Six Things You Should Never Tell a Car Salesman

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When buying a new car, it’s usually smart to let the salesman do the talking. Whatever you do, never tell him:

* That you really like the car -

Ideally, let him think you need to be convinced. But whatever happens, don’t gush about the car. If you do, it’s like revealing your hand in card game before your opponent antes up. If the salesman knows you’re in love, he knows you’ve lost your most important edge. He knows your feelings are starting to over-rule your thinking and that it probably won’t take much convincing to get you to sign the paperwork. Sidestep leading questions asking how much you like the car and redirect the back-and-forth to the price of the car. Don’t discuss its looks – and even better, discuss the virtues of competitors’ cars. Your overall goal should be to convey the impression that while you’re interested, you’re not committed to this particular car – or even this particular brand (or dealership). This puts the onus on the salesman to try to convince you – and if you’re not responding on an emotional level, he’ll be forced to try to sway you on rational, logic grounds – such as the deal he can make you.

If you worry about becoming too obviously emotional, do your haggling remotely – via the Internet ( send offers via -email) or enlist your poker-faced spouse to do the talking.

* How much you can afford to spend -

Keep that card close to your chest. It’s ok to discuss a range – but don’t be overly specific. Never tell him exactly what you are looking to spend before you’ve even begun discussing the particular car you’re interested (let alone haggled over the price of that particular car).

Once the salesman knows your price point, he will try to steer you toward cars that cost about that much. But never less. On the other hand, if the dealer isn’t sure what you can afford or want to spend, he may be more inclined to show you some better deals.

Act poor. Or at least, act cheap.

* What you are currently driving -

Even if you don’t plan to trade, avoid discussing (or even letting him see) whatever it is you’re driving right now. Reason? The type of car you drive will give away information about you – and information is, as they say, power. If he sees you drive up in a high-dollar car, he will assume you’re a big fish – and try to hook you accordingly. And the type of car you drive will also convey information about the type of car you’re probably looking for. A sporty car, for instance, will convey that you’re an enthusiast driver – and the salesman will probably try to appeal to you on an emotional level. The bottom line is it does you no good to give the salesman anything to profile you by. Let him guess.

And keep him guessing.

* How little you know about the car -

Most people are not “car people.” They are thus vulnerable to being overwhelmed by a tsunami of helpful Facts and Stats recited by a trained salesman. His getting you to accept his authority as an expert about the car is the first step toward him getting you signing on the dotted line and buying the car.

It’s important that any questions you ask be informed and intelligent-sounding. You don’t have to be a “car guy” to be able do that. But you do have to spend a little time researching the make/model vehicle you’re looking at (along with competitor models) so that you know enough about it (and them) to not sound like a Mark when you start talking with the salesman.

If you’re totally clueless about cars, ask around. Almost everyone has a friend (or a friend of a friend) who is a “car guy.” Talk with them first. Get to know the car you’re interested in. Read up. Then, start shopping. And, again, you can do a lot of the back-and-forth online nowadays. This can be a godsend if you’re someone who just doesn’t like the pressure of a direct, right-now interaction. You can answer e-mails (and texts) at your leisure – after you’ve had some time to think about your answer.

* What you’d like your monthly payment to be -

Avoid any discussion about the monthly payment. It’s very easy for a clever salesman to get an unsophisticated buyer to focus on that Low Low monthly payment – soft-pedaling the total purchase price (and interest) he’s about to saddle you with. For example, by extending a loan from three or four years to five or even six years, the monthly payment can be lowered by a few bucks per month – but the actual purchase price may have been jacked up by thousands. You could be paying a lot more overall in unnecessary interest payments, too. This is how the mathematically challenged end up “upside down” – owing more in payments than the vehicle is actually worth.

Negotiate the purchase price first – and the monthly payment will take care of itself.

* Your trade-in plans -

A common mistake some buyers make is to arrive at the dealer with their old car – and end up getting sucked into a discussion about its trade-in value before they’ve negotiated the price of the new car. It’s an old car salesman trick to make the buyer feel he has the edge by giving him what seems like a great deal on his trade – while making up the difference on the price of the new car. It’s also a timeworn technique to wear you down – and confuse the issue. One thing at a time.

If you plan to trade, it’s smart to avoid any discussion of what your plans are until after you’ve settled with the dealership on the sales price of the car you’re buying.

