“Do you still have it? What is your best price?” Sound familiar? Chances are, you receive countless emails from used car shoppers like this every day. How you handle the pricing question can make the difference between a successful negotiation and a lost customer.

While the answer to the first question merits a “yes” or “no,” how to respond to the second is not always obvious. As we discussed in the May issue of dealeradvantage, car shoppers hold strong perceptions about price. If the figure is too high, they think they will not get a good deal; too low, and something must be wrong with the vehicle.

By the way, the answer to the first question should never be a flat “no.” Be sure to provide information about a similar vehicle that is available, or ask if the car shopper might be interested in alternatives. Given that 61 percent of Cars.com shoppers who contact a seller will purchase a vehicle1, the extra effort might be rewarded with a sale.

At this stage, the car shopper likely has not provided any information about his or her requirements or timeframe for making a purchase. To create an opportunity to learn more about the shopper’s needs and to sell the value of the vehicle under consideration, continue the qualification process just as though the person were in the showroom and be sure to schedule a test drive. After all, a car shopper may get interested in a vehicle that they see online, but they fall in love with one that they have test-driven.

Here’s an excellent sample response developed by a successful Cars.com dealer:


Dear [Car Shopper Name],

Thank you for your interest in the [Vehicle Year, Model] we have advertised for sale at [Dealership Name]. The Internet pricing for that vehicle is [Advertised Price]. I will be calling you shortly to discuss all of the information you requested.

Best regards,

[Dealership Name, Address, Phone Number]


Providing the “best price” eliminates the basis for a productive conversation going forward. Unless the car shopper insists on the best price in a follow-up email, the best approach is to save negotiations for an in-person meeting. If you cannot reach the car shopper via the telephone within 24 hours, you must provide a best price in an email or risk losing a shopper to another dealership.

1 Experian Automotive, Auto Leads Analysis, September 2004 – August 2005