13 Things Your Car 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.

1. That car we advertised at the unbelievable price? It’s a stripped-down model with a manual transmission, no air-conditioning, and crank windows. But we got you in, didn’t we?

2. The best time to buy is at the end of the month, 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.

3. Everybody believes his trade-in is worth more. 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?

4. To get a great price with minimal haggling, call and ask for the Internet manager or fleet manager.

5. Once I’m sitting behind the desk, you’ll feel like I’m in control and may be willing to pay a little more. (We learn this during training.)

6. Ever wonder about those ads that promise a minimum $3,000 trade-in value for your clunker? Those dealerships also pad the sales price to make up for the difference.

7. Never pay the VIN-etch fee. It’s a $250 optional add-on that’s almost pure profit for us.

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

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

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

11. We’re making less money on the car than you think. Our profit margin is
typically 2 to 4 percent.

12. We all get our cars from the same place at roughly the same price. So if one dealer is offering to sell it for $2,000 less, there’s probably a catch.

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

Sources: Car dealers in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and New York; Sarah Lee Marks, a Las Vegas–based personal car buyer who sold cars for almost a decade; and Jeff Ostroff, president and CEO of carbuyingtips.com.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest