Ask LH: Is It Worth Haggling For A Better Price?

Dear Lifehacker,

Whether I'm buying something used or paying for a service, I'm never sure when it's acceptable — or even worthwhile to haggle. Are there certain things I should always haggle for?


Hesitant to Haggle

Dear Hesitant,

For some, the correct time to haggle is: always. That is, if any money is being exchanged for any goods or services, they like a good battle. For the rest of us, it's a little more complicated and depends on how you view the concept of haggling.

The short answer to the question is: if you believe you're overpaying for something, then it's worth negotiating the price. You likely fall into one of two camps: you don't mind haggling but only bother when it's worth it, or you hate haggling and rarely try it. Either way, the key to haggling is being educated on prices. The least dramatic way to haggle in any situation is to show a competitor's price and ask for a match. This works more often than not and regardless of your disposition towards the act, it's a helpful way to save money.

But not every little price hike is worth the haggle. What situations are? Let's take a look at some of the ways for people who don't mind haggling to cut down on smaller bills and then move on to the big ticket items that everyone — especially those who hate haggling — should learn how to negotiate.

I Don't Mind Haggling But Don't Want To Waste My Time

Just because you don't mind haggling doesn't mean you want to waste your time on efforts where it's not worth it. On of the easiest ways to fatten up your wallet is to trim back your monthly payments. Here's a few that are almost always worth haggling over.

  • Credit card rates: Credit card companies want to keep your business so they'll try to work with you on payments. This includes adjusting your interest rate. One simple trick is to use an offer from another bank as leverage to get what you want from your current bank. If you get a better interest rate offer, higher limit, or better rewards, point them out to your bank to see if they can match it.
  • Cable TV and Internet: We've talked before about reducing monthly bills just by asking before, but it really is that easy. Call up your provider and tell them you're looking to cut down or cancel your services. More often than not, they'll do everything in their power to retain you business and will cut your bill in the process.
  • Rent: It's probably not something you've ever considered, but many landlords are willing to work with you on the price, especially if the rental market has changed since you initially signed your lease. Forbes recommends polling your neighbors to get a good sense of what the common rent is in your area and then approach your landlord with an offer. If they don't respond with lower rent, ask for perks like a free parking space or new paint.

It's not just about reducing monthly payments. Purchases from private sellers and boutique shops are almost always negotiable. Here's one where it's almost always a good idea to haggle the price.

  • Furniture, Appliances And Mattresses: Negotiating the price of big ticket items like furniture, appliances, and mattresses is surprisingly easy. For one, furniture and appliances often come in sets, and Good Housekeeping recommends mentioning you're considering the bundle to get savings. This might be a washer-dryer set, or even just a couch and coffee table. For mattresses, we've talked before about not being afraid to negotiate on the price to a get a little knocked of the top. If nothing else, you can usually negotiate free delivery if they're not willing to take the price down.

I Don't Like Haggling But Don't Want To Overpay For Everything

If haggling makes you uncomfortable and you avoid it at all costs, it can still be a worthwhile pursuit if you know you're going to see big savings. It's probably not worth it for you to haggle $US5 off the price of a DVD from a kid on eBay, but haggling should be done on a few big expenses. Here's a few worth overcoming your fears and learning how to haggle for.

Image: Images Money.

  • House: Offers and counteroffers are a complicated process when you're buying a home. The Guardian recommends finding the seller's remaining balance on their mortgage and negotiating from there. According to it's also a good idea to set deadlines on your offer to show that you're serious. This is great for people who don't like to haggle because it doesn't require you to get in the face of the seller.
  • Cars: Whether you're buying a used car or a new car, you can haggle on the price. The New York Times suggests bringing along your smartphone to help negotiate the deal. If a price seems out of place, look up the real value and get the dealer or private seller to drop the price. ABC also recommends you get the salesman to name the price first before making your offer. This helps you gauge where they're coming from and makes it easier to counter-offer. It's important to stick to the price you're willing to spend on a car no matter what. More often than not, a dealership or a private seller will drop the price provided it's not way below the asking price.

A good rule of thumb is to consider the cost-benefit ratio. Haggling is more worth it for high-priced items and it's also more acceptable to haggle. This rings true whether you're at a department store or a private seller. Big ticket items always have a little leeway in the price and you can often save a lot of money by simply asking for a discount.



PS: Have some awesome haggling tips? Share them in the comments.

