How To Avoid Letting Car Dealerships Con You

Buying a car is like playing a long, exhausting chess game that in the best-case scenario ends with you sinking deeper into debt as you drive off the lot in buyer’s remorse. In the worst-case scenario, you drive off as the salesmen high-five each other while chuckling about your idiocy. The least you can do is prevent this from happening by peeking into the enemy’s playbook.

Out of Your Rut helps you out by presenting these 10 was you can avoid getting ripped off:

1. Don’t buy when upside down on your current car. The dealership may roll your debt into your new loan.

2. Secure financing in advance. That way the finance guy won’t be able to play Jedi number tricks on you by messing around with the loan term and interest rate.

3. Don’t rely on your old car as part of your down payment. Use cash on hand and sell to a third party to avoid getting screwed by a low-ball trade-in offer.

4 and 5. Scope out both competitors’ prices and Kelly Blue Book to make sure you’re paying a fair price.

6. Turn down add-ons. Don’t spring for floor mats, window tinting or any other extras, for which you’ll not only be overpaying for, but will accrue interest throughout the life of your loan.

7. Bring along a friend or family member who’s a better negotiator than you are to speak for you.

8. Be ready to walk away from the table at any moment.

9. Don’t lease a new car. If you can’t afford to buy the car you want, aim for a lower-cost model.

10. Leave emotions at home. This is strictly business, so don’t let sympathy, anger or new-car lust cloud your judgment.

What’s the worst way a car dealer ever ripped you off?

10 Ways to Buy a Car Without Getting Ripped Off [Out of Your Rut]

Previously: Beat the “Four Square” Dealership Ripoff


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bativac says:

    I would add “never trade your old car in.” Nobody ever came out ahead on a trade in. You’re better off selling the old car for cash and using it towards the new car.

    Also, in addition to number 2, never, ever finance thru a dealership. It’s a given they’re gonna screw you.

    Number 7 and 8 are excellent pieces of advice.

    • savashley says:

      “3. Don’t rely on your old car as part of your down payment. Use cash on hand and sell to a third party to avoid getting screwed by a low-ball trade-in offer.”

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      Your addition to #2 is not necessarily correct. My wife and I just bought a new car a week ago. The best possible interest rate we could have gotten through our credit union was 4.4%. The dealership got us 4.25% for the same term length. I would amend your advice to say: secure your own financing ahead of time but there’s no harm in finding out if the dealer can beat your bank/credit union.

      • Hobz says:

        My only issue, is .15% worth having to deal with a lending institution you may not know or BOA? I financed my last car through my credit union even though the dealership could give me a .5% break on the interest.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          And I WISH I’d gone ahead and financed with my CU even though the dealership gave me a .15% better rate, through BOA. I absolutely hated owing money to BOA, and I paid the car loan off really, really fast just to be done with them. Actually, I guess that was a plus.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      3. Don’t rely on your old car as part of your down payment. Use cash on hand and sell to a third party to avoid getting screwed by a low-ball trade-in offer.

      Were we reading the same list?

    • tehbob says:

      I disagree with your addition to number 2.

      Often times the dealer finance can get you a much better deal than other banks and often can beat a credit union.

      The key issue is that they dont WANT to do that, they want to make as much money as they can. Thats why they jedi mind trick you.

      having said that the key factor is to walk in with preapproved financing already from a credit union or a trusted bank. That way if the dealer tries to BS you into a bad loan deal you can stop them.

      Let them know you already are preapproved, let them know you already know your credit score (big money if they know you have no idea how good your credit is). With that information in hand ask the finance guy if he can beat your current loan offer.

      You need to be specific when you do this, ask them if they can beat a x month long loan at y APR. Most dealers would rather beat your current offer even if it means they just make a little bit of money off of it since if they dont they dont make any money off of it.

      Its fine to finance through the dealer, you just have to know what you should be paying before hand.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        Thats exactly what I did, I had pre approval from my credit union. I had 10% in cash on hand for a down payment. I ended up going through dealer financing (unfortunately it happens to be Bank of America, who I hate) as they got me an additional 1/4% off the interest rate. I will probably refi the loan in a few months through my credit union.

        • Shadowfax says:

          Better strategy is not to disclose your APR. If you tell them “yeah, can you beat 3.8%?” They’ll say “Sure! How’s 3.7 grab ya!” even though they might be willing to go to 2.8%.

          But if you tell them “You have one shot at this. Tell me the lowest %age you can give me a loan for. If it’s less than mine, you get the loan. If it’s more, you don’t.” you have a better chance at them getting closer to their actual minimum.

          • Buckus says:

            That’s good advice. Dealers get a “Buy” rate from the lender. So let’s say the buy rate is 2.5%. They’ll tell you the best they could get you is 5% or some BS like that. Well, guess what, the 2.5% difference is dealer profit. It’s like negotiating a salary…make them tell you the number first.

    • Darrone says:

      I have ripped off dealers on trade ins before. Major engine problems, wipe the code, bring to dealer, get KBB trade in value and walk away. If i did that with a private sale, im under lemon laws and im screwing some innocent guy.

      • Anachronism says:

        Well, you are still screwing some innocent guy, and there are still legal ramifications by you doing that.

        With regards to trade, you can certainly get more for your car selling it on its own, but you have the unknowns of how long your money will be tied up in the car before you CAN sell it.

        I bought my new car at the end of April. My old car is eleven years old, good condition, drives well, good paint, etc.

        It is still for sale 4 months later. I thought it would go quick, but it isn’t. Part of that is that I have had several major emergencies that have kept me out of town and unable to show it, the other part is that I don’t think many people in this economy have the cash to buy, and the finance market for a 10+ year old car is not really there anymore.

        In any case, I’m starting to wonder whether I should have taken the dealership’s trade offer.

      • verdegrrl says:

        Actually you are ripping off some innocent schmuck in the end. The dealership has to make up for the loss on your trade. So all the folks who get ripped off at dealers can thank their fellow buyers for contributing to the system. That’s part of why trade-ins get lowballed too – dealers always suspect there are lurking problems no matter how nice the car looks on the surface.

        I used to work at dealerships. They have a saying that, “buyers are liars”, and it’s true. You start out thinking you want help people make good car choices, good financial choices, and give them a fair deal. You soon learn that buyers can be just as crooked and sneaky as any dealer. And is it any surprise? We’re all human.

    • Anachronism says:

      You saying “never finance at a dealership” is not good advice.

      Better advice would be “Never finance at a dealership before checking on rates at your banks and credit unions in town.”

      Lots and lots and lots of times, car manufacturers set up incentive financing at lower rates through their in-house financing company. When I bought my car, The best rate I could get from a bank was 4.5%, and going through the dealership got me 2.9%.

      A bank has no incentive to loan you money below their effective cost, the manufacturer does, because it means that they sell you a car.

      • Traveshamockery says:

        Right. I got zero percent financing on my last car purchase. It would have been kind of stupid not to take it.

    • Dutchess says:

      That’s not true…I had a previous car that started having bad transmission problems. Car wouldn’t go into gear when it was cold, I believe the clutch was getting ready to go. As long as the car was warmed up it would go into gear no problem.

      When I traded my car in I had a friend sit in the car and keep it running. When the dealership came out for the test drive they found nothing wrong.

      I left some CDs in the car and came back to the dealership to pick them up and the salesman was all over me for not disclosing the transmission problem and asking me why I didn’t mention it.

      All I did was smile and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve never had a problem with it!”

      • howie_in_az says:

        I had an issue with my old car and traded it in. When I went back to the dealership to get the plates for the newer car, a salesman that didn’t know me asked if I was the one that traded in “that broken car”. I feigned ignorance.

        Of course, several years later things backfired on me as a completely unrelated dealership tried to sell me a car that had been in an accident. Since the accident was not reported to CarFAX, the dealership tried to say they had done no wrong. I had to get the BBB to intervene before they’d do anything.

        Karma’s a pain, I guess.

      • mistersmith says:

        …and that makes you an asshole. Congrats!

      • leprechaunshawn says:

        You do realize that when you trade in a car, you must sign a form stating that there are no undisclosed problems with the vehicle, right?

        If you signed that form knowing there was a problem with the car, you committed fraud.

        You just proved to me that you are on the same level as car dealerships. Actually lower, dealerships are fairly well regulated and usually don’t knowingly break the law like you did.

    • dush says:

      Not always true. Both times I’ve bought a car was through the manufacturer financing. Very low rates, 0% on one of them, and no hassles or problems.

  2. mikeP says:

    The reason people trade their car in is because it is a ton easier than selling it yourself.

    The inherent problem is this: You cannot really negotiate both the new car price and trade-in value separately.

