Outwit Ruthless Car Dealers

As many of you know, buying a car has become an increasingly stressful and expensive activity. Without a doubt, it is essential to make the correct choice that you will not regret. The average person is generally not too familiar with the nuts and bolts of car buying. To help you out, the following tips have been proven to be effective in helping buyers make the most accurate choices when it comes to purchasing an automobile.


  1. Realize that there’s more to purchasing a car than price. Where you buy counts too. Take the time to evaluate the different dealerships. Visit a few and walk around. When a salesperson approaches you, say, “I’m just looking around, and I’ll come to you when I’m ready."
  2. Don’t let these automobile geniuses intimidate you. Walk around the service area and sit down. Stay for 30 minutes. Observe A) Is it orderly and run efficiently? B) Is the manager on the premises and working? C) Are the customers treated with respect?
  3. Proceed into the service lot and look at the license plate frames. In a reputable dealership you will see frames from competing dealerships too. Don’t choose a dealership that’s out of the way. The salespeople know that they have just one chance to make a sale, and they lean hard on you. Avoid multi-franchise dealerships. Too many people run different parts of the operation, causing confusion in service.
  4. Choose your salespeople; don’t let them choose you. Speak with several. Ask: A) How long have you worked at this dealership? (The longer the better) B) Where else have you worked? And for how long? C) May I get the name and number of a recent customer? (Follow up with a phone call). If there are a lot of turnovers, leave, there is a strong probability the dealership is unstable. Trap: Looking for a salesperson who’s a member of your ethnic group, because you think you will get special treatment. You won’t, and you will be letting your guard down.
  5. Educate yourself. Get as much information as possible about a car before you sit down with the salesperson. Collect brochures (dealers don’t usually keep them on display, because they want you to approach the salespeople) and read consumer magazines that rate autos.
  6. Don’t let salespeople woo you into trusting them with their “impressive" knowledge of cars. That’s how they try to establish authority and take control of the sale.
  7. Know the competition. If you say that you are considering a competing brand, the salesperson will knock it, and be very convincing if you’re uninformed.
  8. Be firm. If you are not firm about what you want, you could easily end up with what the salesperson wants to sell you, the most expensive model with the most extravagant option at the highest price.
  9. Once you show serious intention of buying, the salesperson will offer you a test drive, during which he or she will talk glowingly about the car to get you to take mental ownership of it. Don't turn on the radio, so that you can hear the noise of the motor. Hopefully it will sound as though it is working properly. He is seducing you. Resist. Trap: Negotiating to buy when you’re tired of shopping. Salespeople are attracted to this kind of customer like bees to honey. They know that if they promise you what you’ve been looking for, whether they have it or not, you will probably buy on the spot. Buy only when you’re in an energetic mood.
  10. Avoid answering personal questions. Few salespeople ask idle questions. Seemingly relevant questions are actual attempts to find out about your lifestyle, income, driving habits, etc. Avoid answering these questions.
  11. Read the sticker carefully. D.A.P. stands for Dealer Added Profit. Locator Cost means the dealer procured the car. All these charges are negotiable.
  12. Take particular note of a common padding tactic: A prep fee of $100 or more. For those unfamiliar with auto buying, the cost of preparing your car for delivery is included in the manufacturer’s sticker price.
  13. Don’t let yourself get “turned over." If a salesperson feels that he’s not in control of the sale, he’ll say that he’s going on a coffee break and will “turn you over" to another salesperson. In a high-pressure operation, this could happen three or four times, until they wear you down. How to resist: Go for a walk, have a cup of coffee at a nearby diner, say that you need to think about it. Get away from the salesperson so you can think clearly.
  14. When the deed is done, inspect your new car thoroughly before you leave the dealership. Make sure everything is working correctly. If you follow these suggestions, buying a car can be a joyful adventure, instead of a crazy mishap.


  • Another trick they use is to ask you to remove all personal articles from your trade-in and put them in the car being purchased before signing the sales contract. Don't do it. This way if problems arise with the sales contract you will have more leverage over canceling the sale and leaving immediately rather than canceling the sale and having to transfer everything back to the old car.
  • A nice trick is to throw in a bonus for yourself at the end of the deal. Just as you are ready to "close" the deal, ask for a token of appreciation. Floor mats are the perfect thing to ask for. Typically new cars do not come with factory floor mats leaving you with the cost of them either from the dealer or an after market store. As you are about to sign the contract, ask the dealer to "throw in some floor mats". If they hesitate, ask the salesperson if they are willing to throw away a $30,000 sale because he/she did not want to give you a $100 set of floor mats. It works every time.
  • If you are leaving a trade-in and the car being purchased needs service, insist that the service be completed before taking possession of the new car. Add this to the purchase contract and withhold the down payment. The dealers often can't perform the service on the day of purchase and ask you to bring it in at a future date. When you do bring it in be prepared for a long wait; possibly days. However if you still have your old car there will be no waiting without transportation and the dealer will hurry the repairs just to get the deal completed.
  • The first rule of car buying is try to avoid buying a car when you absolutely need one. If you have a car off lease start negotiating deals 3 months ahead. If your car is 6 years old and you intend to sell it next year, start talking to dealerships now and get a sense of what deals are out there. It is when you are shopping out of necessity that you are more likely to fall victim to dealer shenanigans. If you have all the time in the world and can walk away freely, well, that kind of consumer power is an amazing thing.
  • Don't just mention that you are considering another brand, leverage their prices, even if it's made up. For example, when your sales person says something to the effect of: BMW stinks, this is a Mercedes your response should go something like this. "Well that might be true, but all I care about is getting an entry level German automobile for $399 a month on lease and BMW seems to be able to do that right now, why can't you?"
  • In the alternative, when the salesman asks you to move your stuff please go ahead and Do it. Then, when the manager tries to taint your deal with bs fees or a higher interest rate, transfer your personal articles from the new car back to the old car which sends a clear signal about your intent to abandon after investing all of that time and therefore will help you leverage a better deal. The story goes like this: Once you move your articles over the dealership will tell you that you don't qualify for the lowest rate because your credit score is 790 not 800, or that there is this extra fee they can do nothing about. These are what we call lies. After they make their spiel tell them that the deal is off. Before you can finish your sentence they will offer to "see what they can do." During that time start removing your personal articles from the new car back to the old car, showing a clear intention to walk. Golf Clubs are always good for this trick as the bulkiness of them sends a clear signal to the dealership. Before you finish walking those Golf Clubs back to the old car you'll see the manager running after you to tell you that he "fixed" the deal. In the event that the dealership doesn't try to shake you down at the end, or in conjunction with this counter-measure you can use this trick as leverage for an extra "throw-in."


  • Treat your salesman with respect and you stand a better chance of having that treatment reciprocated. The bulk of this article is about how to outwit your "typical" sleazy salesman. There are as many sales consultants who operate in an appropriate and ethical manner. Find them and be loyal to them. At the end of the day, you are entering into a business transaction, and if there is not a mutual respect you will find more often than not the favor will not be with the buyer.

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