Most of us have heard stories about unscrupulous car sales associates. Some of whom will do anything to get a sale. If you are not used to negotiating, entering any car dealership can be an intimidating experience. When we set out to get the best deal on a motorhome, are we going to discover that the motorhome salesperson the same animal?
For some, once they step into the motorhome dealership, there’s often a sense of trepidation and vulnerability. You open the showroom door and see heads swivel in unison toward you, like lions marking their prey; except these lions are wearing smart suits; one of the young lions leaps up and makes towards you, showing his teeth. You feel like someone’s lunch. You’ve just met the motorhome salesperson.
Good Sales People
A good salesperson is nothing like the above. A good one will quickly put you at ease, and do all they can to show you they are not one of those stereotypical motorhome sales agents.
He will attempt to show that he is on your side. She will give you plenty of space to look around the dealership. Only when it looks like you have chosen the motorhome you want, will they pounce. They’ll pay you a nice compliment on your choice of motorhome and the negotiations can begin.
Sales Agents know a lot about negotiation
Sales agents negotiate with customers every day, practice makes them good at it. Most motorhome salespeople are trained to get the very best profits that they can for the company, but that does not mean they are ripping you off or you can’t get a good deal.
Buy what you want, at a price you are prepared to pay
Your aim is to get the motorhome of YOUR choice and save as much as you can. Too many people leave a motorhome salesroom buying something the salesperson wanted them to have and often paying more than they should have.
The best deal on a motorhome must be a Win-Win situation
We touched on this in our previous article. Both parties must feel that they are getting a good deal. It’s essential that the dealer turns a profit on each sale; your job is to ensure that his profit is as small as the dealer is happy to accept.
The dealer will not think less of you for negotiating hard. However, if you pay the asking price with no negotiation, the smile he wears when he shakes your hand will be genuine, but inside he’ll be thinking what an absolute sucker you are!
You should never pay the price in the windscreen
You must absolutely expect a discount. If you go into a buying situation, not expecting to get a discount, then you most likely will not get one. Be positive, follow the guidelines here and the discount will be yours!
If the motorhome you are buying is brand new, then anything wrong with it, or not working at the time of purchase should of course expect to be put right before the sale for free.
However, when buying a used motorhome, there are bound to be things wrong with it. Tyres might be old, or the bodywork might have scratches or dents. Things may need to be replaced in the interior. The awning might be threadbare, so might the curtains, the window blinds, or mosquito screens could have seen better days, cupboard doors might not close properly, etc.
Little things you notice wrong with the motorhome you should keep to yourself at this stage. Mention them now, and they might be used against you to keep the price high. “Tell you what, if we do a deal at 44k, I’ll change those rear tyres for you.” More on this later.
When I say little things I mean worn tyres at most. That pool of oil or the smell of damp you need to know about right away.
Be as Friendly as you can
Try to build a rapport with the salesperson, but remember, you are not trying to become a friend. We need to haggle hard, but being blunt and or aggressive during negotiation just will not work. It is rare to find a dealer that needs the sale so badly that they will tolerate an aggressive attitude. Chat to them, be warm and smiling throughout. They will be doing the same. Some can be a little annoying, but keep smiling.
Trying to get the best deal on a motorhome can be stressful
Stay calm, you might get excited, thinking you are doing so well; you might get mad at the derisory offer for your part-exchange, but throughout the negotiation stay calm. The best deal will always be made by those who are calm and collected.
Use The Higher Authority
This is a great technique called the higher authority. It is used by salespeople all the time. But you can use it too. It’s not you being difficult, it’s the higher authority, it’s someone else (Who is not present!) controlling your purse strings. For example
“This is the motorhome I want, but if I pay this much my wife/husband will murder me.”
“I am already going over our agreed budget – The bank has authorised a loan of x, I’ve tried to increase it but they. won’t budge. Can you help me with this or am I going to miss out?
This kind of negotiating allows you to remain reasonably friendly with the salesperson, but you are still pushing hard because of your wife/husband, bank manager.
They will use it right back at you too
The salesperson will use the same (higher authority) tactic on you,
“I’d love to help you with this one but if the boss finds out I let this motorhome go for X, then I will be out of a job.”
“Honestly, If I take this offer to my manager, he’ll laugh me out of the office.”
This is such a common tactic. If they keep using the boss as a reason not to haggle, and if you make an offer and they refuse to take it to the boss. Then ask him if you would be better off dealing directly with his boss or someone who has the authority to do a deal.
This tactic stings, so only use it if you think the negotiation is stalling. In almost all cases, it will make them reluctant to use the Higher Authority tactic against you again.
