Predatory Car Sales Tricks To Watch Out For

Effective car salesmen have a sizable bag of tricks from which to draw when moving in for the kill. To avoid falling prey to the ruses, you need to know how to spot them.

CNNMoney is there for you, identifying several smooth operations that salesmen are known to attempt. Among them:

*Telling you your credit is bad. It’s best to know your credit score, or better yet, secure your own financing before heading to a dealership. Fail to do so and you’ll be defenseless if the finance guy tells you your credit is sub-par and tries to offer you a poor financing deal.

*Trying to sell you on lower payments. Finance guys can tack all sorts of ridiculous fees onto your price, as well as future interest, and still make it appear as though you’re getting a better deal by stretching out your loan term to lower your payment.

*Hard-selling you on the extended warranty. First off, if you’re convinced you’re about to purchase a hunk of junk that could break down as soon as the manufacturer’s warranty expires, you should probably reconsider buying the vehicle. Once salesmen are sure they’ve got you sold, they often try to get you to cough up more for an extended warranty by putting a scare in you about potential major repair costs in the future. Remember that even if you really want an extended warranty, you don’t have to commit to one at the bargaining table.

What car sales tricks are you most wary of?

Biggest car-buying rip-offs [CNNMoney]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The 4 square:

    Beat it by focusing on the specifics of the sale, not things like monthly payments or trade-in.

    Secure the cost of the vehicles and only the cost (price + fees + tax). Tackling the items of the 4-square separately is the only way not to be screwed over.

    • plasmatop says:

      That consumerist article from 2007 on the four square thing should be posted annually. It’s such great insight into how dealerships operate.

    • AcctbyDay says:


    • tamstress says:

      When the car salesman pulled out the 4 square on me last December I reached over the desk, flipped the sheet over & wrote my phone # on it.
      “What’s that for?”
      “For you to call me when you can meet *my* price. I’m not interested in any of the nonsense on the front.” Two hours later I drove away in the car I wanted w/ the price I wanted.

    • dush says:

      had a guy do this four square thing to me.
      i told him everything looks great but this square, get that number different.
      he goes back to the manager and comes back with the number changed but the other squares are different.
      i tell him great now go get these other squares changed.
      he goes back to the manager and comes back with something similar but the other square is now back to unacceptable.
      i leave and just walk to my car as he’s trailing me trying to tell me how he can still work something out.

    • freejazz says:

      you beat me to it. Any dealer that pulls out that, pull out of the parking lot

      • Wrathernaut says:

        Many “good” dealers use it too, it’s not a sign to run if you understand it.

        So long as you don’t finance through the dealership, and don’t talk trade-in until an out-the-door price is finalized, the only thing on that four-square is the price they want and the price you want. Nothing wrong with it at all if you understand that much.

  2. Hi_Hello says:

    if you walk into a car dealer without any research or haggle ability, you are probably going to get screwed without knowing it.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Extend that to just about anything you buy, minus the haggling in some instances where that isn’t the norm.

      How many people bought a TV from Best Buy this weekend they could have bought online for several hundred less? How many people also bought a $100 HDMI cable for that new TV? Or a $150 TV wall mount that sells for $40 on Monoprice.

      I just bought speakers from a local, non-chain “home theater” store. There isn’t much of an internet market for these things, but I at least came in knowing a ballpark price from the one authorized site that sold them. Who knows what kind of offer I would have got from the salesman had I not let him know I had done my homework before coming in.

  3. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    For Sale By Owner or GTFO!!

    • Mike says:


    • dakeypoo says:

      I will only by FSBO. I actually used to flip cars, so I got pretty good at haggling. The key is to go in with a highest price you’ll pay, then lowball the crap out of them. The best method to get them to agree is to offer the money, then whip out the cash and say, “I’ve got the cash right here.”

  4. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    There was a really good article that I found a couple years back at; Confessions of a Car Salesman, a bit of a long read, but still a nice look into the behind-the-scenes of the kinds of tactics used by those who deal in cars. It’s about 10 years old, but I doubt much has really changed.