Then bring up your trade.

Throw it in the Woods?

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  51 comments for “Six Things You Should Never Tell a Car Salesman

  1. Ian
    February 14, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Take these “tips” with a grain of salt. As a former dealer if my customer couldn’t give me an answer or at least hint at the information above it would tell me that you’re not serious and are not interested in buying today. Furthermore i may look like we are all unscrpulious sharks but there are good people out there. If you hide what you drive it may prevent me from getting creative and helping you get into a car. Many deals were done because the used manager really wanted a trade and would pay well for it. Thereby making the payment lower. What you won’t see sometimes is that a family will look at an old used car because the payments seem low but sometimes th auto companies won’t want to finance someone in a used car. Many times you will get the best deals for financing by getting a new car. Now you will have to bring money down and th more you bring the less you finance the better your bottom line payment. Belive it or not we make the most money n used cars.

    • mithrandir
      February 14, 2012 at 2:53 am

      @eric:
      Although not stated explicitly (although I think it fits w/not gushing about a car) you should have 3-5 cars that meet your criteria for what you want in a car. You should be fine with buying any of these vehicles. If a dealership (car maker) is giving you a bum steer, then be willing to walk away to another dealership (car maker).

      @Ian:
      I think it is possible to let the dealer know that you are serious without being taken for a ride.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      One tactic that may work if you did your homework: Write the price that you are willing to pay for the car with the options features you want and let the dealer know that a deal can be done today at that price. (be sure the price includes taxes, motor vehicle fees, etc.) If the price is close to invoice and the model is not in short supply you should get your price. If they are not agreeable to your price, be prepared to walk away.

      Leave a card with your number on it. The dealer may not want to deal that moment, but the dealer may reconsider your offer as time passes and make the deal at your price.

      It saves you time instead of watching the dealer go through a dog and pony show.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Also I think it is a good idea to get your financing in order before you go shopping for a car. (trying of course to get the best rate that you can get for yourself) If the dealer offers you better financing then that is great. It is good to be prepared in advance.

    • Wild Bill
      February 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Let me know the name of your dealership so I can avoid you like the pelage!

    • Tim
      February 14, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      MM- interesting discussion, I own a small service company and have purchased several new/used vehicles over the years. Best to go armed with several car choices you are happy with- can let them know you dont HAVE to purchase the one you may be trying to buy. Always more than one dealership that has type of car or truck that one would be happy to have. Let them know this- not married to the one they trying to get you top buy at THIER price. Also-time of the month and year DOES make a difference in how hungry they are. LEAVE your emotions out of it or you will be had! Buy on the “Haggled” price- not monthly payments as they can be manipulated to screw you!

    • Fred
      February 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      “As a former dealer if my customer couldn’t give me an answer or at least hint at the information above it would tell me that you’re not serious and are not interested in buying today.”

      This may be why you are a “former dealer”. Assuming someone is not interested in buying is the stupidest thing you can do in any sales environment.

      • February 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm

        Serveral years back my partner and I drove into a delarship to get a new car of basically the same make and model I was currently driving. We were not particularily well dressed at the time as it was Memorial Day and quite warm in West Palm Beach Florida. I asked the approaching saleman if he had any basic models (mening not fully loaded). He said no and walked away. We then drove about 3 blocks down the street to a Buick dealer where we were treated Royally, and ending up purchasing that day. In fact the next two purchases were made at that dealer and from the same sales person. That is the first time I have ever repeated as salesman or dealership, all because that saleman over-looked our appearance and what we drove in with.

        • jim
          February 20, 2012 at 7:51 am

          I had a similar thing happen at a Ford dealership when I was looking to get an F-150. There was supposed to be a “rebate” event going on and I wanted some ballpark prices on a couple of vehicles they had on the lot. After the classic “football Huddle” between the salesman and the manager, an hour or so when by with nothing to show-so I went across the street to the Nissan dealer. I bought a Titan on the spot because they treated me like they wanted my business. I wrote a letter to Ford telling them how they lost my business and they were sympathetic but said they didn’t have much control over franchise dealerships. Lesson learned unscrupulous salesmen.

          • george casely
            July 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm

            We had the same thing happen few years ago-we went to a Buick Dlr. asked what they had for under $2o.000 salesman told me nothing and walked away like we were stupid-went to a Pontiac dlr. and bought a new car for under $20.000

          • collinskiggy
            January 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm

            ……and you ended up with a Titan. Ouch!