    If you are able to negotiate a good car price, then pretty much by definition you are going to get a lowball trade-in.
    If you do get a good trade-in price that just about guarantees that you got an average or worse deal on the car.

    • wootbot says:

      Actually, you can – and should – negotiate these separately, otherwise you get into shell games. I always state that up-front. While I don’t wan’t the hassle of selling privately, the last couple of times I’ve gotten a better offer from Carmax. Literally, that takes 30 minutes and the offer is good for a week and a reasonable amount of additional mileage. If you don’t have one of those close, look for any reputable dealer or car superstore that advertises that they’ll buy your car even if you don’t buy theirs.

      • Chmeeee says:

        If the car is good enough/young enough/low enough miles that CarMax is going to keep it on their lot rather than ditching it at auction, then they’ll typically beat most dealers’ trade in offer. If they’re going to ditch it at auction, they’re no better. They’re still way lower than private sale if you know how to sell it though.

    • nucwin83 says:

      This is exactly why you don’t even mention the car as a trade until you have the best cash price possible. Then you can say “Well now what could you offer me for my car as a trade?” When they lowball your trade or try to raise your cash price, call them on the BS and be ready to walk out.

      • verdegrrl says:

        Most dealers can see this coming a mile away.

        • ahleeeshah says:

          I’m in the process of getting a new car now, and I’ve been doing everything online. I’ve gotten quotes from eight places, financing offers from a few, and all of this before my trade-in was even mentioned.

  3. benbell says:

    I disagree with 2 of them:

    2. Secure financing in advance. That way the finance guy won’t be able to play Jedi number tricks on you by messing around with the loan term and interest rate.

    If you KNOW your credit score and the dealership is offering up to 60 months at less than 1% interest rate, you CAN NOT beat those rates at a private lender. Heck, a 48 month loan on a NEW car right now is around 6%( You need to go into the dealer knowing the bottom line number you want to pay for your car, once your reach that number, THEN you agree with the terms.


    3. Don’t rely on your old car as part of your down payment. Use cash on hand and sell to a third party to avoid getting screwed by a low-ball trade-in offer.

    Again, KNOW the value of your car. In the state of PA, if you buy a new car which costs $50,000 you are going to pay 7% sales tax (in my county, 6% on most). Which would be $3,500. Now if you know your trade in is worth $10,000, you are going to pay $2,800 in tax (savings of $700). The amount of your trade in is calculated above the subtotal. I know many of you will say “oh but if you sell private party you can make more”, but what if it doesn’t sell quickly? Then you are carrying insurance on a car which you have not sold, you have another car in your driveway if you even HAVE a driveway and a flurry of other issues that could come from not selling that car.

    Buying a new car is about knowledge. If you KNOW how much your new car costs the dealer and know ALL of the incentives before going in, then you should have no issues financing wiht them. YOU WILL SAVE MONEY.

    The same goes for your trade-in. Know the value, have someone look up the manhiem auction black book values for you. Then you get the best value for your trade in, a lower loan and less sales tax.

    Of course, the best piece of advice, have a family friend who is a GM of a dealer and will order a car for you and charge you the invoice cost.

    • Jesse says:

      1. When financing a vehicle, securing a loan before purchasing is more beneficial for used car buyers since low APR financing is generally only available for new vehicle purchases.

      2. With regards to getting rid of your old vehicle, the benefit of taking a trade-in out of play at the dealership is that there are fewer variables and the transaction is simplified.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        “1. When financing a vehicle, securing a loan before purchasing is more beneficial for used car buyers since low APR financing is generally only available for new vehicle purchases.”

        This really depends. I just bought a used car and got a very good rate from a local credit union on a used car. Every once in awhile you can luck into a promotion, where a small bank or credit union gives ridiculously good rates to try to bring in new members.

    • Kevin@OutOfYourRut says:

      Benbell – Even if you can get better financing from the dealer, you should still prequalify with your bank (or a bank).

      When I bought my car and the dealer moved to the financing side of his dog-and-poney show, I told him not to bother, that I had it covered. He ran to the back, grabbed the finance manager and the two of them danced faster and sang louder to up the ante.

      Because of the bank letter, I got a better deal than they probably would have offered me had I not been prepared. For that reason alone, it’s better to have a preapproval letter. If nothing else, it gives you the ability to deal from a position of strength. That’s always the ultimate goal when you’re in a dealership.

      Phil, thanks for the link/mention.

    • Rachacha says:

      “he dealership is offering up to 60 months at less than 1% interest rate you CAN NOT beat those rates …”

      I have not been in the market for a new car for some time, so I can’t say that this is the case today, but dealers used to offer you a great interest rate or a large cash back bonus. You used to come out ahead of the game if you could get a good rate from an outside lender, and then take the cash back discount and apply it to the purchase price of the vehicle. Granted, you were only coming out ahead by $200, but $200 is better in my pocket than in the dealers!.

      It doesn’t hurt to run the numbers.

    • Chmeeee says:

      The sales tax benefit rarely outweighs the difference between trade-in value and private sale value. I’ve sold two cars which had value worth thinking about (and several more that were almost worthless).

      One was a 2004 SVT Focus in 2006. 2 dealers both offered $10k, CarMax offered $11k, sold on Autotrader for $14.5k. Now, it did take me 2 months to sell that, and it was a bit of a hassle. Some people aren’t willing to put the work in, but I’d say 2 more months before I get my new car is worth $3,500 to me.

      Second example I got $4k offers from dealers and CarMax, sold for $7,200 privately off Craigslist.

      • benbell says:

        I agree about the price difference. One would really need to look into the carrying costs of having 2 cars for 2-3 months. If you live in a city you may not even have the option of having 2 cars. I just wanted to point out that it is not always as cut and dry as ‘don’t ever trade in your car’.

        Because of people I know, I have access to auction data and thus I know the EXACT value of a car I trading in so they can’t BS me.

        • Chmeeee says:

          I sell the old one before I buy the new one, not the other way around. Otherwise you have double insurance, parking, etc. Should only take you a few days to get a new car once the old one is sold. For that time I just either borrowed a spare car from a friend or rented a car. It’s worth $100-200 in car rental charges to get that extra few grand in sales price.

    • babyruthless says:

      I agree with you on point 1: I recently bought a MINI Cooper and got 1.9% financing, which no one else could touch.

      On point 2: There was a tax advantage to selling my car to the dealer. However, they offered me half (!) of what I could get through a private sale. CarMax was no better.

      The dealer actually offered to let me sell them the car at the price arranged with the buyer, and then they would sell it to the buyer at the same price so I could take advantage of this tax break. However, this (1) seemed like a fair bit of hassle and (2) I waited until I had my new car to sell my old car so that I would not run into a problem of not having transportation. I’m really glad I did it, too, because it only took me a week to sell it.

    • Buckus says:

      I would say, secure some sort of financing before coming in. It doesn’t mean you have to use it. Let the dealer try to beat it. Sometimes they can with incentives, and sometimes they drop the cash-back and rebates and crap if you take the low interest rate, so it’s in your best interest to do the math. Take a calculator/smart phone/laptop with you.

    • James says:

      The financing at the dealer can be tricky. I’ve had decent luck with the last vehicle I purchased. A Mitus at 0%. Dealer financing was through Mitsu financing direct and never had a problem.

      Family however… that was a different story. Both got called back because “something wasn’t right” with the financing. One fell for the line, the other threatened to turn the car back in. Don’t know if it’s right, or if it’s legal for the dealer to call someone back to change the loan 24 hours after the car is sold. But it put up huge red flags for me.

      Having the financing lined up from an outside source, meant that even if the dealer did offer some crazy great rate like the 0% I had before, that if they tried to pull some stunt, I had an alternative ready.


    • colorisnteverything says:

      Yes, exactly on #2.

      I have great credit. I know I will get a 2.9% for 60 months if I want it on promotion.

      I just did that with my Kia. I’m a grad student so I don’t have a ton of cash floating around to waste on a loan. My bank’s best offer was .6% more.

  4. NarcolepticGirl says:

    My father was a finance manager and salesman at a delership and I did admin stuff for one for a few years.

    Number two is correct.

    Regarding number three, I think everyone knows by now that when you trade your car in, you’re not going to get much of deal. You may also think you can sell your car at KBB price on Craigslist or something – and that is probably not going to happen, either.

    As for after-market stuff, it really depends on what you want – there are people who would rather just have tinting/teflon done all at once instead of trying to find a reputable business that can do this. I’ve heard many horror stories about tint jobs done outside of the dealership.

    One other thing – (extended) warranties are not a con. Most larger dealers will offer this on new/used cars. On my last car, I got the “gold” warranty and I used it plenty. It saved me A LOT of money.