    They do have tons of tricks, and are very high-pressure; your best defense is knowing exactly what you want, exactly what you’re willing to pay, and not letting them budge you.

    • Yomiko says:

      I remember reading that. The guy actually went undercover and sold cars at a couple dealerships. Very good read.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      “your best defense is knowing exactly what you want, exactly what you’re willing to pay, and not letting them budge you.”

      And be willing to walk out the door. This specific dealer is not the only one that has your “dream car” in stock.

    • jefeloco says:

      That article was printed out and pored over by me several years back and I have yet to regret it. I have purchased an 04 (new) Dakota that had a sticker price of $32,000 for $24,000, an 07 (new) MX-5 that stickered at $31,000 for $26,000 and now my 03 (used) 330i that booked at $13,000 for $10,500; all thanks to the amazing info I gleaned from that “confession”.

      Admittedly a lot of the info is common sense that has been put in narrative form after actual experience but it holds its own anyways.

      4 square is for suckers.

  5. silyolpooh says:

    As someone who used to sell VW’s, lemme say something: Extended warranties only cover manufacturing defects. Read them.

    The finance guys will convince you your wheels will fall off and your car will brick if you don’t get and extended warranty, but almost all manufacturing defects are evident very quickly in a car. You will be hard-pressed to drive one for years and then discover one. Reputable companies (like VW) will extend the warranty coverage on specific parts if its found to be necessary later due to defects.

    The extended warranty will not cover wear and tear, which is almost everything that does go wrong with the car. And I know a few dealerships that think everything is wear and tear, even when common sense dictates otherwise.

    So basically an extended warranty is a sales bonus to the finance guy (at my dealership, he got 50% commission on your extended warranty – about $1500).

    • LHH says:

      Not a 100% true. After the manufacturers warranty expired we got the extended. It has since paid for itself. Just hafta be sure to read the fine print and be sure of what is covered. Just like with anything.

      • Moosehawk says:

        Obviously this logic doesn’t apply to everyone though. Like the article says, the extended warranties and added services are priced for profit. The average buyer (being the majority) will always come out behind.

      • APCO25guy says:

        I’ll second this. I bought an extended warranty on my 2005 Elantra. Has paid for itself, as we speak it’s getting a brand new radiator, all covered- would have cost me $388. The mass air flow sensor went bad in March of this year, would have cost $419 and in 2008, the engine computer went crazy, a $645 part. All of this occurred AFTER the 60K bumper 2 bumper and would have been out of pocket. I’ve gotten my $995 extended warranty’s worth and them some, still have 20K or 4 years left. As was said, extended warranties aren’t bad on cars, just have to read the print.

    • 3.1415926535898 says:

      The thing with these warranties is that they are much cheaper when you buy them from the dealer (usually the warranty company has some tie in with the vehicle manufacturer). My extended warranty came with free maintenance for the first 36K miles. So the $900 I paid for it was a fair price.
      We should note the bath-tub like rate of failure graph. Lots of failures early on in the life of the vehicle (burn in period), then everything should be ok for a while until the parts wear out and break. The extended warranty is meant to protect you during the third phase (wear out/break down). Obviously things like tires, breaks, fluids, upholstery will not be covered – they are considered wear and tear items. But major mechanical/electrical components can fail over time even on a “good” vehicle. These tend to be expensive and the warranty will cover them.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Well when considering a VW, an extended warranty has to be part of the equation.

  6. RobHoliday says:

    Anyone who buys a vehicle without doing the proper research first deserves to get taken. Who in their right mind spends 10’s of thousands of dollars without doing research on the purchase first. I can see back before the internet, information was not as available. With the internet, there is no excuse!

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      A lot of people think they can just head on down to the lot and take a look at what’s there. They think that this will be part of the research process, because what better way to decide what you want than to try out a few cars, right?

      Suddenly they find themselves pulling into their driveway with a new car and no clue how it happened.