    • Big Dick
      February 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      I think the real answer is in the words ‘FORMER DEALER” which says it all!

      • February 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

        Yeah…

        Ideally, it would be a non-adversarial process. A fair offer, a fair price – done deal. Unfortunately, that’s not the usual reality. The usual reality is the system is set up to maximize the profit from the buyer by any (and multiple) means. Smart buyers game the system the other way, and can end up paying a lot less than most people do. But most people end up paying more – which is what most dealers want, which is why the system is the way it is… It’s a commission-based system. That brings out the sharks every time.

      • george casely
        July 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm

        I used to work next door to a Buick dealer -when they had a demo sale each top of the line Buick just happened to be the dealers (owners) personal demo.

  2. Enjoy Every Sandwich
    February 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    A common mistake some buyers make is to arrive at the dealer with their old car

    Sorry to seem stupid, but what else would I arrive with? There are no dealers in walking distance of my home, and cabs are expensive.

    • February 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Well, maybe borrow a friend/family member’s car?

      • Enjoy Every Sandwich
        February 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm

        Thought of that, but none of my kin live around here and my friends generally don’t have spare cars lying about.

        • Paul
          February 15, 2012 at 3:07 am

          Or you can park around the corner from the dealership so they don’t see your car? Done that a couple of times and the walk can clear the head before dealing with the sharks.

          • Dan M.
            February 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

            I did that once and the guy from the dealership actually walked two blocks over and waved at me.

    • dom
      February 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      Something I noticed that works at dealerships is demonstrating brand loyalty. For instance, showing up at a Toyota dealership with a Toyota.

      • BrentP
        February 15, 2012 at 4:18 am

        When I was shopping for my ’97 I showed up at a local ford dealership with my ’73 ford. The salesman didn’t even want to talk to me… as if I was wasting his time on a weekday afternoon. Well it ended up that way because I didn’t like that. I bought from someone else at another dealership.

    • Tim
      February 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Just cause you drive up in it doesn”t mean you have to tell them you gonna trade it in. You could tell them you gonna sell it on your own for instance. Only after you have agreed on the price on the “new” car would I offer it as a trade in. And if you do trade it in- why would you pay more than “loan Value” on the “new car?

  3. JIM
    February 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    Here’s how to save approx. 10% i.e $4000. on a $ 40 000. car , which I just did . In Canada join APA ($80.) and you will get a quote of a dealer who guarantees to meet their quoted price for your specific car and their quote will definitely be less than MSRP . As soon as I sat down , the salesman gave me MSRP and started the B.S…..can’t budge , limited edition , more orders than he can handle , etc. I showed him the APA quote and said we were just wasting each others time and unless he matched the quote I would go to the other dealer . Guess what happened next . He put in the order for my new car discounted $4000. from his original ‘can’t budge’ offer ! The discount will vary of course depending on the price range and demand for any particular model .

  4. Ken Long
    February 15, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Dont worry about what you tell a salesman. Do whatever you need to get the information you need to make a good decision. Then get on the internet and find out the wholesale values of every item your interested in. Secure your loans in advance and walk in on the slowest day of the year and make him an offer. I bought my last car on New Years day. I walked in with all the papers and offered them 1% over wholesale, and then argued over the markups on all the options. Anything they wouldnt agree to I was ready to take elsewhere. Or you could buy the car over the internet and just use the dealership to take delivery.

    • Patrick
      February 15, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Eric,

      What about the reccomendation, made by many, that one never buy a used car without having the thing put up on a lift
      and examined by a mechanic of one’s own choice. How hard is it
      to get a dealer to allow this?

      If the dealership offers to do this themselves, under what
      circumstances could they be trusted?

      • February 15, 2012 at 11:08 am

        I agree with that recommendation – and would insist on it as condition of sale. If the dealer refuses to allow it, walk away.

    • February 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

      This works.

      I’ve done it myself. If you research the car, find the real dealer net vs. MSRP and make a reasonable offer (which to me is about 3-5 percent over dealer net; they’re entitled to make a profit and shouldn’t be expected to sell the car at “break even,” let alone a net loss) they’ll usually bite. Exceptions include trendy/popular models – which they know they can sell later that day at full mark-up.