    • benbell says:

      Like any product… the extended warranty only becomes valuable when you actually need to use it. If you car never breaks down or has an issue. Then it was a ‘waste of money’

      • Nick says:

        it would be better to put the money (you would have spent on the warranty) into a saving account. When repairs are needed you will have the money.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      I’ll add to number two –
      I agree benbell.

      Also, if you know that your credit has fallen away from near perfect, I would suggest using your credit union for a loan to purchase the car. They would probably give a lower interest rate.

    • ohhhh says:

      Extended warranties are a con when the dealership keeps the check, cashes it for themselves and then makes up an insurance policy number to give you. true story, it happened to my parents. Turns out this particular vehicle had a recurring problem that cost around ~$1000 to fix every 9-12 months and GM would never issue a recall on it. The dealership got taken for a lot of money on that one.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think extended warranties can be worth the cost if:

      a) They are offered by the manufacturer;
      b) You negotiate the price way down;
      c) You plan on keeping the vehicle for a very long time.

      Other than that… 3rd party warranties seem to be awful and factory warranties are very expensive. If you can’t negotiate the price down to a reasonable level, you’re typically better off just putting the money into a savings account.

    • adrienna says:

      I wouldn’t touch an extended warranty, but if you do, make sure you know what’s covered. There are a lot of loopholes, and those warranty companies don’t ever want to cover things – way worse than manufacturer warranties.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      I sold two on Craigslist at high KBB (one witrh 150K miles, the other with 105K miles) last month. The first sold in an hour, the 2nd in 6 hours. So it does happen.

      • Zeniq says:

        Same here. I bought a new car about a year ago, and they wanted to give me $1000 for my trade-in because it had over 100,000 miles on it and was 10 years old. I posted it on Craigslist and had it sold for $5000 within an hour.

    • rpm773 says:

      I got a 3rd party warranty on my vehicle. It cost around $1300 (plus whatever the financing added onto it), but I’ve gotten about $2700 out of it.

      A couple notes, though
      a) When I bought my car, the factory warranty was still on it. But the clock on the 3rd party warranty started ticking the day I bought it. Same thing with the miles…it was a 100K mile warranty on top of the odometer of the vehicle at sale time, but didn’t take effect until after the factory warranty expired at 35K miles. So I gave the warranty company about 15K miles and about 8 months for free. Keep an eye on that.

      b) Read the contract manual before buying. They all should have a clause on what is covered and what isn’t. It can have vague language about “total part failure”. Review that closely and talk to the salesperson about it. If there is no clause, or it’s unclear, don’t buy it.

    • Orv says:

      Extended warranties are so full of loopholes as to be useless. A friend of mine bought a used car with one. When the oxygen sensor failed, they said it wasn’t covered because it wasn’t an “internally lubricated drivetrain part.” Of course, the dealer didn’t tell him this until they’d gotten him for a $150 non-refundable diagnosis fee. The whole repair might have cost less than that at a private shop.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        That’s pretty typical of most extended warranties, which are usually powertrain only. Things like an O2 sensor or PCV valve are essentially wear and tear items that will go on you eventually.

        • Orv says:

          It just seems like if a sensor that’s plugged into the engine, and required for it to run, is not part of the “powertrain,” they can exclude pretty much anything they want. In this case I feel the extended warranty was just a way to get him into the dealer to pay their ripoff labor rates.

          I understand that 02 sensors eventually wear out, but this car had only 60,000 miles on it.

  5. Nick says:

    Pay with cash.

    • CTXSi says:

      Bingo! People assume they need to finance a car and make the mistake of focusing on the monthly payment rather than the total cost of the car. The other thing to add to this list is to look at USED cars. The last two cars my wife and I bought were certified pre-owned. Its a nice compromise between the cost savings of buying a used car and the piece of mind of having a new car.

    • babyruthless says:

      I got 1.9% financing when I recently bought a car. They weren’t willing to lower the price any farther if I paid with cash. I’m earning 4% in a high interest checking account, plus more than that in various other investments. I could have paid with cash, but I didn’t see an advantage.

      • Nick says:

        When you pay with cash, you eliminate risk. They don’t repo cars that are paid with cash.

        • babyruthless says:

          I’m willing to accept the infinitesimal risk of, I dunno, the internet exploding and me not processing a payment. I’ve got the ability to pay for it in cash and I don’t realistically see that changing during the lifetime of the loan.

    • Orv says:

      I’ve found dealers won’t negotiate price with you if you pay cash. They want the extra commission from writing you a loan. In private party sales cash is king, though.

    • jessjj347 says:

      IAWTC. I bought through a dealer once with cash and was able to lower the price by about 20% on a used bar.

  6. snowmentality says:

    10(a). Especially don’t let yourself feel bad in any way about “offending” or “inconveniencing” the car salesman. This is business, and he isn’t worried about offending or inconveniencing you.

    11. Be a dude, or send a dude to negotiate for you.

    It’s sad (and it pisses me off) but true. It’s not impossible for a woman to negotiate a good deal, but the car salesman will usually yield more to the man. Some car salesmen are willing to let a woman walk away when they would accept the same deal from a man — they’d rather lose the sale than let a woman “win” the negotiation.

    In our society, women are generally raised to prioritize other people and their feelings, and to feel guilty about being “selfish” or “demanding” in any way. See 10(a). The salesman will milk that guilt for all it’s worth.

    • Blueberry Scone says:

      Yes, I agree.

      Unless you’re like me, and you ARE the negotiator. My husband and I play “good cop, bad cop” at the dealers.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        How often are you going to dealers to buy new cars??? :)

        • Blueberry Scone says:

          Heh. Only once every five years or so, which means we make it a performance to remember!


          • jefeloco says:

            Lol, my wife and I do the same thing except she is the one who tries to give the salesman a little bit of leeway and I take it all back. When we bought our pickup 6 years ago we spent 19 total hours at the dealership; our (newbie) salesguy went through 4 packs of cigs the first day and 3 the next. It was awesome! The salesguy even told us that he made less than 80 bucks wasting it on us and warned us to not expect any gifts over the holidays like he would send to his other customers!

            They ended up giving high KBB value on our trade and we got almost $7,000 off the truck; win/win. Of course our ’07 miata was a little different, only $4000 off the price and mid-range on the old trade in but we owned the trade outright.

    • armchair lactivist says:

      When we bought our last vehicle, I brought in the ad from a different dealership, which the second dealership said it would beat. When it became clear that the salesman made a big mistake and didn’t have the vehicle on the lot, I started to walk away and called the original dealership to arrange to pick up the van. The manager chased me across the lot, offered a better deal than I had even expected, and offered to deliver the vehicle to my house the next day – 300 miles away. My husband never said anything during negotiations, and I brought my 3-week-old baby, too.

      I agree that most times, men should negotiate because a salesman won’t take a woman seriously. But once the sales manager saw that I had the original dealership (that offered the lowball ad) on the phone and was going to pick up the vehicle that evening, he got very serious, very quickly.

      By the end, even my dad, who has negotiated for every vehicle my parents have ever purchased, said I got a better deal than he thinks he would have.

    • Dopaz says:

      Every few years my mom comes to me to go used car buying. I typically stay quiet as we find the car she wants (she’s a gusher and will fall in LOVE with a car, big no-no but she can’t help it). When it comes time to negotiate I always start with the price of the car and work down to the financing. Last trip was a few months ago. First dealer wouldn’t give me the price of the car.
      “Its against policy for me to give you the price of the car outside, lets go inside and…” I cut him off and said “Tell your boss your policy just lost you a sale” and we left. Went to the next dealer, found the car she loved, he gave a price for the car, we went inside… and he pulled out the foursquare. I just stared at him and said “Seriously? You are going to foursquare me?”
      Again we left the lot. Mom was extremely reluctant to leave at this point “but thats the car I want…”
      Few more dealers, most of the day… 7pm, and dark she finds a car she loves more than the last… and its the color she originally wanted. I tell the sales guy what happened at the other dealerships and that I was too tired to deal with any more bullshit. 1 hour later mom had the car she wanted, and she paid significantly less than we had planned to pay (KBB, auction, internet pricing had been pre-shopped).

      A month later I went back to the same dealer and bought an $85,000 SUV and one year later purchased a $45,000 car. I told the guy how hard it was finding a non-BS used car dealer, but because of their business ethic on used cars, and how great the experience was, they had won my business for life, till BS do us part.

    • You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

      Actually, I find it’s easier to negotiate with a salesman as a woman. I can feign that car lust and and pretend to be naïve, then spin around and play hardball at the last moment and it seems to throw them way off. When I’ve got a male with me (boyfriend, for example), the salesmen seem to become more patronizing and try to go over my head, instead attempting the sale directly with my male company despite making it clear that the car is for me and the financing is on /my/ credit. Then they start appealing to their machismo and it just goes downhill from there. It’s still ridiculous stereotyping, but at least it works to my advantage….until I wind up a the desk of those ever-so-rare saleswomen.