      That’s how car dealerships work. They fill your head with stuff and nonsense, and convince you that you’re their friend, and also that you have to get it NOW NOW NOW. Most folks are too polite to just walk away, don’t know how to politely extract themselves from someone who is being so “friendly” and so “helpful” and taking such a personal hand in their car buying decision.

      • Eyeheartpie says:

        A friend of mine’s sister-in-law did this recently. She went to go look at a car at a dealership. She had just decided to buy a car, and she wanted to look at a full-sized sedan. Instead, the dealership convinced her she needed a large SUV and she signed the paperwork that same day, with no further research (no research whatsoever in fact since she had JUST decided to look for a new car to buy).

        I don’t understand how this happens. A Honda dealership tried to pull the same crap on my wife and I. We were in there looking at cars, and my wife wanted to test drive an Accord. We did, and then the salesman tried to get us to sit down and put down a price we’d be willing to pay for it. He then tried to get us to sign a paper saying we would buy a car today if they were willing to come “reasonably close” to what we were willing to pay. He wouldn’t give me a hard number until I signed the paper. My wife and I just walked out. We said “Sorry, we don’t spend 10s of thousands of dollars on an impulse, and if that’s the only way you will give us a price, we don’t want to do business with you.”

        Advice to potential car buyers: YOU HAVE ALL THE POWER. You have money. They want your money. Don’t let them force you into doing anything you don’t want to do. Listen to your gut. If something feels off, slow down and think about it. Don’t let them sales-speak you into any decision. Do your research BEFORE going to the dealership, so you can easily spot the BS’ers and the salespeople who know what they’re talking about. Above all, be willing to walk away. If you aren’t able to walk away, take someone with you who can, and whose advice you will listen to if they tell you it’s time to walk away.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          See? They know exactly what to say, exactly what to do, and a person by themselves is one of their favorite marks. :(

          I feel badly for your friend’s SIL.

          My parents, even when they go in together, are neither of them savvy enough to be good car buyers. Twice, growing up, they decided that they should get a new car, they go to the lot to “look around,” and then come home with a new vehicle.

          The last one wouldn’t even fit all of us unless we committed illegal person-stacking or trunk stowing.

          • Eyeheartpie says:

            That was part of the problem. My friend’s SiL had decided she wanted a new car, and she told my friend so, because he’s a huge car nut, and she wanted the benefit of his expertise. He told her to wait for him before going to a dealer, and they could go together. Instead, she went with her mother to go “look at cars”, and came home with a new car, and one that my friend would have advised against because it wasn’t what she was looking for. Basically, she tried to do the right thing, but ended up rushing and was pulled in by the sale-speak.

            • NatalieErin says:

              It can happen even if you don’t rush – a good friend of mine who had been saying (for months) that she was going to get financing from her credit union and was going to buy a used car and blah blah blah walked out of a dealership last month with a brand new car and a 5 year loan from the dealer. They talked her into everything she said she wouldn’t get. I sort of wish I had been there to see it go down.

        • junip says:

          My husband and I came across that “initial here and promise to buy the car if the price is close” crap when we went shopping for a used vw. The whole thing was just very shady, and it was on one of those 4 square papers too. My husband said “I’m not signing that, it doesn’t mean anything” and we ended up leaving after a few more awkward minutes of their floor manager trying to pressure us into buying a car we didn’t really want anyway. (it was damaged)

          Then we went to an audi dealership, found the perfect vw in pristine condition and proceeded to negotiate with the salesman without that silly 4 square paper ever showing up.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      It’s the same people who park their cars outside so they can store $500 worth of junk in the garage. Never mind the $25,000 car sitting in the elements.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I sold cars for a short time, you’d be surprised how many people ignore or are oblivious to the tricks of the trade.

      First, buying a car is often not a rational decision, especially for these people who get taken. You see the shiny new BMW, you want the shiny new BMW, you decide to push your budget and “make it work” to get that BMW in your driveway.

      Second, some people do believe they are at the mercy of the dealership. This was especially true with people with bad credit. They just wanted the loan. They could care less what the selling price of the car was. Is it really a smart idea to buy a $20k new car at 14% interest? Would you probably be better off buying a similar used car for $10k if your credit is that bad? Of course you are, but these people don’t think that way. They also incorrectly assume banks won’t give them a loan. I had customers who hadn’t even tried a bank or CU.

