So you finally found that thing you were looking for. It's right there within your grasp; the owner is eager to unload it and it will make the perfect addition to your studio. There's just one thing standing in your way: you're not going to pay a lot of this muffler.
Negotiating price is way less common in North America than in other parts of the world. It's assumed, when buying cardamom from a bazaar in Bangladesh, that you'll haggle a bit and come out a few taka less than the advertised price. But around these parts, folks are used to forking over whatever it says on the sticker. Most of the time that makes sense, but when it comes to used gear from an individual seller, you might just be cheating yourself out of the discount he already planned to give you.
Establish a relative value.
Start by educating yourself about what the item is worth. Let's say you're looking at a compressor. Your first move is to google it and find out where else it's available, for how much, and from whom. Look at the quality of each one and factor that in, too. You want to come out on the other end with an average price, a base line you can use to compare the one you want and evaluate the price based on something other than feelings.
Don't forget to add shipping costs and any repairs that might be necessary. Finding that compressor for two hundred bucks less than everything else is great, unless it needs four hundred bucks of work before you can use it.
If that compressor is still be made by the original manufacturer, make sure you know how much it costs to get a new one. It will always cost more, but if the difference in price is relatively small, it might be worth getting the new one, and the warranty and support that comes with it.
Make up your mind.
Before you start the negotiating process, make up your mind about what you will and won't do, and promise yourself you'll stick to it. Without deciding on how high and/or low you're prepared to go, you could have a moment of weakness in the heat of battle and do something you'll later regret, like paying more than you can afford.
Based on your research, you'll be able to establish a price range. All that's left to do after that is be firm, even if the seller says he won't meet your demands. Part & parcel with this theory is having the strength to walk away if you can't come to an agreement. In other words, make sure you're ready to lose out on that compressor. If you're not, you'll end up paying whatever the seller wants. Maybe that's ok with you and maybe it isn't. The point is, decide before you start.
Manage the relationship.
Make no mistake, you're forming a relationship with the seller, albeit a short one. If you want to be successful, the key is managing this relationship like any other, with respect, empathy and honesty.
Remember that the person on the other side of the table is just as human. He or she wants to get the most money possible, but also wants to get rid of that compressor. Understand the seller's motivation and look at the situation through his eyes as well as your own. Then respectfully offer what you want to pay, listen carefully to the counter offer, and walk through the negotiation until you reach one of the limits you set, or get a price you can live with.