      • A Bay Horse says:

        ^ this. I am the queen of car buying. So good that I’m the friend who you bring in #7. I quick assess my sales people, figure out who fits what personality type, and work into getting the guy I want. You can win as a woman. You just have to find the right person to negotiate with and the right strategy. Often times the above strategy wins for me as well.

        I NEVER get ripped off. I get deals so good that people rarely believe me.

        I’ve never bought a car from another woman though. Not that I wouldn’t and more-power-to-ya sales women- but there aren’t many of you.

  7. ob1canobeans says:

    I don’t think #8:”be ready to walk away at any moment” can be stressed enough. Remember it’s your money and when you attempt to negotiate but the salesperson beings to insult you – leave.

  8. rpm773 says:

    I’ve used my trade-in as a down payment many times. But I never tip my hand to the dealer that I plan to do that until the price and financing have been set.

    Once I’m sitting there ready to sign, I nonchalantly ask them what they would give me for what I drove in. I know what I’m going to pay down, and I know what I want to get for the trade-in (per the blue book value). If the numbers don’t work out to my liking, I walk.

    What you don’t do is walk in and say “I want to uze dis car here as a down payment for dat car over dere”. Because then you’re giving them another variable to play with the numbers on you.

  9. whosyer12 says:

    Strongly disagree with #9 –if you’re a good negotiator great deals can be had.Also-fixed monthly cost and term of lease 100% covered by warranty- so maintenance costs are zero.

    Should be amended to: Don’t pay money down on a new car lease.If you can’t afford the payment with no up front money,–aim for a lower cost model.

  10. Danny Boy says:

    As a rule of thumb I do not buy new cars. It’s absurd to pay retail price and then drive it home and it’s not worth what you paid (even without interest when financing). I tend to buy used cars that hold their value (BMW) with 20-25K miles. You still get a bumper to bumper warranty and BMW usually treats you like a new car buy (loaners, emergency roadside, towing). You’ll enjoy the drive as well, trust me.

    • adrienna says:

      But don’t forget that maintenance costs are still at the luxury level. I’ve seen a lot people who think that because they can afford a used Audi, they should buy them – they never think about whether they can afford to maintain the Audi.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        I just bought a used (CPO) Mercedes, had 14k on the clock. While you may think the maintenance costs are higher, especially for the model I own (an AMG), its not as bad as people think.

        I checked the costs before making the jump, the services range from about 200 to $400 for the standard A and B services. Compare that to my first service on my Toyota which ran almost $700 for what, I have no idea, I really should have paid better attention, but I was in a rush. I am pretty sure I got screwed by Toyota….

        For my MB, I now do much of the general maintenance crap myself, and take it into the dealer for only the required inspections/oil changes to maintain the warranty.

  11. human_shield says:

    Worst way? My elderly grandmother needed a part to fix her car that should have cost about 50 cents and 1 minute of labor. A tiny part of the door hinge that had broken. Instead, they quoted her over $5,000 for a whole new door, glass, paint, etc. and convinced her to buy a new car instead, which they also charged her too much for.

  12. Rachacha says:

    Don’t focus on the monthly payment (or at least, don’t let the dealer focus on the monthly payment).

    When I purchased my first new car, I was young and gullible and just out of college. I went to the dealer, and negotiated the price, and went to the finance office to sign the loan documents. The Finance guy automatically signed me up for a 4 year loan. When I asked if we could change the loan terms he assumed that I would want to go to 5 years, but I asked him to run the numbers for 3 years. The monthly payment for a 3 year loan was $10 more than the monthly payment for the 4 year loan, but I was saving a few thousand dollars in interest payments.

  13. slightlyjaded says:

    Even better advice: Don’t go into the dealership at all until you have quotes in hand.

    Go to (for new) or AutoTrader (for used), pick the car you want, and fill out the “Get Dealer Quotes” field. Then sit back as your inbox gets flooded with hard quotes, in writing, that you can compare and use to bid dealers against each other. You can do the whole thing via email from the comfort of your home, where you can immediately check any quotes against other dealerships and Blue Book.

    Just bought a car three weeks ago, and I will never, ever do it any other way. Thank god for the Internet. It’s so refreshing to not even have to speak to a car salesman until you’re ready to sign paperwork, after you’ve already agreed on terms in writing over email.

    By the way: Most dealerships have a separate department that handles Internet sales, and they will invariably offer lower prices from the outset than you’ll get from salesmen in person. (They understand that you’re comparing their quotes against other dealerships, so they will usually give you their best price–or close to their best price–in writing, immediately.)

    • whitecat says:

      I bought my last car this way, and I have one warning: be prepared, when you go to pick up your car, for the dealership to try to screw you in some way. In my case, they had “my” car sitting out front, where I’d see it as soon as I drove on the lot. The first thing I noticed was that it was a manual transmission when I had stipulated automatic and had it in writing. I showed them their own emailed document that offered an automatic (plus other options) for a guaranteed price. They said that was an error and they couldn’t possibly sell me a car with those options for the price they’d already agreed to. Besides, they didn’t have a car like the one I had specified on the lot.

      I guess they thought I’d cave, being a woman, but I told them, loudly, to get me the car I wanted (and that they agreed in writing to sell me) or I would go out and talk to every customer on the lot about how they were trying to screw me, and I stressed that I had all day to do it. This is one instance where my emotions (fury, outrage) were beneficial to getting what I wanted. It was also far more effective than threatening legal action.

      It took them a half hour to have the car I wanted delivered from another dealership – and I even got an extra accessory package (floor mats, exhaust cover, cargo tray, etc.) that they threw in just to get me out of there quickly. The closer was so rattled he forgot to ask for my down payment, which I mailed in later.

      So my additional advice is to not only be ready to walk, be ready to talk – to their other potential victims. Apparently they decided it was better to give me the car I wanted at the price they originally promised than to have a loud, furious woman going around warning other people about their dishonest tactics.

      • slightlyjaded says:

        Thankfully I had better luck than that! But of course, once you have a quote in hand (especially for a new car), if they don’t want to honor it, just email the dealership in the next town over and ask if they’ll match it, which most times they will. No reason to give your money to somebody who’s jerking you around, when somebody else will be more than happy to take it without having to do any work negotiating the deal.

    • verdegrrl says:

      You bought a car without ever test driving it?

      • slightlyjaded says:

        I did test drive it–long before I ever came in to purchase it or started negotiating with dealers.

        In our case, we had done a ton of research ahead of time and pretty much knew exactly what we wanted to get. I suppose actually driving a car you’ve never driven before should be part of the process, but there is so much information available online these days, there is no excuse for not conducting most of your research beforehand. IMO, you really should have 90% of your decision made before you set foot in a dealership.

        • verdegrrl says:

          I think you should do your homework in narrowing down the finalists, but test driving can sometimes reveal things that pure stats or a reviewer with other priorities cannot.

          Which leads to most salespeople being paid 100% via commission. When you test drive with absolutely no intention of buying from them, that means they may lose the chance to meet someone else who might buy a car from them. Now if they are sucky pushy obnoxious boors, then I agree with not giving them a chance to do business with you, but otherwise it’s just good karma to give them a call and let them have a chance to earn your business.

          I hate 100% commission pay structures, and I hate haggling more than most customers ever will, because I feel it places the wrong emphasis on the deal (ripping off the heads of customers instead of offering the best service). Frequently the least pleasant people get the best deals. That just rubs me the wrong way. It should be one price for all, and let the dealers fight it out with customer service.

          • slightlyjaded says:

            I take your point, but I suspect I have very different car priorities than you. For me (father of two small kids, planning to use this car to lug them and the dog and everybody’s crap around for the next five years), it’s chiefly going to be about safety, reliability, convenience/amenities, and perceived value for my money. Feeling like I’m driving like an expertly engineered, state-of-the-art piece of machinery is probably pretty far down my list.

            Completely agree on the commission structure though. What was amazing this time around, we never even had to deal with a sales pitch. I took the quote that was $1200 less than everybody else’s, verified the total out-the-door price and financing terms, and just showed up and signed the paperwork. I was in the dealership for a total of 35 minutes. It was the most painless car-buying experience I’ve ever had.

      • Dopaz says:

        I did the same thing. I even had a folder of offers when I purchased my car from a dealer. Never test drove it, didn’t need to. I think they sense when someone knows exactly what they want and for how much and don’t give you the same run-around sales pitches as someone “just looking around the lot for something to catch their fancy.”
        You know what you want, you’ve researched it, know what the car has sold for in your area (ebay motors helped a LOT believe it or not) and your mind is made up. If I don’t buy it here, I have a google map to the next dealer who has the exact same thing.