      Third, a lot of people really do just function in a monthly payment centric world. They don’t care what the car costs, all they know is they can afford $350 a month. Nevermind that the term of the loan may be 72 months, or they interest rate was bumped 2 points to make it $348, or that you could have bought the car for $1000 less and made your payment $328. They simply don’t care or can’t wrap their head around the difference between paying $25k or $24k.

    • danic512 says:

      Take your moralistic bullshit elsewhere, no one deserves to get taken.

  7. tbax929 says:

    Pressuring you to buy something that’s on their lot. If you know specifically what you want and the options you want on it, it’s worth it to either have the dealership get the car for you (they’ll do it if they want to make the sale) or to go to another dealership that has it.

    During my recent purchase, the first dealership I went to only had one car with the option package I wanted, and it was bright red. I didn’t want a red car (not that there’s anything wrong with one); I wanted a silver car. I might have settled for gray, but I was insistent I did not want the car in red.

    I ended up buying the car I wanted – in silver – from another dealership on the other side of town. Not just because they had the one I wanted, but also because they told me right up front they only had two Altima coupes, but if I didn’t like either one they’d get me the one I wanted.

    • cameronl says:

      When I bought my first new car back in ’95, I only option I wanted, beyond air conditioning, was anti-lock brakes (they weren’t standard then). Every dealer (this was in the desert) told me, “You don’t need those.” Excuse me? You DON’T want to sell me an option? Seems that they weren’t considered necessary in dry climates, and so most dealers didn’t have them on the cars on the lot.

      Finally went to Saturn. They’re only response was, “we’ll have to order it,” to which I replied, “fine. I’ll take it.”

      Stupid car dealers (except the Saturn dealer in LV.)

      Saturn also didn’t pressure me elsewhere. I told them the rate I was approved for from my bank, they said, “We can’t beat that.”

      The brought up extended warranty. We said “No thanks.” They said, “OK.”

      Good lord it was not just painless, but a Pleasure!

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Yeah, this really shouldn’t be a problem. When we bought our last car, we had a good idea what we were looking for. The dealer didn’t have what we wanted, but had something pretty close. We test drove, decided against it, and the manager hopped onto his computer to find what we were looking for. Zero pressure to buy the car that was on the lot.

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      Same thing here. My wife and I recently decided on a car, and since the car was for her, I let her choose the options. She wanted a blue exterior with a black interior. The dealer we went to only had the sand interior with the blue exterior on the lot. We asked them to locate one from somewhere else, they found one in a neighboring sales district (there were only 2 left in the entire continental US), and we paid a small sum of money to have it shipped (since it wasn’t from the same district). My wife was reluctant to pay for the shipping, but since it was her car, and I knew she’d regret it if she didn’t get the color combo she wanted, I was perfectly willing to pay the shipping charges. Better to pay a little more to get something you’d like than to settle and be unhappy with the choice for the next 10 years.

    • duffman13 says:

      We just bought my wife a new car last year. Saw mazda was doing 0% on TV and were in the thinking about things stage for a smallish hatch, and the 3 hatch is the only reliable car besides the toyota matrix that fits the bill, and I have a thing against toyotas (We refuse to drive an appliance).

      The first dealer we went to didn’t have a hatch with the option package we wanted: bose+sunroof (not separable), and my wife had to have a sunroof. They messed with us on the price and tried to sell me on an aftermarket sunroof install. And the sales manager was a douche. Oh, BTW lied to us telling us there were no other dealers that had that package in the area.

      We went home, i did some research and found mazda’s car locator, found out that a dealership had the 3 hatch with the package we wanted, and had it in 4 different colors. I called them, told them if they met my price, I would go there that instant and sign the papers. They called back 30 minutes later, and by the end of the day we had a great new car and no hassles whatsoever. The only thing they got me on was Gap Insurance, but since I fnanced 100%, i didn’t think it was a bad idea and was 50/50 about it going in.

