Buying a car is an involved process. For many of us, it involves months of research and planning. According to Dealer Refresh, 48% of us spend between one and three months shopping before we make a purchasing decision, and 83% of us conduct online research before buying a car. Sure, we come out of the whole deal with a shiny new vehicle (new to us, at least.) But spending time on the process and finding the right car can be frustrating. Consumers report that one of their top frustrations when buying a car is dealing with car salespeople.
Sales is an art, a science, and some may even describe it as a game. The salesman’s object is to convince you that a product or service will improve your quality of life, make your daily life easier, save you time or money, or provide you with a set of benefits you cannot get elsewhere.
Car salesmen have received somewhat of a bad rep over the years. Some of us have come to imagine a man in a plaid suit, maybe with a mustache and a funny hat, who says to us “now see, this is the car for you” while pointing at the lot’s lemon.
Odds are, when we arrive at the dealership, we’re not going to encounter a car salesman that resembles Danny Devito’s character in Matilda, William H. Macy’s Character in Fargo, or even those guys from the movie The Goods. Most car sales people are just like other workers, and they simply want to perform well at their jobs and make decent money.
On the same token, some car salespeople do have a few tricks up their sleeves. Many of them are trained to coax us into impulse buying, and making us spend a little more than we had originally planned. By talking to a few car salespeople, and reviewing a few publications on car selling tactics, we found out some of the tricks car salespeople use to convince us to spend impulsively. You can find out a few car salesmen tricks, and information on how to get get the upper hand when buying a car, on the following pages.
Wordplay — “Are you looking for a sedan or an SUV today?”
Many car salespeople use clever wording to help persuade you into buying a vehicle. Instead of saying the words “can I help you today?” or “how can I help you today?” the salesperson may choose to ask “are you looking for a sedan or an SUV today?” or “what type of vehicle can I help you find today?” This leaves little room for you to respond with “I’m just looking around, I don’t need any help right now.” The salesperson then immediately has one foot in, as he or she is now touring the lot alongside you.
Around half of people don’t know the make or model they’re going to buy when they arrive at the dealership. While looking around the lot, you may see a model you like and ask the salesperson to tell you a bit more about it. He or she will highlight the car’s best features, painting the car in only the best light. “It had only one previous owner, an elderly couple” he or she may tell you. If that couple hated the car, he or she likely would not mention such information. When you ask about the price, you’re likely going to hear “fifteen, nine, nine, nine,” as opposed to “fifteen thousand nine hundred and ninety nine dollars.” This makes the price sound lower in your head.
While you’re at the dealership, don’t be afraid to say no to a salesperson. If you want to look around by yourself, ask if you may do so. Also, bring your phone or mobile device and do your own research. If you see a vehicle that piques your interest, you can visit websites like Truecar.com or Kbb.com and find out the vehicle’s value, specs, and additional details.
Pricing Tactics — “The car only costs $455 per month.”
If you’re trading in a vehicle, someone from the dealership will likely take a look over it and provide you with the value of your trade-in. While examining your vehicle, they may run their finger along any scratches, stick their finger inside any holes in your upholstery, and use other clever visual tactics to show you your vehicle has flaws. This way, if they give you a low-ball offer for your trade-in, you may feel as though you’re lucky that they gave you as much as they did.
If you have a certain car picked out, don’t be surprised if the salesperson attempts to offer you a few added features. “Are you interested in a our extended warranty plan? How about a tire upgrade?” Those extras can add up to a few thousand dollars, and some extra commission for the salesperson.
Dealers may also speak in terms of monthly payments, instead of in terms of the total price of the vehicle. If you hear that a vehicle costs $29,999 (or twenty-nine, nine, nine, nine) it may sound like something you cannot afford. But, hearing monthly payments of $455 per month may sound a bit better to you.
Your best defense is preparation. If you go through your budget and know exactly how much you want to spend each month and in total on your vehicle, you can make sure to stay under that price point. Also, check your credit score and report before you arrive so that you can get an idea of what type of rate you’ll qualify for. If possible, you may even want to see what types of auto loan options your credit union offers.
Lastly, keep in mind that you can always walk out of the dealership. If you don’t like anything about the experience, you feel uncomfortable, or you feel that you’re not getting a good deal, walk away. There’s another car dealership that will be happy to have your business.
Clever Persuasions — “That’s one of the fastest selling cars we have on the lot.”
We buy replacement cars for a variety of reasons — to get the latest technology, to benefit from new features, and for increased safety. But we can’t deny that status and appearances play a large role in our auto purchasing decisions. Car salespeople know that our appearance matters.
Some clever salespeople may use a mirror or large window to show you what you look like in the driver’s seat. The salesperson may make it a point to tell you how great you look driving the vehicle.
The salesperson may also pay close attention to what features are important to you, and then begin to place focus on those features, highlighting them on each vehicle thereafter. If you ask about safety on a vehicle, for instance, on the next vehicle, the salesperson may tell you all of the wonderful safety features the car has to offer.
Make sure that when you look at each vehicle, you remember why you came to the dealership in the first place. Focus on the long-term benefits and remember you are making a large purchase that involves a level of commitment. Don’t be fooled by flash.
More From Personal Finance Cheat Sheet:
- 4 Things We’re Blowing Way Too Much Money On
- Can Middle Class Americans Still Afford to Live a ‘Comfortable’ Life?
- 4 Tricks to Optimize Your Retirement Account
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