Your opening bid
You cannot start to negotiate until you are absolutely sure what the van is worth. You will (should) know the specs of this van better than the dealer. You will know exactly what your target van has recently sold for. You will have asked on the forum what you might expect to pay for that model and year. You would have checked the completed sales on eBay.
A well-made opening offer will set the scene for the rest of the negotiation.
This is where both parties’ expectations are fully realised. This is where you find out whether you will get that motorhome for a song or whether you will pay through the nose. The seller knows immediately your offer is on the table whether he has a fight on his hands, whether you are genuine or a time waster.
Let walk through the start of a negotiation. Assume you are about to negotiate on a motorhome with a window sticker of £76,000.
All your research leads you to believe that this motorhome is worth £72,000 maybe a fraction more. So you set your buy price at 72k, not a penny more.
So you know the price you want to pay, but where do you start
As far as you are concerned the motorhome is at least 4K overpriced
Ideally your opening price should be as much under the asking price as his is over it, so in this case you might open at £68k
The seller has got to give away £4000 from his sticker price to get to your price. Your opener should give you £4000 to play with too, so your first offer should be £4000 under what you want to pay.
Let’s have a look how this might pan out, the buyer text is red the dealers is blue
So what is your best price on this van then?
We’ve discounted this one already, so the best price is on the windscreen
That’s a bit too expensive for me. Is that really the best price? I’m sure Ive seen this van cheaper at (Name a dealer or mention eBay. )
At this stage, the dealer will not offer you a lower price, why should he? He would be bidding against himself. He’s given you his price, it’s in the window. That won’t change until you make an offer.
He might say the van you’ve seen is a different spec, he might say that they have a better reputation than the rival dealer, he might say a lot, but he won’t lower the price until you make an offer.
That’s the price. What did you want to pay then?
I like the van and I’d like to make you an offer of £68,000
Don’t panic at this stage, yes it might be 8k under the window price, but hold your nerve, both you and the dealer know you are likely to meet somewhere in the middle. You’d feel a lot more comfortable offering more but if your opening bid is higher, say £70k then the middle is going to be way over the price you want to pay.
£68,000! Sorry, this is a quality van. No way can we let you have it for £68k That is less than we paid for it!
He’ll turn away from you, sharp intake of breath, he’ll do anything to make it seem that your offer is ridiculous at best maybe even rude. Hold your nerve here. He might not come back with a counter offer right away, but it will come.
Buyer says nothing
Have you got something to part exchange?
Ignore this, even if you have, say you’re selling privately or you’re not sure what you are doing with your van yet.
Look, I really like this van, but all I have is 68k
Well, that is two of us that can’t afford it then sir, and if I sold it for that, I’d be out of a job. If you want it, you need to make a much higher offer.
Don’t offer any more, ask him to take it to his boss. You are waiting for a counteroffer. It will come, but make sure it does not come from you.
Look, tell your boss I’m a genuine cash buyer offering £68k I’ll pay today.
At this point, chances are one of three things will happen.
He will make you a counteroffer, i.e. take something off the windscreen sticker price
He will make a show of seeing his boss and coming back with an offer.
He’ll refuse to take it to his boss, because “he knows what he will say.
Lookout for this ploy as it’s often used, he’ll say.
Tell you what, come and look at this van we have out the back
On the way over, he’ll tell you what a good option this van is that he is going to show you. It’s likely that this van will be entirely unsuitable and of poorer quality and or older, but chances are, he’s not even trying to sell you this one. It’s a ploy. The whole idea is to convince you that you really want the one you’re negotiating for.
Stood in the crap van your subconscious will tell you. The one you are negotiating for is the one, the others are rubbish.
The dealer knows the more you want it, the more you’ll pay. ie you’ll stop haggling sooner.
You’ll dismiss this other van and as soon you are back at the van you want, nine times out of ten you’ll get your first offer.
Don’t expect him to move much, but now you can move too, countering a similar offer.
You are both now moving toward the middle, your pre-determined buy price; and you both have to give up the same to get there. A few tips about how to get there follow.
It’s just a game, but trying to get the best deal on a motorhome is a high stakes Game
If you’ve not negotiated before, you are going to feel a little uncomfortable, but once the negotiation starts and you see the price moving nearer to your target, you will feel better.
Try to remain relaxed, keep your target figure in mind, and try not to look too worried about it. Think of the noughts and crosses example in the last article. This negotiation lark is just a game, you don’t have to be good at it, but you must play.
There’s always another motorhome if you don’t get this one. Remember, you cannot lose a van. If you can’t get that last bit of cash off, you can always cave in. “Oh go on then, my wife is gonna kill me” or “Okay, I think I can find the money, we have a deal.”
