Thanks chaps. I'm pretty chuffed about this. At my age it's seldom you get that childish feeling of excitement any more and this one of those times, and it is a priceless feeling. I know you know what I'm talking about.
Regardless of the end result in my view it's worth the punt. So even if I have to call ADAC (German version of AA) after five minutes of driving, I'm fine with it. You buy private, you carry the risk.
Haggling wise. This one was pretty smooth. I'm a banker by trade (now you'll all stop talking to me) so I guess I am comfortable negotiating about money. I hope that gives me some edge. Below is my buying philosophy on buying a car from a private seller (not an instructional guide by any means just my way of going about it, and would love to hear your opinions.)
1. Get to know your market. I followed GTV prices on ebay in Germany (and the UK) comparing end of auction bids to the prices that private sellers were asking for on mobile.de and autoscout24.de for similar mileage and condition cars. This gave me a rough idea of the percentage difference between a sellers ask price and a buyers bid price. I did this or a few months until I felt comfortable that I knew where the "market" was. I came up with a spread of 20-30%. This was my negotiating level.
2. Note when cars disappear from sale on the internet. You will probably see a few cars that pop up at an interesting price and disappear quickly, that's a great indicator of the price "sweet spot" the actual sale price will be close to those cars. The price has been low enough to attract interest and those who have contacted the seller have probably haggled just a little and a deal has been struck.
3. Never insult a private seller. Private sellers are attached to their cars and they tend to value them based on emotion (as Alfa owners you will understand this) and the top end asking prices of dealers. If you start your negotiation by telling them how wrong they are in the asking price they'll just clam up. Try going to a restaurant and calling the waiter a muppet and see if you get served. We are human we don't like being disrespected and being insulted will 90 % of the time trump money desires.
4. Be patient. As mentioned above private sellers will ask too much when they put the car for sale. Follow these cars and wait for the price to start coming down (around 20-30% from the original asking price). When it comes down to an "interesting" level contact the seller immediately and arrange a meeting. This way the seller who has by now become fed up with waiting and come to terms with the reality that private sellers never get dealer prices will think "eh up now I am close to selling this". By contacting them you have taken them psychologically from a state of frustration to hope. This is a good point for you as a buyer.
5. When you meet the sellers if you don't feel comfortable with the person walk away very polite. If you don't feel comfortable walking away, make an excuse and get out (Thanks. I have another car to look at before I decide is a good one). Conflict gets you nothing but stress and you aren't building a life long friendship you are conducting a business deal.
6. Negotiating face to face is different to negotiating by email. Know which one you feel comfortable with and proceed with that. Email can be good. When receiving email from a person you have met before the receiver feels they are "talking" to you. Since you have met, there's a rapport, email gives time for thought for both parties. So a meeting with a conclusion of the deal by email is often a good way for a non seasoned negotiator.
7. Make an offer and be respectful. Try not to haggle too much on technicalities (suspension, cam belts and so forth.) If you have followed the above advice then the seller will by now have taken those equations in to the price all by themselves. Make a polite bid around 10-20% below the sellers ask. Tell them you respect that they have taken the technicalities already in to question, but since you both know that the market is slow you can make a quick deal and have the cash in their hand pronto if they agree and they won't hear from you again.
8. When you have bought the car, its yours. If it breaks down after five minutes of driving, don't go back to complain. You took the punt, you got a car at a fraction of dealer price. That's the risk you carry.
Well that's my approach and so far it has served me well.
Sorry, became a bit of a long post.