34 Secret Car-Buying Tips Your Dealer Won’t Tell You

Find out how to get the most value out of your purchase by side-stepping these common car dealer practices.

That car we advertised at the unbelievable price?

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It’s a stripped-down model with a manual transmission, no air-conditioning, and crank windows. But we got you in, didn’t we?

The best time to buy is at the end of the month

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and it’s best to negotiate the trade-in separately. Negotiate up from the invoice price (what we paid for the car, easy to find on the Web), not down from the sticker price.

Everybody believes his trade-in is worth more

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You’ve got bald tires, chicken bones under the seats, and dust blowing from the vents, but you’re going to tell me your car is in “excellent” condition? Now who’s the pushy salesperson?

Here's how to get a great price with minimal haggling

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Call and ask for the Internet manager or fleet manager.

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This is what happens once I’m sitting behind the desk

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You’ll feel like I’m in control and may be willing to pay a little more. (We learn this during training.)

Ever wonder about those ads that promise a minimum $3,000 trade-in value for your clunker?

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Those dealerships also pad the sales price to make up for the difference.

Never pay the VIN-etch fee

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It’s a $250 optional add-on that’s almost pure profit for us.

Every spring we have guys who show up and say they’re interested in one of our trucks and want to give it a spin

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They think we don’t see the mulch on the floor when they bring it back.

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Notice how many times we go back and forth to our manager?

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The loud music, the gongs, and the blaring flat-screen TVs? All are distractions designed to help you lose track of what we’re doing with the deal.

Be careful during your test drive

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Plenty of cars get stolen at gunpoint or knifepoint on test-drives.

We’re making less money on the car than you think

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Our profit margin is typically 2 to 4 percent.

We all get our cars from the same place at roughly the same price

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So if one dealer is offering to sell it for $2,000 less, there’s probably a catch.

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If your auto credit score is under 600, expect to get an interest rate over 16 percent and to put 20 percent down

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If your score is under 550, we may put a tracking device in your car that will shut it off if you don’t make a payment.

Go in armed and educated.

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Study the pricing of the car you like and have your financing lined up. If you walk in with nothing, you’re not a customer, you’re a victim.

Here’s a favorite trick:

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Study the pricing of the car you like and have your financing lined up. If you walk in with nothing, you’re not a customer, you’re a victim.

An older woman who walks in without an appointment, alone, is typically someone we can make a lot of money on

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She’s usually uncomfortable with the process and just wants to get it over with.

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Attractive people sell more cars

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I’ve seen some incredible deals go down because the only thing the customer was paying attention to was the salesman paying attention to her.

When you bring in your friend or your father to negotiate for you, we call him “the quarterback"

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Just know that he’s often as clueless about the process as you are.

If you want to test drive a bunch of models or need a lot of information...

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Don’t pull in on a weekend without an appointment. Come by on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Don't believe all the stories you’ve heard about sleazy car dealers

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Plenty of us are honest folks frustrated by the guys who give the rest of us a bad name.

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Once you’ve agreed on a price, you think you’re done, but we’re just getting started

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Worn out and ready to go home, you sign document after document. Then you wake up the next day, look down, and you signed a contract that had a $1,995 extended warranty that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. And you’re stuck.

Forget the overall cost of the car. Let’s talk about what you want to pay each month

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Then I can build in profit generators such as extended warranties and credit insurance, and you won’t even notice.

Think you’ll get a good deal by coming in at closing time when I’m anxious to get home?

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Think again.

I’ll promise you just about anything to get you to sign on the dotted line

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But if I don’t put it in writing, I may not remember the next day.

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You shouldn’t leave the dealership not knowing how to turn on the windshield wipers

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Make us show you everything before you drive away.

Banks almost never require you to buy a particular warranty or a particular add-on to get the loan

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If the finance officer tells you otherwise, ask to speak to someone at the bank.

Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) all offer guides for car values

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We’re the experts who do this every day and can evaluate what a 2008 Honda Accord EX is really worth in our market.

You accuse us of being the biggest liars in the world, but we like to say “buyers are liars”

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You tell us you’re looking for a car for a friend, that you’ve got to run to get to daycare, that you’ve got perfect credit. Right.

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If I ask “Are you here to buy?”

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in the first 10 minutes, that’s not a good sign.

Don’t expect retail for your trade in and wholesale for our car

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We have to recondition your trade, advertise it, warranty it and pay interest on the amount we have in the car, then sell it for less than we want after it sits on the lot for months.

You think I’m pushy?

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I’ve had attractive young women raise their eyebrows at me and say, “I’ll do anything to get a better deal. Anything.”

Seven words I hate:

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"I have to check with my wife (or husband)."

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Please do the math

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You can’t get a $40,000 Tahoe for $250 a month for 72 months! Even at zero percent, $40,000 divided by 72 months is $555 before tax, title, and license fees. If you want a bargain, try to wait until the end of model year, usually in September or October, when we need to move cars off the lot.

Sure, I’d be happy to tint your windows, apply rustproofing, or paint a pinstripe on your truck

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But I’ll probably charge you two or three times the cost of doing it elsewhere.

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