Guide to Haggling

Written By Michael Kahn

The best way to haggle, honestly, is to just ask. No one is going to turn you away for trying to haggle. The worst thing is they say no and you move on.


  • Cars (purchase/ maintenance / accessories)
  • Mattresses
  • Furniture
  • ANYTHING Pre-owned
  • Apartment Rent (not often, but I’ve done it)
  • Cable / Satellite
  • One-time Membership Costs (Gym, etc…)
  • Electronics? (I’ve never had any luck, most others here seem to though)
  • Hotels (bigger is better, smaller ones tend not to be negotiable)
  • Cell Phones (Units / Plans / Accessories)


  • Small, local businesses (Some go for it, some don’t. Always try)
  • Middle Eastern countries and Eastern European countries. Basically that whole area. Asia too.
  • Flea Markets / Garage Sales
  • Best Buy, apparently
  • Mall Kiosks
  • Jewelry Stores
  • Home Improvement stores (Home Depot, etc…)
  • Pawn shops (derr…)
  • Music Stores


  • Corporations (Walmart, Target, etc…)
  • Apartment Utilities (Gas/Electric/Water)
  • Businesses who can’t handle the cut in profits

Haggling (for me) is more of an attempt than a goal. I know people who will shop around for places willing to lower the price. I’m more of a “I’ll see what I can get” sort of guy.

The best methods I find are the simplest. Just ask “Would you be willing to come down on the price?” Often they’ll give you some showmanship and “ask the manager” and such. (Note: They are never talking to the manager on any offer you did not make yourself.) They will come back with an offer or they might even just open with a “You know what, we have a special going on now…”. (Note: They will ALWAYS be running a special.) You almost always want to ignore that. If they open by cutting the price down before anything even happens, they are trying to sucker you into that feeling of “OMG! WHAT A DEAL!!! I’LL TAKE IT NOW! I’M SUCH A SAVVY BUYER!”

This is when you need to step up your own showmanship. If the item is pre-owned, you’re in a better position. It might seem sleazy but try and look for ANY imperfection. Even the slightest thing can drastically reduce the worth of an item. Point it out and make it seem way worse then it is. The art is how you do this without showing disdain.  You never want to seem impressed with anything about the item in question or any offer they make. As soon as they see you’re impressed, they’ll start shoving that aspect down your throat and honestly, it’s more annoying and distracting than anything else. But that’s mostly the point. They want you to buy fast and be out the door.

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Your Own Offer

This is where a lot of people get uncomfortable. This takes practice. Some places are willing to go as deep as half off on some items (mattresses, I find, are the best for this). But don’t expect that. If you’re starting out, do your research and see what other places are selling similar items for. When you go into your haggle, you’ll be better prepared for a counter-offer. Name dropping can help your case too, especially if it’s with a known competitor. They want to drive business away from them so when you tell them you’re thinking of going there for the better price, they’ll be more open to dropping the price more.

Otherwise, my rule of thumb (which I don’t really have any basis for other than it seems to work pretty well) is offer around 75% of their offer. This is very flexible with context of the deal, who I’m dealing with and what I’m trying to get but that’s a decent starting point a lot of the time.

Don’t Reverse Auction The Price

Don’t do what I like to call the reverse auction. If they offer $500, just coming back with saying “$300!” won’t get you anywhere. You need to be able to back up your offer at least a little bit. Bring up other places offering similar items for a price close to yours. Bring up imperfections in the item or even just the fact it is pre-owned is enough to bring it down. The guys in Pawn Stars are awful with this. They don’t give any reasoning for offering even 10% of the seller’s asking price and don’t give any reasoning for it. But I hear the show is staged, so it’s whatever. It still bothers me how blatant it is. If you just come back with an offer like, “I’ll give you $300” it makes you sound like a pompous ass. You still want to be friendly and approachable. You’re asking the business to do you a favor. Make the business WANT to cut you a deal by being friendly and open to negotiation.

Now for the king of deal-breakers. This one simple aspect will gets you HEAVY discounts. Offer cash. Business LOVE cash. Charging costs them money, so by offering cash, literally everyone (except Visa or whatever) wins. If you’re going for a deep offer, offer it in cash. It makes it so much more appealing to the business. Also offer to pay in full, if you can. That is usually preferred over installments. Some places don’t seem to care much, though. And some others prefer the installment plan since it usually costs more for you in the long run.

Group or Package Discounts

Aiming for group or package buys works well too. Like I was saying about avoiding the reverse auction, offer alternate deals. Offer that you’ll buy Object A for whatever price, but you’ll also buy Object B (which is somehow related or connected to Object A) for whatever other price. So if you are buying a mattress for $400, offer to buy the mattress for $300 but you’ll also get the box spring and mattress pad for another $150. They make a bigger sale and you get more of what you need for a lower price since you’re buying it all at once.

Car Financing

Apparently, you should always finance a car. I don’t know much about that, but a bunch of commentators here have mentioned it and the Internet is never wrong.