  5. JdL
    February 15, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    When I was shopping for my first new car (and ended up buying a 1972 Honda Civic for $2200) I visited several dealerships. In one of ‘em (Datsun?) the salesman would not give me a cash selling price, only a monthly payment. I gave him two chances, then walked away. Buyers really do have power, if we’re willing to use it!

  6. Prince Draxx
    February 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    While some of the info here is okay, I didn’t see a single mention of the way I bought my F-250.
    If you belong to a credit union:
    1. You can set up your financing before you visit the dealership
    2. Go online to Cars.com and choose Make, Model, Options
    3. Within 24 hours you will have quotes from 4-5 dealers in your area.(If you live close to major metro area)
    4.If your credit union is worth a crap you will not have to pay more than $200-300 over invoice.
    5. If you have a vehicle you need the money out of for your down payment, sell privately since the dealer won’t give you much over wholesale for it.

    This was my last purchase:
    In 2001 I wanted an F-250 Lariat Super Duty Diesel Extended Cab.
    In the Houston area after going online to Cars.com and filling out what I wanted color, bed length is basically all the Lariat didn’t have then. Next day the dealers were going nuts calling.
    two of them had the truck color only one had a Lariat although the other dealership offered to put in the leather on an XLT.

    I went to the dealership that had my truck, drove it around a freeway exit and back. Told them to write it up.

    Purchase price was $32,978. MSRP was approx. $37,000. The only drawback is that doing it this way, ie through the C.U. is that it is a fleet purchase and you can’t trade it in for 2 years. After almost 12 years, I suppose that isn’t much of a concern.

  7. Ray
    February 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Speaking of bartering…

    I recently went to a dealership to shop for a new work truck. They had a couple models that I wanted to look at. They were asking about 27,000, but the vehicles were valued by KBB and NADA at around 20-22,500. The dealership had been recommended to me and they have a nice website with lots of high quality photos of the cars. It is, however, over an hour from where I live… so I am driving up there and I get a call from a friend who tells me that someone had recommended them to him and he had looked at a truck there, but that they don’t negotiate on their prices. We (my Dad came with) get to the dealership and meet a salesman (who my Dad spoke with for quite awhile – as I was on the phone with an employee when we first got there and then had to use the bathroom, anyway). I tell him what vehicles I want to test drive and are walking out to the lot when my Dad asks what we have both been thinking… and ‘No, they don’t negotiate.’ Apparently, ‘a lot of dealerships’ are starting to go this route. Then some nonsense about how much better and easier it is not to have some slick used car salesman jacking the price WAY up so that you can haggle him down. We’re thinking, ‘yeah right, you just jack it up and leave it there.’

    Now obviously it’s fine for them to have any policy they like and the more they can get for each vehicle the more power to them. They had a nice new building and lots of salesmen standing around chatting with the female receptionist (too busy to receive us). I should only have as much profit in my business… I just wonder when they were planning on telling me. Even if more dealerships followed that model of sales, most still barter. It felt somewhat underhanded to not be up front with the fact that they didn’t. I would’ve paid cash right then if they had been negotiable (like somewhere CLOSE to KBB), as it is I will never go there again. I never would taken the time to go up there in the first place if I had known their policy. Wasting a potential customers time is not a good way to start a relationship with them, IMO.

    Anyone else running into dealerships that don’t haggle? I was under the mistaken impression that all of them did. At least, I hadn’t heard of one that didn’t.

    Ray

    • Boothe
      February 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      Yes Ray, the Ford dealer in Mt. Home, Ark. (at least a few years back) wouldn’t haggle. Mt. Home had a lot of UAW and other retirees with good pensions from “up north” (hence the town’s nickname “Little Chicago”). Their argument on not haggling was “I don’t need to cut you a deal. One of these rich Yankees will come in here and pay what I’m asking”. Needless to say I didn’t buy a truck there.

    • February 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      Saturn tried that – and it was a big flop. Chiefly because customers could haggle at other dealers.

      If they all (or most of them) got together and announced no-haggle pricing, it’d become the New Normal, probably. After all, we don’t haggle over TVs or sofas or other consumer products. Not that I prefer no-haggle pricing (see my earlier post above). And probably, though not surprisingly, I bet most dealers prefer to haggle rather than not because it usually means more profit for them, on the whole, than no-haggle.

