity intact; hopefully, the dealership or individual will accept that offer, and you will drive away in a new or new-to-you vehicle. Otherwise, locate another vehicle you wish to purchase and begin the process of negotiation anew.

Once you have successfully made an offer on a vehicle and honed your negotiation skills, take pride in your efforts. If you ultimately closed the deal on your desired car or truck, you undoubtedly saved money over paying the sticker price.

If your first experience of making an offer on a vehicle didn’t turn out well, learn from the experience and try again. You will likely be successful on the next attempt, provided your offer is reasonable and you negotiate with respect for the seller and yourself.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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