        I bought a $45,000 MSRP car for $41,800 because I tracked the sales prices in my area and had another quote from another dealer for $42,000 with me.

        • verdegrrl says:

          Can’t imagine dropping over $40K on a car without ever test driving it. But then I’m a car nut, so maybe that’s just me.

  14. Lando242 says:

    About number 6: Getting manufacturer options is fine. If you want manufacturer floor mates or whatever there is no problem with getting them but get them AFTER you’ve already gotten the vehicle. OEM parts tend to be of better quality and fit better on your car, so no need to skimp and get crappy Walmart floor mats, but you can surely wait a day or two to come back and pick them up separately. Of course you should also shop around and make sure the dealer is giving you the right price. I did this with my current vehicle and probably saved as much as the parts cost in interest over the life of my loan.

  15. hmac0167 says:

    The best advice I ever got and USED was to perform all negotiations via email or over the phone. If you know the car that you want, it’s best to not going into the dealership at all. You can be stronger over the phone and you don’t end up waiting for hours while the salesman goes to talk to his boss. They wear you down with time by making you wait. When you do it all via email or over the phone, you can carry on with your day and keep a level head. I went to the dealership to pick up my car and drop off the signed papers (I had them even mail me all the papers). It was the most empowering experience because I was in control of my time and had the power.

  16. hmac0167 says:

    The best advice I ever got and USED was to perform all negotiations via email or over the phone. If you know the car that you want, it’s best to not going into the dealership at all. You can be stronger over the phone and you don’t end up waiting for hours while the salesman goes to talk to his boss. They wear you down with time by making you wait. When you do it all via email or over the phone, you can carry on with your day and keep a level head. I went to the dealership to pick up my car and drop off the signed papers (I had them even mail me all the papers). It was the most empowering experience because I was in control of my time and had the power.

  17. cryptique says:

    The best way to avoid getting ripped off is simply to not buy a new car. Buy used, preferably something like a “certified pre-owned” Toyota or Honda. Yes, you’ll pay a bit more at the dealership for the “certified” designation, but especially with Toyota and Honda, they do a great job of fixing these cars up to approximately-new condition, and you’ll likely get some kind of warranty. The dealer has its reputation to uphold, and that of the manufacturer, so they tend to do a pretty good job with their “certified” cars. It’s worth the additional cost (which often isn’t that much, when you compare it to private sale ads) for optimal condition and extra peace of mind.

    The next best way to avoid getting ripped off is to buy your car outright, not finance it. This assumes, of course, that you have sufficient funds saved up to do such a thing, but it’s worth it. I bought a three-year-old certified Honda a few years ago with cash (plus a trade-in, for which I got more than the value of the car, plus a $1,000-off special from their weekly sales ad), and it’s probably the best single purchase I’ve made in my life.

    I will never buy a new car, and I will always pay cash. For me, there’s no reason to do things any other way.

    • armchair lactivist says:

      For some cars, there’s almost no price difference between a certified pre-owned and new. We looked at used minivans, and the difference between one that was approximately 2 years old and had about 20,000 miles on it, and one that lacked most options but was absolutely new, was about $500. I waited for several months for a dealership to offer a special on either the used or the new, and the new went in a newspaper ad for a much lower price. I compared similar used vehicles, and nothing else was as low.

      I purchased that new minivan, and told several people the price and they were shocked. I happened to catch when Toyota was getting all sorts of bad press and desperately needed some new vehicles off the lot.

      • babyruthless says:

        My experience wasn’t quite this extreme, but I bought a Mini Cooper a few months ago, and it turned out that used wasn’t that much cheaper than new. That’s because a few years ago, the dealers were slapping everything imaginable on them because there was such a giant waiting list–if you wanted one, you bought it stocked. Now there’s not a waiting list so I was able to buy a new car for about the same price as the few years old one that had a bunch of crap on it I don’t need. Cold weather package? In Texas? No thanks.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      The best way to avoid getting ripped off is simply to not buy a new car. Buy used, preferably something like a “certified pre-owned” Toyota or Honda.

      Ever noticed how most experienced salespeople work the used car lot? Spoiler Alert: it’s because the profits are higher on used cars than new.

  18. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    “2. Secure financing in advance. That way the finance guy won’t be able to play Jedi number tricks on you by messing around with the loan term and interest rate.”

    I used to always go by this advice until we bought our most recent car. I secured what I thought was a very good rate from my bank ahead of time but I had the dealer’s financing department check rates just for the hell of it — he had a binder of rates from about 20 different local credit unions and banks. He was able to find a 2.9% 4 year loan on a 2006 model year car. This was significantly better what I had secured prior to going to the dealer.

    I think the best thing to do is check your own credit, get your FICO score (there are only a few places you can get them yourself) and call around to get an idea of the going rates. When at the dealer, negotiate the out-the-door price only and don’t worry about monthly payments — just have a rough idea of what it will amount to prior to going.

    Once you agree to a price, then see what the financing department can do for you. If the rates he pulls up don’t jive with your previous research, then go to the bank or CU with the best rates.

  19. Blueberry Scone says:

    I think the first tip should be “don’t go car-shopping when you’re desperate.” (I realize this could kind of be part of #8 and #10)

    If you’re desperate, and you needed the new car yesterday, you will probably be more likely to agree to any kind of financing. When DH and I bought our last car, we started doing our research about four months in advance of the actual purchse. We’d do a test-drive here and there, read reports on various cars, etc. We didn’t feel that we were “taken for a ride” (sorry for the pun).

  20. pantheonoutcast says:

    Set a budget, stick to it, and buy a certified used car with a warranty. Unless you have tons of disposable income, or are a particularly shallow person, you really don’t gain any advantage by buying a brand new car. 25% depreciation the first year? No thank you.

  21. joncarwash says:

    I bought a new car just over 3 years ago (and paid it off 2 months ago) and here’s what I suggest:

    – If you have a good credit score, definitely take advantage of the 0% financing offered through the dealer. I did this, and got to spread out my payments over 36 months without paying ANY interest. Nowadays, many of these offers last 60 months, which is a really good deal (although it really depends on which exact make/model you are looking for, thankfully mine was on the list). Note that it doesn’t hurt to find financing before you come in, either, especially if you may not qualify for the best financing through the dealer.

    – Definitely check Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book to see the MSRP (sticker), invoice price, and average selling price of your make/model in your area. Depending on how the car is selling, you should be able to get the price around or under the invoice (the dealer ends up paying less than invoice). But for some hot selling models the price may be closer to MSRP.

    – Request an internet price quote through Edmunds/KBB or the dealer website, and/or speak with the Internet or Fleet Sales Manager (instead of walking in and talking to a regular salesperson). This was the best thing that I did, since I got a straightforward offer from one Internet Sales Manager for the exact make/model/features/color I wanted which was actually a good deal, and I went with it.

  22. adrienna says:

    #1 isn’t the dealer ripping you off; that’s you being stupid.

    #2 is a great idea, although you may get a better deal with the dealer’s financing. Seriously. Some incentives are only available through the dealer’s financing. I had financing secured through a credit union, but the dealer’s deal was better. And there was no after-the-fact hocus pocus (although on the first car loan I got, I focused too much on the monthly payment and ended up with a higher interest rate than I should have).

    On #6, I’d say do your homework on add-ons. The premium package with window tinting might just be cheaper than doing it yourself – and the window tinting is probably better than the shop down the street. Good rubber floormats are a great investment because they protect your car’s carpet from water (mold, mildew, rusting). Buying from Subaru was cheaper than buying the mats elsewhere, for example. You don’t have to roll that into the loan, though. After-market stuff sometimes is cheaper and better, but a lot of the time, it’s crap that may void your warranty (thinking remote start, nav, stereo, etc.).

    Point is, not all dealerships are trying to screw you. They are businesses, there to make money. It’s not their job to hold your hand and do your due diligence for you.

  23. Talisker says:

    When my wife and I bought our most recent car we had financing already in place from our credit union at a great rate for a used car. The dealer wanted to waste our time running our credit, but we were happy with the rate we had from our credit union. They kept insisting that they could get the same rate from the credit union, so I called my loan officer and she told me that they didn’t need to run anything.

    They caved when they realized that they weren’t getting our social security numbers for the credit check, and when my wife and I stood up to leave.

    The two minutes that we spent in the finance office the next day was the most pleasant paperwork signing I’ve ever had buying a car from a dealer. We gave them the check, they had us sign a couple of forms, and there was no upsells for protection packages or warranties. It helped that the check was already made out for our agreed upon price plus taxes and fees.

