13 Great Haggling Tips

By Caroline Banton · November 10, 2022 · 9 minute read

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13 Great Haggling Tips

In the United States, people tend not to bargain too much: A price is a price, period. Yes, when you are bidding on a house or negotiating the price of a car, there is typically a bit of give and take, but otherwise, not so much. In other parts of the world, however, haggling in shops and markets is an indelible part of the culture.

Maybe American consumers should borrow this global tradition. Even here in the States, haggling can result in significant savings on electronics, household goods, hotels, and clothing. Also, haggling is really about the art of negotiation, and successful haggling can work wonders for your confidence and business savvy.

Read on to learn:

•   How to haggle

•   Where to haggle

•   The pros and cons of haggling

Then, read 13 clever tips for getting what you want at the price you want to pay.

What Is Haggling?

Haggling is a way to bargain. It’s a process of negotiation between the buyer and the seller. While almost everyone would agree on the importance of saving money, different cultures have different approaches to haggling. For example, westerners are often unaccustomed to haggling, but in less developed countries of Southeast Asia, for example, bargaining and haggling is expected. Locals will engage in a back and forth on price for everything from fresh food in markets to hotel prices in order to save money.

Haggling can take some practice because it requires a measured approach and a strategy. The more you haggle, the more successful and confident you become at it. What’s more, as you build your haggling skills, you’re likely to unlock more discounts. In fact, many people enjoy haggling and find it to be an easy way to save some money.

Recommended: 15 Creative Ways to Save Money

How Does Haggling Work?

If you’re wondering how to haggle successfully, let’s consider a specific example. Imagine you have your eye on a new car. The price of the car is $25,000, but you only have a budget of $22,000. To try to negotiate a price of $22,000, first determine if $22,000 is a fair price for that car. Look up the make, model, and year in Kelley Blue Book and check to see at what price other sellers are listing the same exact car.

If you determine that $22,000 is a fair price, a savvy haggler would offer a somewhat lower price, perhaps $20,000. At the same time, the buyer would make a case as to why their offer is fair. They might point out damage to the paintwork or worn tires. The seller may counter the buyer’s offer with $24,000, to which the buyer responds with $21,000. Eventually, the two parties may meet somewhere in the middle and agree to the price of $22,000. At least, that’s the theory of how haggling works.

Places Where You Can Haggle

Haggling, or negotiating, is acceptable in many contexts, not just when buying a car, a home, or in salary negotiations. Here’s a list of other places to haggle:

•   Uncommercialized markets and craft fairs

•   Retailers

•   Suppliers

•   Resale platforms and dealers

•   Appliance repairs

•   Home improvement services

Places Where You Likely Cannot Haggle

Haggling is not socially acceptable in many commercial enterprises. Here’s where you typically should not to haggle:

•   Many commercialized businesses

•   Restaurants

•   Supermarkets

That said, if you were at a Target or a department store, and were trying to buy an item that is a floor sample, is damaged (scratched or torn, say), or has some other reason that might merit a price reduction, it’s fair to politely try to haggle your way to a discount.

Advantages of Haggling

The obvious advantage of haggling is paying less for something you want, but there are a couple of other pros as well.

•   For sellers, haggling may allow them to sell more products and yield better returns.

•   Haggling is a way to practice negotiation skills and build confidence.

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13 Money Saving Haggling Tips

Now, dive into the details on how to haggle. Here are 13 more tips on how to approach haggling that can help you save money.

1. Adopt a Strong Mindset

Learn to control your compulsive or impulsive spending. If you feel as if you “have to have” an item, be it a car or a handbag, it will be even harder to resist a high price or a bad deal.

Adopt a strong money mindset and know the difference between needs and wants. Tell yourself you won’t overpay, regardless of how badly you want the deal to work out. You can always find something similar at a better price.

2. Do Your Research

What is a good price for a purchase you’re planning on making? Before you enter into negotiations, you should know the item’s market value. Look up other similar items to see what they are going for. In the case of a car, refer to the Kelly Blue Book. For other items, an online search should yield comparable items with prices to inform your decision.

3. Consider Other Factors and Items in Your Haggling

How to bargain effectively can call for creative thinking. For example, if you are buying a car, you could offer cash to the seller instead of paying in installments. Or you might consider trading an item you have with a seller in order to secure the item you want.