      • Paul
        February 16, 2012 at 4:12 am

        We don’t haggle on television purchases? What planet are you on?
        I went into an HH Gregg after christmas and presented the salesman with the best price I’d found online for a 70 inch Sharp Aquos and told them that they’d either beat that price or lose a nearly four thousand dollar sale. They beat my asking price by $100 and made very little on add-ons — I made it clear I wasn’t paying $90 per cable for an hdmi cable I could buy online for $15.
        They made SOME profit, but not their usual margin, I left happy, and they got a sale during a characteristically slow post-holiday period.

  8. Enjoy Every Sandwich
    February 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Just out of curiosity, why do car dealers have to be such horses’ asses? Every time I buy a car the experience is worse than the previous time.

    The last time (2010) I got the vehicle I wanted at the price I wanted, but I had to waste the whole friggin’ day in haggling. My time is valuable.

    I understand that car dealers are in business to make a profit. But the best way to do that is to make your customers happy. Making me waste several miserable hours to conduct what ought to be a simple transaction doesn’t make me happy.

    • February 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      “Just out of curiosity, why do car dealers have to be such horses’ asses?”

      Because it works – for them. The system is set up to get most people to pay more – and most people do. That’s the nature of the set-up.

      The upside is, for those who know the set-up and can stomach all the shuckin’ and jivin’ – it is possible to get a good deal.

      With TVs or other appliances, everyone pays what the price is.

      • Boothe
        February 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm

        “With TVs or other appliances, everyone pays what the price is.” As much as I hate to disagree with you, that’s not completely true for some of us (no, I don’t buy electronics from “Joe” on the Best Buy loading dock; they have cameras up nowadays anyway). Frequently you can talk to a manager at the big box stores (even Wally World) and pick up returns, open box or unboxed demos for a pretty decent discount. Granted, you have to be flexible in what you’ll accept. If you have a particular model of TV, printer or home theater system in mind, it’ll be more difficult to pull off. But that’s also true of popular cars and trucks. Say for instance you’re looking for a big TV. The time to go to Best Buy is right after the Super Bowl. You may be shocked to find out that some folks “buy” a big screen TV right before the game, then suddenly become dissatisfied with it and return it a couple of days later. I picked up open box car stereos, VCR’s, home stereos and DVD players for substantial discounts (sometimes as much as one third off).

        Don’t hesitate to check pawn shops either. It’s not unusual for people to pawn (or outright sell) almost new electronics, guns and tools a week or two after they’ve bought them. I just saw a really nice Toshiba laptop (in the 625$ range from Best Buy) go for $300. And always haggle, you’d be surprised at a lot of the deals.

    • david
      February 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      The last two Cars I bought through my Bank Credit Union. Don’t have to play car dealer games anymore. Don’t even have to walk on the lot where the scavangers come at you frron every direction. I just told my representative to find the best price on “this” car. He did the rest. Anyone who thinks they are getting a good deal through haggling is completely uninformed (perhaps better than non haglers, but dealers always have the advantage). Let a pro do it. All I had to do was go to bank to test drive the vehicles he found and buy it if it met my specifications. No sharks/no games/no stress/no wasted time.

  9. Melissa
    February 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I have bought several new cars and have done my last three purchases through a private auto broker. I knew exactly what I wanted and so I had them go on the hunt for the vehicle. The price was fair and I never once had to deal with dealership salesperson. The auto broker was never pushy, never trying to up-sell me, or anything. I think it’s a fantastic way to go if you don’t feel like haggling with the dealer.
    On the other hand, if you do, definitely be prepared to walk away. I took the route of ‘I’m not trading in my old car’ on one visit until after we’d agreed on a price for the new one. Then I asked about my trade-in value. Needless to say, the salesman was not impressed with that tactic. None of the offers were acceptable so I walked away. They called for another two weeks trying to get my business back but I’d already found something elsewhere. Another time I actually took the vehicle home, but then I had 2nd thoughts about the financing and my monthly payment. The next day I called them up and said I was returning the car because I realized the payment wasn’t ideal for my current situation. As I handed over the keys, they “found” some other discounts to give me which lowered the price of the car. I left with the car and a much more manageable payment.

    • February 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      Good stuff, Melissa – thanks for taking the time to post!