    Have your financing in place. Settle on a price, including sales taxes and whatever fees. Get a check already printed with that price, go into the finance office the next day and give them the check. If they change the price in the finance office, take the check back and walk away.

  24. aleck says:

    A lot of people interpret #2 as never getting financing through a dealer. Sometimes financing through a dealer can be beneficial. Car companies often offer sale discounts in the form of lower interest rate on financing their own sales. This type of financing is usually available only through a dealership. Show me a bank that can finance at 0% or 3%.

  25. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    It goes against what most people are saying but I’m just not convinced that Certified Used Cars are really worth it. Most are less than three years old and just coming off of a lease. The certified inspections aren’t going to tell you anything your corner mechanic can’t tell you. Your mechanic will probably charge you $25 or $50 to put it up on the lift and check it out, while the dealer will charge a $1,000+ premium for the certification.

    For a car that new (I’m thinking an ’07 with 30,000 miles), if it was abused then odds are no inspection will find definitive evidence of abuse and the adverse effects wont crop up for several years down the line. If fluids were low, they’ll top them off and that’s about it.

    I think the best course of action on a used car is to have a mechanic check it out before buying. If there are any concerns, negotiate down the price and then have your own mechanic perform the repairs or maintenance. Once you take ownership, at the very least have the oil, coolant, and transmission fluids changed.

    • CTXSi says:

      The advantage of CPO (for me at least) was the manufacturer-backed warranty. I was hesitant to buy used, fearing I would end up with a car that had been abused in its previous life. The CPO warranty helped set my mind at ease. I viewed it that I was saving about $10k over a new car so giving $1k of that back for the extra piece of mind was worth it to me (and a couple warranty repairs helped recoup some of my cost). I agree that CPO may not be for everybody, but for people who are hesitant to buy used it can be a great compromise.

      • Orv says:

        The problem is those warranties are so narrowly written that they’re almost useless. :P

        • CTXSi says:

          Not if they are through a major manufacturer as opposed to a third-party warranty company. I would not consider a car warranted through a third party to be a true “certified pre-owned” (CPO) car. I am talking specifically about programs backed by the original manufacturer. For example I bought a CPO VW in 2006 and their CPO warranty was essentially a 2-year continuation of the original factory warranty, minus the traditional “wear and tear” items (e.g., bulbs, brakes, tires…). But the VW CPO program is one of the better non-luxury brand pre-owned programs.

          One thing that caught my attention when shopping was the number of dealers who advertise “Dealer X certified pre-owned” cars. This makes it sound like it is backed by the manufacturer when in actuality it is usually either 1) the dealer acting as the warranty company, meaning that all repair work must be done by them, or 2) just a third-party extended warranty sold with the car.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      The dealer only charges that much if you let him. I’ve seen dealers that list the “certification” as an option, and other that put a CPO model for the same price as a non-CPO at the guy across town. I bought a CPO Honda 8 years ago for roughly the same price as a non-CPO.

    • Rob07 says:

      You also will potentially benefit from the extended bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties that Certified Used brings. I agree that the multi-point inspection might be kind of a joke.

      The last car that I bought was Certified Used, 3-years old, with 33,000 miles. On the way home from the dealer I thought that the tranny felt like it was slipping. 200 miles later, the certified warranty paid for a new transmission. It was well worth it in my case.

  26. aleck says:

    Is figuring out monthly payment based on interest, term and loan amount truly the realm of “Jedi mind tricks”? I am sure there is an app for that. Or fire up a google spreadsheet, put the numbers in and make a printout to bring to the dealership. And if you are not sure how it works, do yourself a favor and spend 30 minutes educating yourself. This will be the most valuable financial education.

  27. Branden says:

    11. buy you car outright and in full, financing a depreciating investment is stupid.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      Good luck with that when you are a grad student. You can afford a payment, but no car outright. I had to have a car before starting my PhD program this summer. I had $5000.00 to spend. That would not get me a care reliable enough for an 8-hour drive each way to and from school to my hometown. However, I CAN afford a payment on one. I don’t have much time to save up – try 3 mos.

      So, I bought it with financing and put down $3000.00.

      Even if I COULD save up for a new car, what does it matter if I save $300.00 a month or pay out $300.00 for a payment. Depreciation happens on every car – even an old one!

  28. mischlep says:

    I still like It’s like taking all the Consumerist posts about buying a car and putting it into one straightforward site.

  29. markmark says:

    Go to several dealers, be sure to compare apples to apples. At each dealer, get something on paper…always walk off the lot…once you’ve made your comparisons, then got to the best deal. They’ll try to get you to stay and they’ll throw everything at you to ‘deal now’ because they don’t want you to leave and compare. Once you have the best deal and decided which you want, call the salesman back, tell him to prepare the paperwork and once its done, you’ll return for the deal.
    Always have your financing prepared in advance. When you sit down in the finance dept, if he can’t offer you anything close, tell him your not interested and walk out of his office until he has any papers ready for you to sign.
    Some dealers walk you through three or four different offices trying to sell you things, some try to make you wait for each office…just say no.
    Good luck, and be prepared to spend a full day researching and at least half a day buying.

  30. konsoomerist says:

    I sold cars for many years.

    1) Only do this unless your current car is a POS or you really need to change your vehicle due to life changes (children, job, etc)

    2) If buying new, MFR’s usually have better rates because they are fronting the money on their own product to boost sales. There are lots of 0% deals out there right now. When buying used, check the MFR’s pre-owned program rates. Always check with a credit union on used cars.

    3) The dealers use the “blackbook” which is the auction sales recorded from your region the week before. KBB, NADA, etc mean nothing. If you are not a salesperson or still owe a bank, then selling on your own might not be a good idea. Also, you may get a tax credit for the trade in amount depending on your state that could be pretty significant if your trade has a high dollar value.

    4 & 5) KBB and all of the other shelf guides don’t mean anything. They are guides. When buying a new car, spec it out using which will give you invoice price. Figure another $500 or so under that for the holdback. For used cars, use or to get an idea of average prices. The price you pay depends on how good you are at negotiating and how badly the dealer wants to sell a car.

    6) Some MFR offered accessories are covered by the factory warranty when you buy them when buyin the car brand new. Never ever buy rust proofing, sound deadening, paint shield or any of that crap. If it is not on the window sticker and you don’t want it, tell them to remove it. Most of the time they will just throw it in the deal or find you a car that doesn’t have the crap on it.

    If you beat me up on a new car and I am down to the minimum commission (usually $50), I am going to hammer you for add ons. I can make up to $150 on protection packages. Like you, I have bills to pay also.

    7) Good advice. We called those “mavens”. Could save you from getting clubbed.

    8) If you don’t like the deal or the salespeople, don’t get mad or cause a scene, just leave. They may try intimidation or make you feel bad. There are other dealers and plenty of cars on the market. Some dealers are actually great and will try to do their best, some just royally suck. Remember, new car sales have surveys and scores salespeople and dealers have to maintain for quarterly bonuses.

    9) Leasing is not a bad proposition if the car has a good residual value. Instead of buying an entire pizza, you only pay for the slices you eat. Just like if you buy a car for cash, drive it 30,000 miles and sell it, the market value will reflect the usage of the vehicle. You are going to pay either way. Leasing is good if you like to change cars every 2-3 years or so.

    10) Exactly. A common dealer tactic is to pull the deal away from the customer when they see that they are emotionally involved with the car. When you take something someone wants badly away from them, most people want it more and start to lose rational thinking. This tricks them into paying more for the car or buying items to get what they want.

  31. dosdelon says:

    Number 7 always works for me. When I went back to a dealership years later to buy my 2nd car from them the salesman still remembered me and my mother, who he politely referred to as “The Negotiator”. In both cases I think she saved me several thousand off the sticker price, thanks mom!

  32. giax says:

    11. Buy used. You can afford a better brand, so pick something that will keep the value better.

    12. When you are in Texas, you do want the tinted windows.

  33. Alvis says:

    “the best-case scenario ends with you sinking deeper into debt”

    Don’t buy ANYTHING if you don’t have the cash for it. Debt is ruining this country.

  34. Danny says:

    Dodge Neon – $554 per month @ 60months

    granted it was an SRT model…

    was upside down in a Dodge Avenger i traded for a Dodge Dakota…. and a year later traded in for a SRT Neon….

    about 3 years later, i sold the neon for $13,000 and took a $2k loss –

    i then bought a used car for $2k, and my dad gave me his old car…. so now i have 2 cars and no car payment…. not to mention the money i saved on car insurance by switching to …. wait. i have state farm. (discounts w/ my home owners insurance makes it awesome)

  35. Fiftyville says:

    Auto salesmen like to delay and stall you and wear you down by using up your time and making you impatient to finish the deal, even if it’s on their terms. One prime tactic that even the biggest dealers use is to “accidentally” misplace the key to your car you handed over to the salesman so he could “test drive” it to assess the trade-in value. You can’t leave, you’re stuck waiting around, getting more impatient by the minute.