16 Tips To Improve Your Haggling Skills

  1. Practice. Especially on items that aren’t really important to you. “Eh, my wife might like that” type items. You have much less emotion invested in it, and it’s much easier to walk away. You can practice walking away which can be the hard part some times. You can see the reaction of people losing a sale.
  2. Find out if they are on commission. If the are commission paid, they will tend to haggle for the deal more. More cars will come on the lot to sell if the car moves, but lose a customer and they lose pay.
  3. Find out how costs are figured. New utility lines (electrical) are based on planned consumption to make the money back. If you can show a higher planned consumption, they will knock the install price down.
  4. Keep in mind, this is their job. Haggling can be (“is” if on commission) an invest for them even more so than you. They are trying to make a sale and investing time in a negotiation. The longer it goes, the more they have invested.
  5. Always ask about programs and specials they have (for farmers, students, new home owners, etc.) towards the end of the haggling, not the beginning. They have already invested time and resources in the sale. They don’t want to see that be wasted. Often, they will “stretch” the special to end the negotiations and finalize the sale. If they brought it up sooner, then they were doing their job. If they forgot, you’ve already got them down lower.
  6. Always get it in writing. a) If they pass you off to some one else, make sure they write everything thing down before someones else fills out the paperwork. b) You can leave with the offer and most will honor it even days later. c) you can take that offer in writing to a competitor and start off with a lowered price. This is an excellent way to play Home Depot against Lowes against Sears, etc. At the vary least you can get them to write down the “special price” and take that elsewhere to get them to beat it.
  7. Most place will match similar quality / feature items if they are willing to haggle. Don’t try to compare Sony to a store brand, but that Frigidaire vs. a whirl pool can work out. This does work at Home Depot on appliances.
  8. Cash is king. But take it a step farther. Show them. When getting to the end, show them the cash, don’t just tell them. They see the money and know you’re serious. I’ve had it work with a credit card, but it works much better with cash.
  9. Always dress “decent”. Don’t dress like you have money, they will assume you can part with it easily. Don’t dress poor, they will assume you are wasting their time. Dress like you want to buy something and worked hard for it.
  10. Learn when stock changeover is. Certain items change with the seasons (cars, furniture, computers, clothes, etc.). When the season is changing and the new styles / models are coming out, they want to move the old ones quick to make room for the new making them more likely to haggle.
  11. Don’t go when it’s busy. If they have a line of customers and some one wants to haggle, they’re just going to brush you off and go to those other customers who aren’t prepared.
  12. Don’t feel bad. They won’t sell you something if they won’t make a profit from it in some way. They may even sell it to you below cost to get higher sales numbers that month. They won’t sell you something if they aren’t profiting from it in some way.
  13. Kind of a corollary to number 12, keep in mind they want a win too. It may just be the sale, but you may be able to give them something else. A reference, a sales lead, an add on service. You may also get them to throw in free services in place of a discount. Always look for the intangible. Labor for them is a lower cost than to you. Free oil changes and service for a year or two can really rack up, but get it thrown into that new-to-you used car and you saved yourself an extra couple hundred bucks.
  14. You are always under a budget. That item is $500, I’m sorry we only budgeted $400. You aren’t insulting the product, the sales person, or yourself and most people look at it as being responsible and are more willing to try to help.
  15. Follow up with, “I don’t know if we can afford that. We just didn’t budget that much. Let me ask my wife / boyfriend / SO”. No matter what they say (on the phone or down the aisle), it’s just to much. They can be standing right there and love it, but we just didn’t budget that much. It’s basically the reverse of “let me go talk to my manager.”
  16. If you bring cash, bring it in low value bills or mixed bills and show it when you flash the money. We made a deal and were closing and the sales lady explained since we paid in $5 and $10 “we must have saved up for a while.” I did it because I wanted the money to look bigger physically, and she assumed we had been saving up for a long time for our new whatever it was (I can’t remember).

To People Who Hate Hagglers

There are a lot of people saying how they hate customers who haggle. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it can be annoying having a jerk like me bothering you over and over. Even more so when your business can’t afford the cut in profits. But like I’ve been trying to say, there are multiple types of hagglers. There are some who are hard nosed about getting the price they walked in with and there are those who are flexible and everyone in between.

I can’t control everyone. If I could, everyone would probably be dead. Since I can’t I can only apologize on their behalf.

If you tell me “Price in not negotiable” I will stop trying. I’m not going to push for a deal where there is not one to be made. Other people might not accept that and keep pushing. My best advice is to be direct and firm, but not a dick about it. You can still make a sale if you try and be honest. If a customer refuses to listen, simply ask them to leave or ignore them. If customers are not willing to accept that you set a hard price, they are not worth your time.

I am not sorry I try to haggle. I am sorry some people are abrasive and some of those abrasive people try to haggle. The fact that they like to haggle has nothing to do with the fact they are abrasive. Try to understand the distinction.

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