      Moral of the story, remember you have the money, and do your due diligence. Anybody who walks out with a car when they were ‘just looking’ is a sucker.

  8. Portlandia says:

    This is why you always go to the dealership with a friend or coworker. A disinterested person who sees through the lies and sales techniques.

    At one dealership the finance guy tried to sell my friend a $3k extended warranty. My friend initially declined and the finance person said it would only add $2 or $3 to his monthly payment and kept saying “you’re the only person I know who’s ever turned this down”. I pointed out that $3k on a 5 year note would be about $60 a month. The FINANCE GUY acted all surprised and said, Oh I guess you’re right. SCUMMY PEOPLE

    • Mike says:

      I go to dealers with friends all the time. It amazes me how often I tell the dealer that I used to work for AutoNation and used to train salesman, then the salesman will later still try to use every trick in the book. I will call them out on it every time, but they still persist. It is hilarious.

    • alexwade says:

      The way I shut up the dealer regarding the extended warranty was to put them in a no-win situation. When asked about an extended warranty, I said: “The only reason to get an extended warranty is if the vehicle is junk and likely to break down. Are you saying your vehicles are junk?” Say yes and they lose a car sell. Say no and they lose an extended warranty sell. Their only option is to sidestep the question and move on.

  9. Mike says:

    As someone who worked in the business, I can name thousands.

    -Pretend like someone else is about the buy the car you are test driving. When one salesman is showing a car to someone on the lot we would send another salesman out there and say: “Oh, Tom needs the keys, he is about to show this to someone else.” It was a sham to get you to think you had to buy now.

    -Always talk payments, never price. In fact, our sales managers would have a fit if you ever talked price on new cars. You had to always talk payments.

    -Finance department was full of first rate con artists. Don’t listen to anything they say. Ever.

    -Charging over the sticker price for a hot new car. The car will be sticker price or less in six months, just wait. (Unless it is a GT-R or something.)

    I worked at GMC, Pontiac, Hyundai, Chevy, Toyota, Jeep and Chrysler dealers. And every single one of them was corrupt in every way imaginable. What I learned from my time there is that you should never buy a new car, ever. Buy used from individuals or small, local dealers and investing the time and money into finding a good, honest mechanic is far better in the long run than any extended warranty.

    • Portlandia says:

      I agree, see my comment above!

    • Yomiko says:

      I just got a used car and I was floored that their finance guy was pretty straightforward. He did mention the availability of gap insurance and extended warranties/prepaid maintenance packages, but when I said no, he moved on. He also beat the rate my credit union offered me, then beat it again after they beat his first rate.

      When I got a quote from my credit union, the payment was about $10/month more than I calculated it should be for that principal and rate. The agent said “oh, that includes the payment protection insurance” and then tried three times to sell me on it. I was livid. That was the last nail in the coffin.

      I can’t believe it, but I actually financed with the dealer and felt fine about it.

      • BurtReynolds says:

        Financing with the dealer isn’t always a bad idea. You just need to be informed about what a “good” deal is.

        If I go to my CU or bank and get offered 3.9% for 60 months on a new car, there is my baseline. The dealer asks about financing and you tell them “beat 3.9%”. Sometimes they can, and you just got a cheaper loan. If not, then you just go with the CU like you originally planned.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      I’m not sure that “never buy a new car, ever” is sound advice. Especially considering the current used car market. Right now the price difference between identical new and used cars can be as little as a thousand dollars or so.

      • Mike says:

        It is sound advice. I only buy cars 5 years old +. Trust me, I know the car industry inside and out. Buy used luxury vehicles under $15k. They maintain more of their value, give you more options for your money, and are actually fun to drive. Sure, they made need maintenance, but a nice car needs maintenance the same way a cute guy you are dating needs to go to the gym to maintain his muscles, or that cue girl needs to spend time on her hair. Sure, it might be a pain sometimes, but it is worth it. My last BMW I sold for $250 less than I bought it after two years of driving it, and it was a fun two years. You can’t beat that.