  10. Ben
    February 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Eric, I love your libertarian articles but this seems to me like tips to buying a car… 30 years ago. I’ve been in the car business for 6 or 7 years now, and I can tell you that I get that car shoppers generally put buying a car on the same level of pain as getting a root canal. That said, these “tips” are more than likely just going to prolong the agony longer than it needs to go. The fact is, anybody can go on the internet to a site like Edmunds, look up not only the invoice price on the car they’re considering, but any holdback, dealer cash, rebates, etc. and get a pretty good idea what the dealer’s dead cost on the car is. You can also get a ballpark idea of what any trade might be worth by checking all the used car guides (KBB, NADA, Edmunds, etc) – and keep in mind that if you’re paying a couple hundred bucks over net/net you’re not going to get KBB “Excellent Condition Trade” for your ten year old, 150k mile Chevy Malibu. Go out and drive the cars you’re interested in, and TELL the salesman up front that you’re just researching cars. The snakes and sharks in the car business are getting fewer and farther between, especially at new car stores – customer satisfaction surveys and internet reviews are seeing to that. A good salesman gets that many people aren’t going to buy on day one. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a car or two you’d be happiest with and are in your price range, check with your bank or credit union for financing to know what kind of rate you qualify for and go to the dealership, WITH your trade, and print out your online research into trade values and the dead cost on the car you’re looking at. Disclose that you’re trading your car, that you’re open to financing with the dealership but you have your own financing lined up so it would depend on rate, and make an offer on the car within a few hundred bucks of your online research numbers – and if the dealer accepts or makes a counteroffer that’s close to your offer (on both the new car and the trade), just take it! Maybe you can get another dealer 50 miles away to save you another couple hundred bucks, but driving to three or four different places to get prices and trade appraisals seems like a surefire way to waste a bunch of time and make the process as painful as possible, much like showing up multiple times at the same place unneccesarily by hiding a trade, etc. Playing games with the car guy only ensures that he won’t care whether or not you buy the car, and if you do end up getting it, you’ll have spent FAR more time doing so then neccesary. Salespeople are human beings too, and while we go to work to make money and not friends, just as the experience is more pleasant for you if the salesperson isn’t trying to screw you over somehow (which, admittedly, I’m sure still happens some places, probably in the same cities where the cops are using SWAT teams to raid the wrong houses for perpetrators of victimless crimes), a salesperson is more likely to concede profit if you’re not treating him like he crawled out from under a rock.

    • Big M
      February 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Finally, somebody mentioned it. Find out first what the dealer paid for the car, and then bargain slightly up from that (I’m assuming here that there isn’t any trade involved). Don’t EVEN pay attention to the MSRP (Why in hell would a manufacturer be involved in the process at all? It’s a definite red herring), tell the guy what you’re willing to pay, and that you’ll write him a check for the whole amount right then and there (if, of course, you can afford to do this).

      Chances are, they’ll take the whole amount then and there, rather than let it dribble in by payments, and taking a chance that you’ll default on the payments. Try to keep it polite, but if they start trying to mess with you about the MSRP or anything else, just tell them that if they don’t want the money, somebody else will. And keep it firm. Don’t even let them tell you that they’re losing money on the car or anything like that. Tell them that you KNOW what they paid for it. It’s also a good idea to have the paperwork proving this that you got from your research, so you can prove it to them.

  11. Jesse
    February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I wish this information applied to my vehicle purchases……I know exactly what I want when I go to buy it, there are no alternatives.

    I may spend a bit extra compared to other people buying the bargain-bin Ford mercu-taurus-impala, but it’s worth it to get the vehicle I want (in the last case, a black, 4WD, Toyota Tacoma Double-cab Long-bed TRD Sport with towing package and backup camera.) Unfortunately this is one of the most in-demand pickups on the market relative to it’s availability.

    • Mark O
      February 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      For in-demand models, you might try a tactic a friend of mine used back when THE hot car was the Mazda Miata. The dealer’s sticker had an item labeled ADM. She asked, “What’s that?” “Oh, that stands for Additional Dealer Markup. This car is so popular, people are paying a premium to get one now rather than wait a year.” She offered up what SHE was willing to pay – a significant discount off the normal MSRP. The salesman replied, “Maam, I guarantee you that car wil be sold before the week ends.” Her reply – “Yes, but there’s NO guarantee that YOU’LL be the salesman who collects the commission unless you sell it to me at MY price.” She got it.

