Why Won't Dealers Negotiate On Pre-Owned Cars?

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As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we will discuss dealers not negotiating on used cars, paying for a private purchase from far away, and the disappearance of certified Audi A6 inventory.

First up why don’t dealers negotiate on used cars anymore?

I recently was in the market for a used Sienna Limited premium AWD, 15 or 16 model year. To my dismay no dealer was interested in entertaining offers, it was list price or nothing, maybe 100 bucks off. Everyone told me that they do not haggle.

Do I have CarMax to thank for this?

This is the Boston area dealers, I ended up finding my van in Connecticut at a Honda dealer that had it in stock for over 90 days and priced to sell.

Second question what’s with the “reconditioning fee” and “VIN etching fee” ?

Used car pricing, and the lack of movement on it, is one of the biggest sources of frustration right now for buyers. We have been trained for so long “never to pay asking price” is that when faced with a number of dealers selling pre-owned cars who are not budging from asking price folks are thrown for a loop.


I’ve covered this topic in much greater detail in a previous post as to why there isn’t much room to budge on used cars anymore, but to better understand used car pricing, you have to look at it kind of like real estate. When determining a home’s value, a real estate agent doesn’t look at some third-party website they use “comps” or comparable properties within that region.

For cars it’s not about what Kelly Blue Book or NADA says it should sell for. Finding the best deal is looking at the spectrum of pricing of similar cars with similar miles and the “best deal” is the car on the lower end of that spectrum. Hence, the “priced to sell” van you found in CT.

CarMax was one of the first retailers to use this “no haggle” policy, but as I have also covered “no haggle” doesn’t always mean the best price. That is where the research comes in.


The “reconditioning fee” and “VIN etching fee” are bogus fees meant to pad the profits on the back end, demand these are removed or have the dealer adjust the price accordingly to neutralize those costs.

Next, how do I buy a car from a private seller far away and not get screwed?

I could use your advice on the best way to handle buying a used car from a private seller when the car is out of state. For example, I live in Colorado and a car I’m interested in is in Washington and if I bought it, I’d just have it shipped. Basically, what’s the best way to remotely handle the paperwork/title for a safe transaction? I know it would be best to fly out and see it in person, but funding to take that step may not be possible.


So before we get to the payment part: if you are buying a car from several states away, you need to be sure this thing is legit. If you are not going to fly out there to check it out yourself, you would need to find someone locally to have it inspected. You can do some research on local shops in the region that service that brand and have the owner take it to the mechanic at your expense.

When it comes paying for the thing, so both parties are protected, here are a few options. You could have the owner send the title, at which point you send the payment once you are in possession of the paperwork, and then the owner will release the car. Or you could use an escrow service that will hold the money, which shows the payment is available but will only release the funds once you receive the vehicle. Keep in mind these services do charge a fee.


Also, if the car is interesting, maybe Raph and PG will drive it to you if you ask nicely.

And finally, what happened to all the certified-pre-owned Audi A6 inventory?

I may be in the market for a CPO mid-size luxury sedan soon. I like the CTS and A6 a lot (E class as well). However, the CPO supply for Cts and A6 seems to have vanished.

Any idea what gives?

This is very interesting, especially for the A6. I ran a nationwide search for CPO A6 models from 2014-2016. Only four listings pop up. I did the same for the Cadillac CTS and found 188 listings, which is not a lot. But compared to the Jaguar XF, another “not popular” mid-size luxury sedan at 193 CPO units, the Caddy isn’t too far behind. However, when I run the same search for 2014+ CPO 5 Series and E-Class sedans, I get well over 1,000 listings.


I think the explanation has to do with the seat airbag recall that Audi still does not have a fix for. An Audi dealer cannot sell a car as CPO with an open recall, but they can sell a car as “used.” Some cars that have the upgraded seats were not subject to the recall and therefore can be sold as CPO.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!