10 Things You Should Never Say to a Car Salesman

Buying a new car may be the biggest purchase you make this year. To prepare, you may come up with a list of questions ahead of time to ask the dealer. However, just as important is knowing what not to say to a car salesman. He makes deals every day and you don’t, which could put him at an advantage. Having a good feeling ahead of time for what to say — and what not to say — will help give you an edge when negotiating. Here is a list of what not to say to a car salesperson which will help save you frustration and keep down the bottom-line price of your new car.

1. “I really love this car”

buying a car

You can love that car — just don’t tell the salesman. |  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Car dealers know you’ll be willing to pay more for a car you love. Admitting how much you’re into a car opens the door for them to jack up the price. Stay calm and don’t show emotion. Make it clear if you don’t get a good price, you’re willing to walk away. If a salesperson isn’t yet sure you’ll be signing on the dotted line, he’s more likely to jump through some hoops like lowering the price. Otherwise, you’ve tipped the scales in his favor instead, and he’ll be telling you how the car is a big seller and he can’t take less than a certain amount.

Next: Don’t let on how much you don’t know.

2. “I don’t know that much about cars”

LINCOLNWOOD, IL - MAY 13: Customers look over Cadillacs offered for sale at a GM dealership May 13, 2009 in Lincolnwood, Illinois. In an attempt to shore up the industry General Motors announced plans to cut 2600 dealerships while Chrysler has made plans to eliminate about 850.

Professing ignorance means someone might try to take advantage of you. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

This might be a car salesperson’s favorite thing to hear. He may try to tell you all the extra features you absolutely need to have, and he’ll be sure to emphasize how much you need the extended warranty. Rather, do your research ahead of time so you already know what you want on the car and whether you really need the warranty. Salespeople will be able to tell if you already have some knowledge about the vehicle and what features make sense for you.

Next: An important rule about your trade-in

3. “My trade-in is outside”

Even if you’re considering trading in your junker, don’t let the dealer look at it until you’re farther along in the negotiations. | General Motors

If you talk about your trade-in sitting outside, you’ll be asked for your keys. A dealership employee will head out to take a look and assess the value while you’re shopping or negotiating inside. This may save some time, but what if negotiations aren’t going well and you decide to leave? This could prove awkward and have you standing around waiting for your vehicle to come back. Or worse, it could give the salesperson more time to haggle with you. Rather, hang onto your car keys until you’re further into the process with the salesperson.

Next: How to avoid starting off on the wrong foot

4. “I don’t want to get taken to the cleaners”

Don’t assume the dealer is negotiating in bad faith. |  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Even if you think all car dealers are crooks, it won’t help you if you make that known. Believe it or not, they’re not all bad – and most of them are doing what they can to make a living. If you start off on the wrong foot, how much less likely will the dealer be to genuinely want to help you out? Rather, set the stage with a positive-yet-serious tone and you’ll be in a much better place to negotiate about the car’s price and features.

Next: What not to reveal about your credit

5. “My credit isn’t that good”

Used Car Sales Lot

Talk to your bank before buying your next car. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

First off, regardless of your credit rating, you should definitely shop around for the best interest rate from a bank or credit union before you set foot in the dealership. If you absolutely must finance through the dealership and you have less than stellar credit, don’t admit you think your credit is poor. This could make them think you’ll agree to a higher interest rate.

On a side note, when it comes to financing with the dealership, make sure the number of years and final purchase price on the contract are what you were expecting. (They’ve also been known to slip in a warranty that wasn’t previously discussed!)

Next: Say this and you won’t get a rock-bottom price.

6. “I’m paying cash”

american dollar bills

Paying in cash? Don’t let them know until you’ve agreed on a price. | halduns/iStock/Getty Images

If you have enough cash to pay for the car outright, congratulations. Most people don’t. More than 84% of people who bought new cars in a recent year used financing, according to Consumer Reports. Don’t tell the salesperson too early on you intend to pay cash. If dealers assume you’re going to finance the car, they may offer you a better price because they’d make up the difference with the in-house financing. Breaking the news to them later in the process could save you quite a bit of money.

Next: A sure-fire way to show you’re desperate

7. “I need to buy a car today”

GLENDALE, CA - MARCH 23: Allen Zimney and his girlfriend Leila Alvarez, with the help of Star Ford salesman Greg Bowles, shop for a Ford Edge at the Star Ford dealership on March 23, 2012 in Glendale, California. New car sales in March are expected to top 1.4 million in the U.S., on pace for 14.6 million within the year.

It’s hard to negotiate when you’re desperate. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If you rushed over to the dealership because your car just died, it might be best not to let the salesperson know. This is a red flag you’re desperate to drive off the lot with a new car today — and you’ll likely end up paying significantly more for it. (If you’re in a crunch for a new car yet don’t want to overpay as a result, you might consider sharing, borrowing, or renting a car for a couple of weeks so you have time to negotiate and make a better buying decision.)

Next: Don’t let them confuse you.

8. “I need a monthly payment under $350”

Used Car Sales Lot

Negotiate the price before you worry about payments. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even if you believe the monthly payment is your most important factor, avoid talking about this amount with the dealer. Rather, talk about the bottom-line price. Salespeople know that monthly payment talk can throw a buyer off from the final price. They might be quoting you a monthly price on a 60-month loan or a 66-month loan. They might or might not be factoring in the interest charges. See how it can get confusing? And if you say you need to keep the payment under a certain amount, you can bet they won’t quote you a penny less.

Next: Three little words that’ll have salesmen fighting over you

9. “I’m a doctor”

Doctor with an apple

If you’re a high-earning professional, they might not want to give you the best deal. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

If you have a job with a reputation for high pay, don’t tell the dealer what you do. He’ll assume you’re loaded and can pay considerably higher than the lowest possible price. Both his goal and his manager’s goal is to get more money out of you if they can. Selling cars at different prices based on a buyer’s perceived ability to pay is called price discrimination, and it’s perfectly legal. If he doesn’t know what you do for a living, he won’t have this advantage over you.

Next: Don’t let cupholders get in the way.

10. “Where are the cup holders?”

PLANTATION, FL - APRIL 03: Car salesman Marty Israel (R) helps Peter Tesche as he shops for a car at Rick Case Plantation Hyundai on April 3, 2012 in Plantation, Florida. Reports indicate that automakers expect to have sold more than 1.4 million vehicles in March, about 15 percent more than a year ago and the most since 2007.

In negotiations, stick to the serious questions. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

You can certainly ask smaller questions but wait until later. Show the salesperson you mean business by asking the more important questions first regarding reliability, gas mileage, and so forth. Asking smaller questions about colors and cup holders up front may lead him to believe you haven’t given much thought to more important things, like the price.

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