    This happened to my wife and I when we were shopping for a new car for her. After 45 minutes of boredom leafing through accessory brochures, we finally asked the salesman what was going on. He makes a call, and tells me that the mechanic who had been looking at my wife’s car had gone to lunch, taking the key with him. My wife was getting fidgety from the waiting and I know from experience she would have signed anything to just get out of there.

    Fortunately, because of her tendency to lock herself out, I hid a spare key under the car, so I excused myself from the salesman’s office in search of a washroom, found her car by the shop, retrieved the spare key, drove over and collected her from the salesman in the middle of that four-square negotiation bamboozlement they use, told the creep I’d be back for the other key, and left. Later, they only made an effort to return the key after I threatened to call the Better Business Bureau.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      I believe its illegal for a dealer to do this in most places, but just in case you should have a spare key on hand, a cell phone and perhaps a close friend on call so they can give you a ride, and some sort of entertainment like a portable gaming system just in case you get stuck waiting (and entertainment for your wife, SO or friend who is coming with you). The portable entertainment will help relax the person who is nervous. Better yet you go with a companion of one sort, you drive one car, companion drives the other, this way you can get out of there if you have to. If any dealer did this I wouldn’t buy from them and I would leave nasty reviews all over the internet about their dishonest tactics.

    • Buckus says:

      You should pick up the phone, call 911, and report that your vehicle is being stolen.

  36. mannyvel says:

    #9: depends on the lease. If you don’t do math, leases are a bad deal. Some leases are excellent deals.

  37. Abradax says:

    After about the second time of the sales lackey going to ask his manager for permission to do something, ask the sales lackey to just get the manager in the room for the negotiations, it saves time and energy. If the manager refuses to come, time to walk away.

  38. yurei avalon says:

    Really? I found buying my first brand new car to be a smooth, exciting experience. I researched a bunch of cars, picked out my top choice, drove down to the dealer my family recommended and waited maybe a minute to be waited on. I told them what I wanted to test drive, they quite helpfully set me up with a test drive, and then we went through the financing process. The salesmen were wonderful, they never once tried to sell me on anything else but what I wanted, even though what I wanted had to be brought it from another dealership in another state because they had none on the lot.

    The most exhausting part was signing my name umpteen times on the paperwork. I did get annoyed a tad at the financing guy because he kept asking if I was sure I wanted to buy and not lease but, I had my negotiator give him the Look of Doom to shut him up when politeness failed to do the trick. All in all it was a great experience and i’d go buy my car there again any day, though I don’t know about doing all my maintenance there, they’ve effed up some minor things on my family member’s vehicle a couple of times.

  39. astraelraen says:

    This article is simply hilarious because the first sentence sums up carbuying so well.

  40. Boo LaRue says:

    As for the “be a dude” or “bring a dude” comment, I disagree. I happen to be a woman who negotiates contracts for a living, and I’ve helped more than one friend negotiate a good price on a new vehicle.

    Also, for the past three new cars I’ve purchased, I’ve done it all strictly online. I secure my financing in advance, as suggested, then I email all the dealers that I’m interested in and give them my specific requrements (i.e., color, style level, etc.) and tell them that the best offer wins. It has worked to my advantage every time.

  41. verdegrrl says:

    I used to sell cars:

    1. Don’t buy when upside down on your current car. The dealership may roll your debt into your new loan.

    True. Plan your purchase by considering the mileage you drive, how often you trade out, and the price of the car. Rolling over debt is almost always a bad idea unless the car is terrible and outside of the lemon law guidelines.

    2. Secure financing in advance. That way the finance guy won’t be able to play Jedi number tricks on you by messing around with the loan term and interest rate.

    Wrong. Do your homework in advance, but be open to sub-vented manufacturer rates.

    3. Don’t rely on your old car as part of your down payment. Use cash on hand and sell to a third party to avoid getting screwed by a low-ball trade-in offer.

    Mixed. Depends on if you are comfortable selling the car yourself. It can be a lot of hassle depending on personal situation, car age/desirability.

    4 and 5. Scope out both competitors’ prices and Kelly Blue Book to make sure you’re paying a fair price.

    Edmunds is often better place to look. They report actual contracted prices of real sales for your area. What applies to one place, may not apply to another. Regional demand varies. Also be wary of internet claims of really low prices by buyers. I’ve sold cars to people for one number, only to have them claim an entirely different price online. Guess they wanted to look like bargaining ninjas.

    6. Turn down add-ons. Don’t spring for floor mats, window tinting or any other extras, for which you’ll not only be overpaying for, but will accrue interest throughout the life of your loan.

    The dealer I worked at offered tinting at competitive rates – and it could be unbundled from the loan so that you could pay cash. The advantage was that we had techs who could remove door panels without damage or disable the window venting feature so the tint went beyond the window seals and wouldn’t peel. Avoid the other stuff. Warranties can usually be purchased when the manufacturer warranty is nearly done – although more expensive that way. If the car is basic, just self insure by setting aside a small amount each month.

    7. Bring along a friend or family member who’s a better negotiator than you are to speak for you.

    This is know as having a 3rd baseman. Works maybe 50% of the time. You really need to be on the same page or you’ll end up wasting a huge amount of time bouncing from dealer to dealer.

    8. Be ready to walk away from the table at any moment.

    Yes. And don’t sit down at all if the dealer has lowballed you to get you to sit down. I would give real world numbers, and yet shoppers frequently had to beat their brains out with some lot lizard who promised what the the shoppers already knew to be impossible numbers before returning. That’s why the lot lizards keep low-balling. It brings them in.

    9. Don’t lease a new car. If you can’t afford to buy the car you want, aim for a lower-cost model.

    Depending on your personal situation, leasing may make more sense than buying. There are tax implications and write-offs that vary by profession and state. But for the vast majority, buying makes more sense. People have just gotten used to driving more car than they can afford. Oh, and buy manual transmissions please! Usually saves about $1000, costs less to fix when it does go bad, gives you more control over the car, and nearly always better fuel economy.

    10. Leave emotions at home. This is strictly business, so don’t let sympathy, anger or new-car lust cloud your judgment.

    The average shopper buys within 72 hours of starting to shop. Even if they say they just want to look. Very very few order exactly the car they really want. Most dealers know this, which is why the high pressure.

    • mh83 says:

      “don’t sit down at all if the dealer has lowballed you to get you to sit down.”

      I don’t quite get this one. If they give me a ‘low-ball’ price, I shouldn’t sit down and talk further? Don’t I want the low-ball price? Of course, if it was just BS to get me inside the dealership, I’ll just walk away in the end.

      • verdegrrl says:

        That is the problem with the lowball. It’s unattainable. And if you have done your homework, then you should recognize it as such. Salespeople call it, “putting someone on the be-back bus”. Even if you leave, that number keeps rattling around in your head, making other dealer’s potentially much more realistic offers less attractive. Why waste your time grinding away unless you really really want that particular car?

        I’m amazed that people spend so little time researching from whom they will purchase a car. The easiest way to find the dealership’s best salesperson (it’s all relative here!), is to go directly to the service dept and ask the service manager from whom they would buy a car. They see the broken promises and hear the stories after the sale.

    • lettucefactory says:

      I so agree on the manual transmission. Sadly, my husband always vetoes it, and since we tend to share cars, he does get a say. But it’s been almost 10 years since my last manual, and I still miss it. So much fun to drive.

  42. madtube says:

    I used to work at a dealership for 8 years. Many things on this list are so true. I have had the fortunate pleasure of getting both of my cars with my salesman as my friend. It really helps to have a salesman who owes you. Best thing to have in your pocket.

  43. babyruthless says:

    We recently bought a new car, and the dealer had a $193 “documentation fee.” On the paper that listed this fee (along with all the other fees, the rest of which were standard TTL types of things) there was a box, several inches large, that said that this fee was not mandated by the government and was negotiable (we live in Texas). We did some research and discovered that until November, it had been capped by the legislature at $50, but had recently been increased. At the point of sale, we said that we weren’t going to pay it, we would pay the $50, but not the $193. The saleswoman said that it wasn’t an option, no one had ever not paid it, it was hard coded into the system, etc. Husband threatened to walk. She got the manager. We negotiated further. We didn’t budge, threatened to walk again, and we got it reduced. They couldn’t take it out of the system, but we did talk down the price an extra $143 to compensate.

