More Things Your Car Dealer Won’t Tell You

The secrets that car salesmen won’t tell you.

1. Go in armed and educated. 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.

2. Here’s a favorite trick: Once you give us the keys to appraise your trade-in, you won’t get them back until you’re ready to leave and you ask for them. While I’m getting them for you, another salesman will try to close a deal.

3. An older woman who walks in without an appointment, alone, is typically someone we can make a lot of money on. She’s usually uncomfortable with the process and just wants to get it over with.

4. Attractive people sell more cars. 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.

5. When you bring in your friend or your father to negotiate for you, we call him “the quarterback.” Just know that he’s often as clueless about the process as you are.

6. If you want to test drive a bunch of models or need a lot of information, don’t pull in on a weekend without an appointment. Come by on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

7. Despite the stories you’ve heard about sleazy car dealers, plenty of us are honest folks frustrated by the guys who give the rest of us a bad name.

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

9. Forget the overall cost of the car. Let’s talk about what you want to pay each month. Then I can build in profit generators such as extended warranties and credit insurance, and you won’t even notice.

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

11. I’ll promise you just about anything to get you to sign on the dotted line. But if I don’t put it in writing, I may not remember the next day.

12. You shouldn’t leave the dealership not knowing how to turn on the windshield wipers. Make us show you everything before you drive away.

13. Banks almost never require you to buy a particular warranty or a particular add-on to get the loan. If the finance officer tells you otherwise, ask to speak to someone at the bank.

14. Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) all offer guides for car values. We’re the experts who do this every day and can evaluate what a 2008 Honda Accord EX is really worth in our market.

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

16. If I ask “Are you here to buy?” in the first 10 minutes, that’s not a good sign.

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

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

19. Seven words I hate: “I have to check with my wife (or husband).”

20. Please do the math. 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.

21. Sure, I’d be happy to tint your windows, apply rustproofing, or paint a pinstripe on your truck. But I’ll probably charge you two or three times the cost of doing it elsewhere.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest