The art of negotiation. Or why buying a used car is nothing like making love to a beautiful woman


By Dom Burch, managing director

February 4, 2016 | 5 min read

I bought a second hand car at the weekend, from a used car salesman.

Swiss Toni

It's hard not to conjure up an image of Swiss Toni when you think second hand cars and salesmen.

For those too young to remember, Swiss Toni was a suave, quiff-haired character from the Fast Show.

According to Swiss Toni, selling cars (and answering the phone and putting up a tent for that matter) is 'like making love to a beautiful woman'.

That's as maybe. Buying one is like nothing of the sort.

Where else in life is such an expensive object so shrouded in mystery and falsely set prices?

£15999 you say? Why not £16101 or £15786? One pound below a round number seems convenient. Or inconvenient depending on your point of view.

Don't get me wrong, I like my cars. One day when I grow up I'd like to own a really nice one.

But I'm no motorhead. I don't really know much about them. And I'm fairly relaxed about driving one brand vs another.

I want a decent one, but not at the expense of anything else in my life.

I'd rather live somewhere nice and drive an older car, than live somewhere not so nice with a really nice car parked outside.

After all, as we know, cars spend most of their lives parked in front of your home doing nothing other than sitting there looking nice.

Economically it makes absolutely no sense to own one.

It would be probably be cheaper to hire one each day, or lease one, but where's the fun in that?

But I desperately need my own set of wheels, as my 11-year-old Seat Cordoba is on its last legs. The heater breaking mid-winter was the straw that broke the camel's back. And my wife let me know about it in no uncertain terms.

So I had to go buy a car.

The process is far from pleasurable. And not one I wanted to face alone. But as it happens my godfather loves his cars. He always has.

When I was very young he used to take me and my brother out for a spin in his latest set of company wheels. He even wore leather driving gloves and everything.

Apparently at an even younger age I threw up all over his spanking new Cavalier, but we don't like to talk about that.

More importantly he is a very good negotiator having trained dozens of sales people in different industries over the years.

The art of negotiation, also known as 'the art of letting them have your way', is fairly straightforward once you know the rules.

"Dominic, there are five key elements to negotiation, and they are as follows: logic, emotion, veiled threat (these are all without cost), then bargaining & compromise (both of these will cost you something).

"Whatever you do, don't reveal how much you are willing to spend. Then let the game commence."

And that's all it is.

Two sides battle it out. Sizing one another up.

Lots of smiles and small talk. A little test drive to get a proper feel.

Then time to get serious. Let's talk numbers. Express surprise. Can you help on the price? Listen to their sob story. Present them with another similar model we've been looking at that's a lot nicer and better value.

Plenty of awkward silence.

Cue sales assistant calling for her manager.

Start again. Final offer (it's not).

A quick tour of the workshop where used cars are being prepared. Yes it is very impressive.

Final offer (it's still not).

Knock another £50 off and we have a deal.

Shake hands. Deal done. All smiles and more small talk.

Three hours of my life I can't ever get back.

Negotiated brilliantly if I might say by my godfather. Ably assisted by a hungover, disinterested me.

Selling a used car may be like making love to a beautiful woman Swiss Toni, but buying one frankly is a complete pain in the arse.

Follow Dom on Twitter @domburch


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