    The other interesting thing was we were buying a Mini Cooper, which lets you add bonnet stripes for $100. When we were ordering the car, the price was $170 or something for the stripes, which included stripe “installation” at the dealer. I don’t know if it was the saleswoman trying to rip us off or she didn’t know that there are 2 ways to order the stripes, and she picked the more expensive one. She claimed that since most people buy Cooper S’s, which come with stripes included in the price, she hadn’t ever added them before to an order. Either way, if we hadn’t known exactly what we were going to pay when we walked in, we would have paid too much for those stripes.

  44. otropotro says:

    The best tactic I ever employed while buying a used car: I went to the dealership with a check already made out to them in the amount I wanted to pay and had that on display on the table during the entire negotiation. I left the checkbook and all my credit cards at home.

    When they agreed to the price, then came at me with a $150 processing fee (“everyone pays that, even people who work here”) I said, “I’m fine with paying that fee, but you’ll have to lower the selling price of the car by $150. This is the only form of payment I have today, otherwise I’ll just tear the check up and shop elsewhere.”

    • Buckus says:

      Interesting. Money now is not the same as money later. Hey, it’s never been more true.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I plan on doing the same tactic. I sold cars for a short time, and nothing motivates a sales manager more than a customer is who truly “ready to buy”. There is nothing more frusturating for these guys than the customer who comes in to Dealer A and spends 2 hours negotiating…only to get a price they can take across town and buy the car for $100 cheaper at Dealer B. Dealer A doesn’t want their time wasted, or to essentially set up an easy sale for Dealer B.

      Coming in the showroom with a check, and an offer that isn’t unreasonable will get you the deal you are looking for 90% of the time. The money is on the table, they have someone ready to buy that day, and the sales manager will make it happen.

      I also refuse to pay a processing fee. I am not there to underwrite their overhead costs. I’ll ask them if they want to put the “electricity surcharge” in there too to keep the lights on in the dealership.

  45. lkmarybucfan says:

    Wow! I can’t imagine how much money you would be leaving on the table by taking this guy’s advice. Really? Listen, I am all for research, but c’mon.. Selling your trade-in third party? Not to mention the sales tax credit you would lose, but who wants to field phone calls and haggle with a total stranger over the phone? A potental buyer who now know your phone # and where you live- lets hope that car never breaks down, who do you think is gonna get harrased? Most dealerships are VERY motivated to sell you a car.. They are mostly driven by the cold hard facts that if you make a fair offer, if they don’t take it then the next place will. Buying a car today as opposed to even 5 years ago has drastically changed. Anyone can get their hands on Invoices, financing options and trade examples, (give KBB a call, let’s see if they have anyone actually willing to buy your P.O.S. trade-in for their ridiculous, inflated amounts!)

    Can you imagine jumping through all of the hoops at your Bank/Credit Union, only to find out you could have had 0% thru the Manufacturer?

  46. dobleremolque says:

    If you do choose dealer or manufacturer financing, watch out for a trick called “Spot Delivery.”

    It works this way: after you sign all the paperwork, they toss you the keys and let you take the car home. Several weeks later, you get a call that laments the fact the dealer couldn’t “place your paperwork” (get a financing on your loan), and you’ll have to either return the car or add several thousand dollars to the down payment to make the deal work.

    You’re flat-out lied to about the financing terms and sometimes they’ll just let your paperwork sit in a special basket for a couple of weeks before they make the spot delivery call. They haven’t even tried to sell your deal to a bank or finance company.

    In the meantime, all your friends and neighbors have seen you in your shiny new ride. It would be embarrassing to give it up at this point. They count on that to pressure you into paying more.

    Never take delivery until absolutely and for sure that the financing is completely done.

  47. JonBoy470 says:

    As has been stated already, #2 is at least partially bunk. Look into financing through your bank/credit union. That way, your convo with the salesman can go like this… “I can get X% for Y years from my bank. Unless you have a deal that can beat that, I don’t want to hear about it.” I worked for the last two cars I bought.

    For #3, yes, you make more money selling a car yourself than trading it in. The key is the difference between the price of the new car, and the trade-in allowance. If they’re eating more on the new car than you are on the trade (according to Vehix, Edmunds or then you’re still coming out ahead. You have to ask yourself if the headache of craiglisting or autotrader-ing your beater is worth the extra $500 or $1000 you might get for it?

    For #6, I make the whole deal contingent on “the floormats will magically appear prior to delivery” Only an idiot will walk a sale over some carpets.

    Leasing may make sense for a car used for business. Leasing facilitating always having a nice shiny new car, which can be important depending on your line of work. Lease payments are a deductible business expense in their entirety, whereas if you buy the car you have to depreciate the car evenly over a period of years, and cannot deduct your loan payments as a business expense.

  48. JonBoy470 says:

    Oh yea, and what about the industry standard “Buy a 2 year old car instead of a new one”?

  49. BurtReynolds says:

    They left out rule #1. Don’t negotiate on monthly payment. People pay close to sticker price and never realize it because they just want “$400 a month”. They also finance for 60 mo. because the dealer will always stretch it out as long as possible.

    When I sold cars, people wouldn’t even ask details about the loan term, loan rate, or actual purchase price. I’d come out and say “How would $405 sound?” and they would go “Great!”. I’d tell them to write their down payment check and sign here and here. We could have jacked the price up over sticker and they wouldn’t have cared.

  50. km9v says:

    New car lust is probably the hardest issue to overcome when buying a new car. Well, for me at least.

  51. miss_chevious says:

    Tip 8 is for sure a rule to live by. The last time I went to purchase a car, I was looking to buy a specific model used and found one in town nearby five months before my lease was up (don’t judge — I leased intentionally and with full knowledge of the financial implications). I told the salesguy that I didn’t need the car, but I *wanted* the car, provided we could come to an agreement. Because I am a woman, I specifically told him that (a) I’m a lawyer, (b) my lease wasn’t up for five months, trying to convey to him that I was willing to walk away.

    He didn’t get it.

    We come to terms, I walk into the dealership with a cashier’s check (tip 2) and he starts trying to pull a fast one on me (the remote keys he claimed he had he didn’t have, but they would only cost $200 a piece to replace and would be covered by my warranty, but no, he can’t put that in writing. Oh, and, maybe he’d miscalculated the amount so it would be a little higher but I could cover that with a personal check, and blah blah blah). So I bailed. I walked in with a cashier’s check, and I walked out with a cashier’s check.

    And the next day, I got a call from the manager asking me why I didn’t take delivery. Boy, did he get an earful. And that car, which was already approaching the 90 day mark when I made my offer, sat on their lot for another eight months. (I purchased a brand new version of the same model from a dealership who treated me with respect. More money overall, but a great deal on a new car, and the dealership even paid off the remainder of my lease. Paid off, NOT rolled in.)

    A car is a fungible commodity (for most of us). If you can’t get a good price on the one you want, you *must* be able to walk away.

  52. Senator says:

    It’s easy to find exactly how much a dealer pays (down to the dollar) for a car with about 30-60 minutes of research online. Consumer Reports shows you how much “fees” and other charges are inflated and how much you should actually pay. Arm yourself with this info, allow the dealer a small percentage of profit (see Consumer Reports again) and alway be ready to walk away. Saying “I’m sorry, I guess we can’t reach and agreement” to a salesman, and getting up to leave is like kryptonite to these guys. I purchased my first truck (used) that was priced on the lot at $9,999 for $7,000 drive out. I got up to leave three times before sealing the deal. My next truck was on the lot at $22,000 and I drove away for $17,000 after attempting to leave three times. In 2008 I purchased a $26,000 car for an even 20k drive out. Never compromise your price, always know how much profit they will make and you’ll never over pay again. You’ll probably never use the same salesman twice either, but who cares.

  53. samonela says:

    #11. Get EVERYTHING in writing.

    Salespeople will make a LOT of promises when the game is going…free floormats? Free tint? 10 free oil changes if you buy today? Great…let me just get that in writing. Then take a copy of that contract with you when you go to get your oil changed and the service manager has no idea what you are talking about…or when you finally receive your car sans floormats…

    This especially goes for the final price though. They may say “this price is good for today only.” BS. If they can sell it for that price today, they can sell it for that price next week too. Get the final price in writing.

    If they refuse to give you a price in writing, they were never planning to let you walk out of there at that price anyhow.

    This goes especially well with the earlier comments that stated that after the final price is agreed upon but before anything is signed, use this time to them know you will be paying in cash or offering up your current car as a trade in…this just prevents them from playing with the numbers. If they refuse, you have nothing to lose by walking away because nothing has been signed…again, if they let you walk away, they weren’t going to give you that price.