        But I acknowledge that no matter what I tell some people, they think they need low mileage, new or newer cars. That’s fine. Just take someone who used to be in the business with you to help protect you against a bad deal.

        • leprechaunshawn says:

          That is sound advice when considering a 5 year old car compared to a brand new car. There is definitely value in the used car.

          My point was more along the lines of if you’re considering a 1-2 year old car, you should look at new because it’s likely only $1-2k more than used.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      Heh, that would backfire on me. If I thought someone else was looking at a car before me, I’d not want to snipe it out from under them, and I’d probably leave. I find that amusing.

  10. Bativac says:

    My dad taught me to always line up financing beforehand and walk in there with the check made out in the amount you are willing to spend. It works when he buys cars and it worked when I bought my car.

    Also, don’t get emotionally attached to a car.

    And finally, all car salesmen – ALL CAR SALESMEN – are bastards and are trying very hard to rip you off. They cannot be trusted. Everything they say is suspect.

    • Mike says:

      The salesmen are nothing compared to the finance guys.

    • Chmeeee says:

      I’m all about getting the financing beforehand, but what banks will write you a check before you’ve selected the car? My credit union won’t even think about cutting a check until they have a bill of sale and a copy of the title in their hands.

      • dakeypoo says:

        If you have good credit, some institutions will. You just have to bring all of those items in afterward.

      • Powerlurker says:

        A lot of banks have a product similar to this: where you get approved for up to a certain amount and they give you a blank check that you can fill out when you’ve negotiated the final price.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        My credit union always has given us a check with a Not to Exceed value based on what we tell them is the max we’re going to spend.

        That way I can always decline their financing and just fill out the final value of the check and sign it.

        Of course, paying with cash is better and it’s what I do now.

    • dakeypoo says:

      Your dad should have taught you to pay cash for a car.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      Your dad should have taught you some respect for others.

      Not all car salesmen “are bastards and are trying very hard to rip you off”. Many of them are good, decent people who were drawn to car sales because they enjoy helping people and like cars. I was one of those people for a few years in my early 20’s. I worked for a small, family run dealership and they were probably some of the best people I’ve ever worked for/with.

      • OutPastPluto says:


        Car salesmen work in an environment that encourages unethical behavior. You can’t work in such an environment and not be touched by it or be made to adapt to it. In this kind of situation you either adapt or get fired if you aren’t already scum to begin with.

        • BurtReynolds says:

          True. Your “techniques” for closing the sale are usually dictated by management. If your salesman breaks out the “4 square” sheet, it is because the managment tells them they need to use it. You won’t go to a dealer and see one lone salesman using the worksheet because he is a dirtbag.

          When I sold cars for a short time, I didn’t want to play the games. The only thing that could keep me from doing that is if I could avoid going into the sales manager’s office with an “issue”. So I would try to qualify the best I could on my own and get as much done before going to see the sales manager. It was when I went and told the SM what the “deal” was with this customer was when I was handed the tactic to try. He pulled the “sign here that you will buy today” or “deal is only good for today” (which I don’t think is so bad), and of course wanted to talk payments rather than bottom line price. He also made the trade-in offers.

          As a salesman, my job was to get you onto a car you 1) liked and 2) could afford and then figure out what it would take to sell you the car. I then relayed that info the SM. I might know what kind of prices were reasonable and throw some numbers out there ahead of the SM. A couple senior salesman could agree to prices independant of the SM, but not the regular staff. If anything, I was an advocate for the customer with the SM. I’d often say “I don’t think that will get it done”, and the SM would go a bit lower.

          So no, they aren’t all dirtballs, and if they are, it isn’t often by choice. Ever watch that show “King of Cars” that was on TV? Try working in that place and NOT be a slimebag. You’d get canned in a week.

  11. Cicadymn says:

    (Un)Thankfully my dad is car salesman, it’s been really tough on him, but he’s doing better now.

    It’s thankfully because I don’t ever have to worry about getting hosed on a car.
    It’s unthankfully because he’s a good man, and only wants to provide for us, and has to be a car salesman to do it.