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    Be nice when haggling, it's not a war, just a transaction. Be polite but firm and BE PREPARED to walk away if you dont get your way. If the purchase is important to you then by all means ask but dont fuss if they say no, just pay up.

    How about if the thing is on sale?

    One thing to consider when haggling for services in particular, where quality is important, sometimes they'll cut corners in order to meet your haggled price while maintaining their bottom line. I haggled a tiling company down on price recently, then the tiling company haggled with the subcontractor, and the subcontractor ended up doing a rushed, sub par job. So in areas where quality is important to you, might be better off not haggling too hard. They have to make their money somehow.

    If you're going to be a dickhead about it and play hardball or set an extravagantly low anchor point, no reasonable salesperson is going to yield. In a negotiation, BOTH parties has to benefit somehow, FAIRLY.

    The "Rent" paragraph was not written with Sydney in mind

      Same for Brisbane, and I'm willing to bet most capital cities... and a lot of major metro areas in general....
      Actually, in Australia, I've never heard of ANYONE I know haggling with rental prices. When I was renting, it was always, "time to renew lease, please hand an extra $30 p.f. to your already ridiculously high rent - don't like it? then move and have moving costs as well as the stress of applying with 432809 other applicants. Good luck.
      Ps. We don't care if you've never been late with your payments, or that you keep the place neat, tidy and quiet. We just want as much money as we can."

      I did haggle when I bought a house - I can understand that. But I've never been able to work my head around haggling with rent....

    I always lead with what's your cash price. If they say no discount I put it on my visa and they loose 1-3 percent to the bank. I have sometimes recived the vendors merchent fee as a discount for cash.

      That doesn't sound very advantageous. At least not for ordinary retail items. I mean if you were to buy something for $100, then the visa fee at 3% would be obviously $3. Which means the merchant would get $97.

      But you'd likely scoff if when you ask the salesman what his cash price would be and he/she quoted you $97. If they gave you more off for cash then they'd be losing more anyway. This is probably why the place I used to work didn't even care how you paid, discounting procedures were the same across the board.

    I use the phrase "Is this the best price you can do it for?" - it has saved me thousands without offending anyone.

    I do not haggle. This is Australia. When I get a doctor, tradie, or other overpaid gazoot trying to talk me down for MY labour and services I give them one "this is the price" and if they continue
    a "fuck off". Price it properly and fairly the first time rather than trying to fleece the customer (or fleece the merchant).

    where does this guy live that he can haggle rent??!?!?

    seriously, where i am at the moment, there are 5 or 6 suitable applicants for every rental property, it's hard to even get one at all, nevermind trying to get the price down. , good luck with that attitude mate, typical arrogant rude blockhead approach, won't get you far when the next guy undercuts you by $1 will it? rofl

    Go to Egypt and you'll learn how to haggle in no time.

      Ha, add Shanghai to that list

    I cannnot believe the question in the first place. Like, WTF, of course one should haggle for prices in a lot of cases, and why not, pray tell? Basically, you will never have anything to loose if u haggle! Sorry, just think that was a stupid question and a waste of space/time.

    I think there was an article on lifehacker a while back about a couple who got their good-at-haggling friend to haggle a car down in price for them.
    They set their price at their budget and told the friend that he could get the difference between the selling price and the budget price if he could get it below the budget.

    Working a small IT retail and repair store, one of the the things I personally HATE the most is when a customer says to me: "Oh, I've seen for about online, but, you know - I like to shop local..." Too which, I would like to reply:

    No, you don't.

    If you like to shop local and support business, then pay the local price, so I can pay my local bills - such as the extra shipping we pay so you can have the product stocked LOCALLY...

    If you like to save money, then by all means go an buy said product from because the fact that we are an actual store and not some warehouse somewhere means there's no way we can meet their online price, so frankly, you're wasting both our time, and my oxygen.

    No, sadly my perhaps overly cynical view is that people who come into a store looking to haggle, do so in order to walk out of the store with an inflated sense of their own retail superiority - that their sheer haggling moxie is such that the deceptive practices of us greedy, greedy retailers simply cannot withstand their sheer shopping prowess!

    So, In short - I basically agree with Trev - Price it fairly.
    You don't need to be the cheapest, you need to provide a better service. If you focus on being cheapest then you'll go broke trying because stores like Harvey Norman or The Good Guys will simply lower their prices even further. Combine that with the fact that ACA seems to keep telling people its their God given right as Australians to Haggle - and its no wonder that the retail sector has been in the worst shape since the mid 80's

    /end rant

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