9 Tired Gimmicks Used by Car Salesmen and How to Beat Them

Purchasing a new (new to you, at least) car is a nerve-racking experience.

It's an enormous gamble — you could be dropping $20,000 on something that'll last 150,000 miles, or something that'll spend a portion of its lifetime in the shop, costing you more money in the long run. And nobody likes to deal with the salesmen — their high pressure tactics, emotional appeals and, at times, outright lies can hinder you from getting the optimal deal. As with shopping for car insurance, it's important to familiarize yourself with the details of a possible transaction, as well as the process (negotiations, in this case) that gets you there. Here are nine tired gimmicks used by car salesmen and the simple solutions for beating them.

  1. Huge advertised discounts and rebates

    Salesmen, regardless of what they're selling, make their livings on embellishing the truth. Since their first objective is merely to get you in the door, they often advertise large, tempting discounts and rebates containing obscure deals that only apply to a few potential customers. For example, a dealership in the Houston area advertised $4,000 off an $18,000 car, but only the fine print specified that $3,000 of it came from an in-state clean air rebate targeting low-income drivers, and the remaining $1,000 came from a rebate for AARP members.

    How to beat it: Read the ad's fine print.

  2. Expiring specials

    When it comes to those specials that are legitimate, don't fall for deadlines imposed by the salesman or the dealership. According to them, a $2,000 discount, for example, may expire the day after you negotiated a final price, but your hesitation to purchase the car before that date shouldn't prevent you from getting the same deal a day or two later.

    How to beat it: Refuse to buy the car without the discount. As the buyer, you're always in command — the onus is on the salesman and dealership to make the sale. Use that against them, and stick to your guns.

  3. Offering to pay off your trade-in

    For starters, a dealership may not be trustworthy enough to actually follow through with its promise to pay off the loan on your current vehicle. If it goes out of business, for example, and thus fails to pay off the loan, it's your problem. Secondly, in most cases, the amount of the new car loan includes the existing loan balance depending on how the dealership valued your previous car, so you'll still pay for it in the long run.

    How to beat it: If it's feasible, wait until your car has been paid off. If not, seek out a dealership whose trustworthiness has been verified by the Better Business Bureau.

  4. "How much can you pay per month?"

    Securing a low monthly amount doesn't mean you'll pay less in the long run. Taxes, financing and additional fees — some necessary, some not — factor into the final price, and the effects of them can be diluted by spreading payments over an extra year or two.

    How to beat it: Never disclose how much you're willing to pay per month. You can estimate roughly what you would pay by adding 15% to your desired total price and dividing it by the amount of months in which you wish to pay it off.

  5. Offering a "generous" amount for your trade-in

    In reality, that "generous" amount may be well-below what you would receive from another dealership. At the same time, an amount that is truly generous could be used to sucker you in to a bad deal altogether.

    How to beat it: Research the trade-in value from trusted sites such as Blue Book and Edmunds, and keep in mind that dealerships typically offer less than the prices those sites specify because they need to maximize their profits. Beware of lowball offers or offers that seem too good to be true.

  6. Long-lasting warranties that cover everything

    In recent years, because of reliability concerns from consumers, the much-maligned American car companies have offered extended warranties included with the purchase of their cars. However, in most cases, they don't cover every aspect of the vehicle. For example, Chevrolet includes a 5-year, 100,000-mile warranty on its 2009 and 2010 cars, light-duty pickups, SUVs and crossovers, covering only certain parts of the powertrain. Salesmen may imply or even claim the warranty covers everything, causing the customer to learn the truth the hard way when they experience their first car troubles.

    How to beat it: Read the fine print and question your salesman about the details. Make sure everything is truly covered so that you won't end up unnecessarily overspending on repairs.

  7. A "low," rigid interest rate

    There's incentive for a dealership to stand firm with a relatively high interest rate — the higher the rate, the bigger win for the dealership. Salesmen will often claim the initial rate they offer is the best one, knowing that your income, housing status and payment history are each respectable.

    How to beat it: If you're uncomfortable with a rate, ask for a better one. But your best bet is to secure financing beforehand from your credit union or bank, both of which may offer special rates for customers. It may end up being the best deal, or it may serve as a negotiating point.

  8. Emotional appeals

    You should never rely on a salesman to provide you with information that could influence your decision on whether or not to purchase a car. If you drive off the lot in something new, the decision should've been purely practical, and based on research and the price you were able to negotiate. It's the salesman's job to say anything to get you to buy the car, which is why they often try to trigger emotions to induce irrational thinking.

    How to beat it: Don't allow yourself to become attached to the car you're targeting. Don't envision yourself driving off the lot. Don't have any expectations aside from a desired price.

  9. Last minute options

    It's a common tactic. When you're preparing to close the deal and sign the papers, the salesman urges you to add additional options — such as rust-proofing, paint sealant or an alarm system — that you seemingly wouldn't be able to live without, sometimes even indicating that they're already included in the deal.

    How to beat it: Comb through the final paperwork to ensure the final price adds up correctly. Make them explain any charges they didn't previously mention, and don't agree to any add-ons just because you're tired and want to leave.

Leave a comment