The buyer has more power
You should remember that if you are buying a regular, common motorhome, then you, the buyer, will always have more bargaining power than the seller. (with special or one-off motorhomes, the seller might have the upper hand)
The seller has much more competition in the shape of other dealers or private sellers. They know there are always thousands of other motorhomes for sale.
When a seller finds someone like you, in a position to buy, he needs to convince you to buy from him. The seller wants to sell, that is his reason for being, he does not want the negotiations to deadlock.
Deadlock is bad for him, but it’s not the end of the world for you. From a deadlocked negotiation, you can go to a new dealer and start again. The dealer is stuck at his position until another customer appears.
Dealers hate stalled negotiations
Stalled negotiations affect the seller much more than the buyer, so expect the dealer to keep the negotiations open and your responses should keep his hopes of a sale alive; while you negotiate toward your preferred price.
Even in Today’s times, buyers are spoilt for choice
The dealers know this; they want to sell to you, they cannot do it at any price, but if your target price is fair and realistic, you stand a great chance of getting a good deal.
Who goes first?
If there is no price already out in the open, such as in an “open to offers” sale, do not be the first person to offer a price. You always want to respond to a price rather than set it.
In most cases, the seller naturally goes first; the private seller with the price on the advert and the dealer with the windscreen price are the opening offers. Once their offer is made; you can start the ball rolling. You can try to get them to lower immediately by asking for a discount; ask for their best price or you can start right away and make your opening offer. This will lead to a counter offer being made to you.
Don’t expect it to be easy.
The seller might say no to a discount or stick firmly to the window price, but equally they may well drop the price a little. Thank them for that, but you must never accept the first offer, even if it’s exactly what you wanted to hear. You are rarely going to be given the best price that easily.
So whatever is offered, you must be disappointed. “Sorry I just don’t have that much to spend” or “that is a step in the right direction but my wife would still divorce me if I spend that much of our savings” or “I like this van, I was really hoping you could do better than that”.
Don’t give too much away
Once you show you are not going to accept their first offer; be prepared to be asked immediately “how much do you want to spend?” or “What is your budget?” The seller is trying to find the price that you think is reasonable. Never give an absolute figure, just say “not as much as that” or “I’d rather not say’ or “surely you can do better than that”
Silence is Golden
Use the power of silence, it’s one of the best bargaining tools there is. If the salesperson makes you an offer, or you have asked them to improve their offer, resist the temptation to speak. Just wait. The silence will be painful for you, and hopefully even more painful for the salesperson but expect them to be used to it. Eventually one of you will crack. Try not to let it be you! Often first person to speak will be the one who is compromising. If you have to speak first, maintain the silence another way, tell them you want to sleep on it, that will often solicit a counter offer.
In your quest to get the best deal on a motorhome, you must keep your emotions in check
If this is the van you want there will be plenty of emotion. However, the truth is, if you don’t get this one at the price you want, there will always be another. Enter all negotiations with this in mind.
Do not be emotional and never feel desperate to buy. No matter how much you think “this is the one, this is the motorhome we really want” The truth is, it is NOT the only one for sale. There will be others exactly the same, maybe even better, with lower mileage and keener price; such is the massive size of the motorhome market.
And remember, if after all your best negotitation the dealer just won’t budge, you can always cave in, shake his hand and buy it.
Always try for a bit more
Once the seller is at or near a price you are willing to pay, don’t give in at this point. You will often find there is always a little more in the deal. Counter with an offer a little lower but obviously a little better than your last bid, the seller must feel like the deal is going somewhere.
Don’t ‘Split the Difference’
Avoid being the first to suggest splitting the difference (meeting in the middle). Because if you offer to split the difference, the salesperson will probably split it again, (it’s only fair, you did it!) which means you have moved 75 percent of the way towards the seller’s price and they have only moved 25 percent towards you.
However, if they split the difference, then you um and ah and split it again, this brings things closer to your price.
Time on your side
Sales people too often like to bring a time element into negotiation. They do this because it works; they tell you someone else is interested, or to get a particular deal, we must do it today.
If you are almost at your price but they just won’t budge for those last few pounds, Turn it around, tell them you need to do the deal today at your price, tell them you are test driving a similar model tomorrow, increase their pressure to come down that last little step to your price.
Show commitment but be reasonable
If you appear to really want to deal, then the harder the dealer will work to come up with an agreeable price, give them the idea that you will not move at all from your latest offer and they may well dig their heels in and negotiations will stall.
Don’t forget the higher authority, your partner, or the loan your mum is giving you. It’s so powerful that used right, both you and the dealer will work hard to appease the higher authority. You are being reasonable. It’s the higher authority who is so stubborn.
Never be afraid to walk away
Remember, we only negotiate when we already know what a motorhome is worth, and we have settled on a maximum price. Never be afraid to walk away if you cannot reach the deal you want. Sometimes you will ask for too much and the deal will just not happen. Don’t worry, there will be others along just like it.
