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How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

6 Ways to Counter Tactics From Car Salespeople

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

Car salespeople sell cars every day, but you probably only buy a car every few years — at most. It’s no wonder you may be concerned with used car salesman tricks. Feel more confident when buying a new or used car by preparing for common car salesperson tactics.

6 car salespeople tricks and how to counter them

The No. 1 way to prepare to do business with car salespeople is to do your research: Know whether you’re looking for a new or used car, make a list of the features you want and understand your budget. The more you know about your financial situation and the auto financing available to you, the more power you’ll have to counter car salesmen tricks and tactics.

The trick: Focusing on monthly payments

One of the first questions a car salesperson may ask you is if you have a monthly payment in mind. With that bit of information, a salesperson and sales manager can manipulate the purchase price of the car, financing terms and trade-in allowance to give you the monthly payment you want. Taking the dealership’s offer for your ideal monthly payment could mean you end up paying a lot more money overall with higher interest rates and a longer term.

  How to avoid

Don’t name your ideal monthly payment. Before you visit a dealership, use an auto payment calculator to understand your big-picture budget so you know the total car cost and monthly payment you can comfortably afford.

Before you go car shopping, compare auto loans for the price you have in mind. By scrutinizing the interest rate, terms and fees of loan options, you can get a sense of how changing one aspect influences your overall cost. By focusing on the out-the-door total, you can be sure you’re getting a great deal compared to the car’s value.

The trick: Fixating on the trade-in

You know what you paid for your current car and how much you need to get out of it. Car salespeople may manipulate the trade-in value of your car to make the price of your new car seem more appealing. For instance, if they boost the trade-in value of your car, they may offset those savings by inflating the price of your new car or adding unwanted extras.

  How to avoid

Bring your car to a couple of dealerships to get appraised ahead of time so you understand its value. Use online guides like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to see prices for the make, model and trim level of your car and any loss of value due to high mileage or poor condition. 

Don’t bring up your trade-in right away. Negotiate a price you’re happy with for the new car, then discuss your trade-in separately.

The trick: Marking up interest rates 

Car dealerships are eager to find financing for you. That’s not out of the goodness of their heart — it’s another way for them to make money from the deal. The dealer can take compensation for negotiating car financing on your behalf, meaning a higher interest rate for you. Dealers and lenders are not obligated to provide the best rate available to you.

A lender proposes a rate to the car dealer based on your credit score, called the buy rate. The dealer can add its own markup or a higher interest rate to compensate them for handling the financing. It’s possible to negotiate with the dealer to land between the buy rate and the markup rate.

  How to avoid

Get preapproved by lenders with the best auto rates and by your own bank or credit union so you’ll know whether the dealer is offering a competitive rate. You can even ask the dealer to beat your preapproved rate. Note that for incentives like cash back or 0% financing, you’ll have to use dealer financing.

The trick: Dragging the process out 

Car salespeople are prepared to draw out the process if it helps their negotiations or wears you out. They may propose various combinations of the purchase price, trade-in value, interest rates, down payments and aftermarket options. They usually don’t let you look at the proposals very long, so it’s hard to keep track of the offers.

Be prepared for time-wasting tactics. One of the most meme-worthy is the salesperson going back and forth to talk to their manager.

If you’ve been at the dealership a while and you’re ready to leave, don’t be afraid to take a break or go home. The salesperson knows that if you’re tired and hungry, you’re more likely to accept their terms to end the ordeal. 

  How to avoid

Eat first or take snacks and drinks. Try to go when you have time to spend, rather than needing to rush home or somewhere else. Visit multiple dealerships to show you’re willing to walk away. It also helps to be preapproved for a loan and know which vehicle you want to buy, giving the salesperson less control.

Be prepared for a long process, and don’t rush such a large purchase. 

The trick: Pressuring you to act fast

Alternatively, car salespeople may pressure you to answer specific questions or commit to an offer quickly to better understand what motivates you. “The pressure of the impending event” is another common pressure tactic: for example, “This APR deal expires today!”

  How to avoid

Be prepared to say no and walk away from the dealership if you feel rushed or confused. Even if you found a car you love, it’s not worth being caught up in a bad deal. If you’re not ready to commit, don’t hesitate to say you’re still considering all your options and aren’t ready to buy. The car will most likely be on the lot the next day.

It can also be strategic to wait until the end of a month to go car shopping, in case the dealership is coming up on a monthly sales quota deadline — then a rush could work to your advantage.

The trick: Not explaining fees and add-ons

It’s in the car salesperson’s best interest not to fully explain any extra fees you may need to pay, and they may try to sneak in extras like an extended warranty that you don’t necessarily want or need. A dealer may advertise a car at a bargain cost, but then jack up the price with add-ons like window tints, door guards and fabric protection.

Some dealer fees are unavoidable, like taxes, title transfers and registration. Those fees are set by the government, and the dealership collects the money from you and sends it to the appropriate agency.

  How to avoid

While speaking with the car salesperson, ask about any additional fees. Ask again to review all tacked-on fees before you sign the final contract and pay. Work with the car salesperson to see if any fees are waivable or negotiable.

Not all fees are bad. For instance, depending on the loan-to-value ratio of the car, guaranteed asset protection (GAP) insurance might be a good fit for you. However, you can find GAP insurance on your own, so you don’t have to accept the dealership’s offer. Unless you’re upside down in your car loan, GAP insurance may not be worth the added cost.

Commission can vary widely based on how many cars the salesperson sells per month and the value of the cars on the lot. For new car sales, the commission can be about 20%-25% of the dealer’s profit on the car.

Don’t tell a car salesman you have a monthly payment in mind and don’t tell them you need a car today. Those statements could leave you open to their tactics.

In the United States, it is not customary to tip a car salesperson. However, if you feel you received exemplary service and expect to buy from the salesperson again in the future, perhaps slipping the salesperson something extra would help you be remembered.

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