  12. charlie
    February 15, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Virtually everything mentioned above is a waste of your time when buying new.
    I have found the perfect way to get the absolute best deal on a NEW car without ever dealing with a single salesman:
    Drive cars at dealers till you know which car, options, color, everything you want.
    Go home, get on the internet, find all your car’s local dealers’ online sales email addresses (it didn’t take me more than 15 minutes), and get them in a bidding war. Ask them for a price, then when you get an offer from one, email it to the others asking them to beat it. I did this continually until they were all saying they would match a price but not beat it, BINGO! you know that you have gotten the best deal. I did not even talk to anyone til I was on the way to get the car.

    • Fred Daily
      February 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      YES. This is absolutely the best, stress-free way I’ve found to buy a new car. To take it even further, I bought 2 cars this way and had them delivered to me at my bank where payment was made. I never set foot in the dealerships where I purchased these cars at all. This takes away the “home turf” advantage and the game playing routine.

  13. Jason
    February 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    A trick I use is to get the purchase price lower by agreeing to finance through the manufacturer’s bank (e.g. Honda Finance). If they think that a guy with a 700+ FICO will agree to 7%, they’ll be very generous on the price, because they think they’ll make it up on the loan.
    Then when I get home, I refinance it with PenFed (any credit union should have really good rates).

    • February 15, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      That is a top-drawer trick! But, are there any costs associated with the re-fi?

  14. February 15, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    A friend of mine who was a car dealer made the following multi-step recommendation:

    1. Arrange your financing ahead of time.
    2. Arrive at the car lot and inquire about dealer-financing. Ask for the first month free.
    3. Concentrate on getting the buying price low, act as if the interest rate doesn’t matter because you’re charging interest on a lower price so that means you save.
    4. When you finally get the price you want, write them a check.

  15. Voss
    February 16, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Eric, your “six things” article reflects a common but counterproductive attitude common among too many car buyers, namely that you are are there to do battle, and that you “win” by getting him to agree to your low price or by triumphantly walking out on him if he won’t bend to your tactics. What about getting what you want at a good price that you can afford in a reasonable amount of time and in a pleasant, non-adversarial situation? What about doing business with someone who stands behind his products, his people, and his word with integrity after the transaction? Would you have to trick someone like that, or would you allow him information that would make it easier for him to match your desires with your budget by giving you the information that could help you?

    All of your recommended tricks and subterfuges add time and aggravation to the transaction. Maybe cost, too, if you consider that people who do business as you recommend are probably better at it than than their customers. Jus’ sayin’.

    • February 16, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Hey Voss,

      In principle, I agree with all that. The problem is that some (not all) dealers don’t do business the way you describe. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a good (honest/fair) dealer and deal with them exclusively. But it’s often easier said than done. In any event, caveat emptor – and, protect your interests first.

  16. BrentP
    February 16, 2012 at 2:18 am

    My recommendation is to avoid the dealerships until ready to buy if you know what you want. Do practically everything online. Exploit any and all memberships you may have. Many of them have car buying programs. Employers might be suppliers or otherwise connected to automakers so you can qualify for special plan. Stock ownership sometimes works too. Sometimes local dealers offer discounts to employees of certain companies in the area. Investigate all of it.

    The buying program for the auto club I am in ended up being the one that worked best. Got offers by email and ended up with an offer so good that when I calculated the profit margin for the dealer I didn’t even haggle with it. (well below invoice) After manufacturer incentives the deal was very good.

  17. therooster
    February 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    It’s actually best to fawn all over the car, if you want the best deal. When you make an offer and then walk, after having fawned all over it, it leaves the owner/salesperson with the notion that “if this guy loves it and walks, what’s the overall market perception of the price?”

    Playing it cool allows the salesperson to maintain faith that the market will bear the price he wants.

    The same principles work well for real estate, especially when you make your commitment in writing …. go for the “no” !

  18. doc evans
    February 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I enjoy haggling but it isn’t necessary with a car salesman. From friends, family, and experience I decide what cars I’m interested in. I might even visit a dealership and drive one. Then I “build my own” on the manufacturers web site and decide exactly what I want. Then I call Costco or AAA and they’ll find my car and tell me the price. I bought 5 of my last 6 cars over the phone without seeing them. The last one was for $6K off the window sticker. I don’t deal with a salesman, I tell him nothing. If I finance I set it up with my credit union or bank first.

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