Stick to your budget like a dog to a bone
Don’t go over budget, walk away, there is always another motorhome for sale. However, before you walk away, make sure you have the salesperson’s contact details (and he yours). You should ideally get these details early in your negotiations.
Don’t give in too soon
Be persistent. If you have done your research and your target price is reasonable, then don’t give up. The dealer will stubbornly try to make as much money as they can from the deal, that is only to be expected. You will get stonewall silence and huffs and puffs while they do this.
Now is the time to mention the things you will need to put right or added to the deal. All those things you listed can lower the price, tyres and scratches etc.
If they do not meet your price, let them know you are leaving.
No salesperson wants to see your money walk out of the door and this might restart the negotiation.
Always get details before you walk away
When you walk away, you may well be chased and the dealer may make a better offer. However, don’t forget the dealer has seen it all before, and plenty of times it’s the buyer who cracks and calls the dealer back, so don’t expect them to chase you down the road or be calling you before you get home.
If the dealer does not chase you, all is not lost.
Lots of different emotions are floating around during negotiations and in the cold light of a new morning, things can always look a little different. If I have walked away I like to set out my deal just so they are sure.
Overnight you should e-mail the dealer or leave a message on an answer machine,. Something like “If you can come down by another £750”, or “If you can increase my trade-in price by £500” call me by 11:00am and I will come in and pay a deposit today” This tactic may well result in you getting the purchase you want, or at least get you a little more off the deal.
When you get the best deal on a motorhome, it never involves monthly payments
Never concede to requests like; “Have a word with Nigel our finance guy” before a price has been agreed.
Your sole focus when buying from a dealer is the price of the motorhome.
Some dealers would rather you talk about the down payment and the monthly payments.
A term like “this motorhome would only cost you £x a month” is flannel.
When negotiating you start with the vehicle you are buying, get that to your target price, then if you have a part-exchange get the best price for that (which is usually a private sale!) and only then consider the finance if it’s required.
You cannot know if you are getting a good deal if everything is rolled into a finance agreement and you’re not sure what you are paying for your motorhome or what you got for the part exchange and how much interest you are paying.
You would be amazed how many people are bamboozled this way. The negotiations should be carried out in a strict order. Never discuss what payments you can afford until you have the best prices. The sale price of the motorhome, the amount you get for your trade in, if you have one. Only then, when prices are set, should you discuss finance.
Remember accessories and fitting will come much cheaper to the dealer than the retail price to you; so the perceived value of an extra will be much higher for you than for them. A fitted awning might have a retail of £900 for the supply and fit, however, the true costs to the dealer might be less than half that value.
You should always try to get the accessories you require as part of the deal, but only mention them when you have negotiated down the price to or very close to your buying price.
The retail price of these accessories can be used by the dealer as a justification to keep the price high. So don’t mention them yet. Negotiate first, get the price for the motorhome as low as you can, and then, after the dealer is convinced he has a sale, and is already counting his commission, talk about things that need putting right and or the accessories you need.
Be prepared for more huffing and puffing, but remember, those accessories are costing him a lot less than you are saving, and often, as long as you are not being too greedy, the dealer will agree to save the deal.
That said, don’t break the deal here, but don’t give up too easily. And as a last resort, if you are getting nowhere, ask for things at cost price, So you might say get a £900 towbar fitted for £500 and it’s still a win-win for both of you.
OK if you put four new tyres on it, and fit that new awning fabric at cost price, I’ll sign today.
What if you alway lost those staring contests as a kid and blinked first
If you are one of those people who just cannot look someone in the eye and offer £8,000 less than the asking price, don’t despair. There is another way. These days, you can negotiate from a distance.
I recently carried out an entire negotiation, complete with an ultra low first bid, silences, higher authorities, walking away, etc. All on WhatsApp, the text messaging app. I had the time to really think about my bids and responses, without the pressure of the presence of the salesman and all that eye contact.
Negotiate from a distance, but not on the phone. Get the salesperson’s email or mobile.
Once you have found the motorhome you want; thank the salesperson tell them you are going to think about it, but get an email address and or a mobile.
You can then carry out the negotiation by email or whatsapp. Drop him an email asking for is best price, counter with your offer, insist he take it to his boss, and so on.
You can still use higher authorities and the power of silence, for example, not answering an email for a day. Some people find an email negotiation far easier and less intimidating than face-to-face haggles. They can be braver without the eye contact.
A successful negotiation is where both parties are happy and would be delighted to deal with each other again. You want a fair price. Don’t be unreasonable, but don’t be a walkover either. Happy Haggling!
You can discuss this artice and tell us about your haggling tips or experiences here