4. Have a Target Price in Mind

It can help to know your haggling limits in advance. In the example of a car negotiation given earlier, the buyer had a target price in mind that they kept under wraps. They attempted to reach agreement at the desired price with the seller by first offering a lower price than they were really willing to pay. Then, they and the seller gradually came to a mutually satisfactory price. Having a strategy like this when haggling can help you avoid the risk of paying more than you want to.

5. Let the Seller Know Your Budget

Alternatively, a haggling tactic can be to let the seller know your budget at the outset. For example, you might say, “I love that rug but I see that it’s $750, and I can only pay $600. Is a deal possible?” That way, you are taking control of the situation, and the seller can take it or leave it.

6. Find Out the Condition of the Item

Just because you’re haggling, it doesn’t mean that you drop all of your usual smart-shopper moves. Don’t hesitate to inquire about the item in detail; it’s important to ask questions before making a purchase. Its condition is critical to the item’s value. You may be able to use any blemishes or wear and tear to negotiate a lower price.

7. Be Confident

Be direct about the fact that you are negotiating and are looking for a discount. Approach the seller with confidence, rather than apologizing for trying to get a better price. This can give the impression that you know what you are talking about and are serious. A seller may well be more likely to consent to a confident buyer’s request or offer.

8. Avoiding Insulting the Seller; Don’t Lowball

When haggling, always respect the other party. Lowballing a seller can be insulting because the implication is that you are not taking them seriously or you think their merchandise is wildly overpriced. Have a good idea of the market value of an item before you make your lowest offer by researching other similar items and their prices.

One rule of thumb is not to expect a discount of more than 25% when haggling. However, there are some forums (like eBay’s “Best Offer” listings or on Poshmark) where you might get lucky with an offer of closer to 33% off the listed price.

9. Time it Right

Many salespeople have monthly sales quotas, and, as the end of the month approaches, they may be more inclined to accept a lower price. To find the best deals, hold off on haggling until the end of the month. Also, sellers may want to move inventory at the end of a season or if the item is going out of style. If your seller wants to get rid of inventory, you are more likely to get a better deal.

10. Make Life Easy for the Seller

Here’s another trick for how to bargain effectively: Let the seller know that you can make the deal easy and quick for them. Explain that you’ll take possession of the item immediately, or that you can pay cash. The less work the seller has to do to move inventory and the less a transaction costs them, the more inclined they will be to accept your offer.

11. Turn on the Charm

A little flattery works wonders. Believe it or not, part of knowing how to negotiate a better deal involves being as polite and friendly a customer as possible. Be interested in the person you are talking to and compliment them on their business. Another good strategy is to listen more and talk less. Rather than asking questions that require a yes or no answer, ask open-ended questions. For example, instead of asking “Can I make you an offer?” ask “How flexible are you to negotiation?” In addition to getting the seller to engage, you learn more about their needs and are in a stronger position to bargain.

12. Know When to Walk Away

Haggling won’t always work in your favor. Be prepared to throw in the towel if the seller does not agree to your final offer. There’s no point going in circles or thinking if you wait long enough, the seller will relent. And don’t let any frustration or temper come into play.

Sometimes, it’s best to just walk away. And you never know: Some sellers may see you leaving and wind up taking your best offer after all, rather than lose the deal.

13. Don’t Take Things Personally

Haggling is simply business. It is not a reflection of the buyer or the seller. If you don’t reach agreement on a price for an item, chalk it up to experience. People don’t always agree on things, and nor should they. Don’t let feelings of failure creep into the picture.

The Takeaway

Haggling is the process of negotiating a price for an item or service. Except for situations like negotiating a house purchase or bargaining down the price of a new car, when some back-and-forth is a given, Americans tend not to be hagglers. However, there may be plenty of situations when you can haggle and get a better deal, whether on a floor model at a big box retailer or a vintage chair at an antiques fair. By knowing the right polite haggling moves, you may be able to snag some satisfying discounts.

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Is haggling illegal?

Haggling is not illegal, but in the United States, there are contexts where haggling is not socially acceptable. These include commercial businesses, such as restaurants and supermarkets.

Is haggling frowned upon?

Haggling isn’t necessarily frowned upon, provided it’s done politely and in the proper context. In some cultures, it is even expected and part of the buying experience. However, lowballing is universally considered insulting. A rule of thumb for how to bargain is to never offer less than 25% percent of the price tag.

Can you return something you haggled over?

If an item does not meet your expectations, even if you managed to get it at a discount price, you can try to return it.The terms of the sales agreement, if any, will outline the legal obligations of the seller. If there is no written agreement or receipt with returns stated, the seller is under no obligation to accept the return or to give you your money back.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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