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What is a Sticker Price?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A sticker price is the listed price for an item. Usually, it is the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), and it may be negotiable. The term "sticker price" comes from the idea that the price of an item is often marked with the use of a removable sticker, allowing people to conceal the true cost of the item if it is used for a gift. Being aware of the way in which sticker prices work can be an excellent way to get a good bargain.

Many people use the term specifically in the context of automobiles. When a car manufacturer builds a car, it determines an MSRP which is based on how much the car costs to build and how much the manufacturer thinks that people are willing to pay for it. In many areas, the MSRP must be clearly displayed, by law. Car purchasers would, as a general rule, be foolish to pay this price, however, as the MSRP may be radically different from the invoice price which the dealer paid for the car.

When people are exploring the purchase of a new car, many organizations highly recommend that they research the typical invoice price, along with the sticker price. Being aware of the invoice price can help a consumer, because he or she can drive a harder bargain for the car in question. It can also be a good gauge of the dealer's honesty, as the consumer knows exactly how low the dealer can go. In other cases, especially for coveted or very popular cars, the sticker price may be firm; most dealers know their markets well enough to be aware of how much they can realistically get for the vehicle.

The term is also used more generically simple to refer to various consumer goods. Many stores have sales offering X% off "sticker price," indicating that the entire store is discounted. In the case of a retail store, the sticker price may reflect the MSRP, or it may be further marked up. This choice is made by owners and managers, who balance the cost of the item to them against consumer desire.

The science of the sticker price is quite complex. Large firms may have an entire division devoted to pricing items to sell. The balance between too much and too little on a sticker price can sometimes be difficult to achieve, especially with higher end items. The sticker price also usually incorporates industry tricks such as ending in a "9" or a "5" to trick the consumer into feeling like he or she is paying less. For example, $29.99 feels like a lot less than $30.00, even though the difference is really quite minimal.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Sunny27 — On Aug 05, 2010

Greenweaver- Wow, I had never thought of that. I know that most of the time when I go to a store the price is rarely ever on the package anymore.

There used to be custom price stickers on items so you would know what they cost. These stickers were put on items with the use of a pricing gun.

It was a tedious process for the stores which is why you don’t see many price gun stickers anymore. Instead inventory and pricing is tracked by a UPC bar code which a scanner registers at checkout.

By GreenWeaver — On Aug 05, 2010

Mutsy- I do want to say that the one sticker that most people can not negotiate is with the vending machine price stickers.

The machine will only accept the price posted so there is no other choice but to pay the stated amount.

By mutsy — On Aug 05, 2010

Comfyshoes- That is so true. I never pay the sticker price for a car.

Another place that I don’t pay the sticker prices is in garage sales. Garage sale price stickers are also set as a general guideline, but most people haggle and often pay less.

Yard sale price stickers are set to what the seller would like to have, but they often negotiate the price in order to make a sale.

By comfyshoes — On Aug 05, 2010

It is true when thinking about the sticker price, I always think of the vehicle sticker price of a car.

The new sticker price is usually substantially higher than what the consumer will end of paying.

Most people negotiate the sale price stickers on these cars and often receive discounts from 5% to 10% of the vehicle sticker price.

For example,the Mini Cooper Sticker price according to Edmunds is $18,800. But the buyer will probably pay from $17,000 to $18,000 for the car.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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