    • Buckus says:

      Remember that King of the Hill episode where Hank goes to his “Friend” to buy a car, and gets a special “Friend” price, only to find out later (thanks to Mz Peggy Hill!) that the “Friend” price is MSRP? I’m leary of all car salesmen…even if they live with me.

    • Yomiko says:

      My father sold cars for awhile and I know EXACTLY what you mean. He’s the kind of guy who would like you to get the right car for you, even if that car is someplace else. Understandably, this did not help him do well at the dealership.

      When I was buying my car recently, I had to try really hard not to think of that guy on the other side of the desk as my dad, because if I did that, I’d have given away the store.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Its not an easy gig to pay the bills with, that is one thing I came away with from my short time in the business.

  12. Alter_ego says:

    I wish you could buy cars just like buying anything else. I’m super non-confrontational, and I suck at negotiating. I almost feel like it will be worth paying full price to avoid having to try and talk some smarmy salesperson down. I want to just go to the dealership website, input all the options I want, have it tell me the price, and then pay that number. Every other purchase that I make works that way, why do cars need to be negotiations?

    • silyolpooh says:

      I bet 100% of dealerships will let you walk in and pay the price on the sticker.

      • Eyeheartpie says:

        Which is usually over the website price, because they always add on features that are unnecessary or unwanted. For example, I went to look at some Mustangs, and every single manual Mustang on the lot had those retarded window louvers on the rear passenger windows, which cut down visibility significantly. They also added almost $1k to the price of the car. No thanks.

        • MichiganWolverine2011 says:

          Your use of the word “retarded” is not correct in the context you are using it. It is offensive. What if I said that somebody fixed things in a half-assed way and said he ni**er rigged it?You can say they are stupid, ugly, not appealing, but they are not retarded.

          • balderdashed says:

            I tend to find the word “retarded” offensive, too — but not nearly as offensive as the self-righteousness of those who would be society’s language police. The word is clearly offensive to you (and undoubtedly to many others), but Eyeheartpie can say what he pleases. The meanings of words evolve over time, and attempts to regulate usage or meaning, whether in the name of political or any other form of correctness, are usually doomed to fail. As it happens, one definition of “retarded” (in the Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions, Fourth Edition) is “bad; defective.” That would appear to be the meaning Eyeheartpie intended, as it is probably the only one that makes sense in this context, as an adjective for window louvers. He clearly did not intend to suggest that an autopart had impaired cognitive functioning, did he?

            • BD2008 says:

              +1000! Thank you!

            • MichiganWolverine2011 says:

              “American Slang and Colloquial Expressions” which is not a source for using words. American slang also says “that’s so gay” when in reality they mean stupid. Language matters, and if you can’t understand that, I suggest going home and calling your wife, mother or boss a c*nt.

              • shepd says:

                This isn’t English 101. This is a web blog’s comments. It’s the equivalent to talking with people in a bar. When you don’t like the group you’re talking with, you move to another table, you don’t try to stop them having a good time (“harsh their mellow” is what I wanted to say, but I figured you’d have problems with it, as it’s in the book you seem to hate).

                Also, just like in a bar, if it makes sense to the people talking with each other, it’s good enough. Prescritivism sucks outside of school/college. If I were you, I’d be pointing out the errors in your posts (yes, I’m a hardcore grammar nazi, too–OH SNAP, you don’t understand that, because it’s in that book you don’t like. I’m a hardcore grammar bitch, no… that doesn’t work, hardcore grammar fucker? Nope… I’m out of ideas. You fill it in with your own imagination! Oh hell, yeah, that’s non-existent. I’m a grammar prescritivist. Better?), but I’m not because it’s not appropriate.

          • leprechaunshawn says:

   defines retarded as “a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance”. In this case Eveheartpie is actually correct in his use of the word retarded. His vision would be hindered (or retarded) by those louvers. I bet you’d be offended if I said Eveheartpie is being very niggardly in his reluctance to pay $1000 for those window louvers.

          • shepd says:

            No, retarded is a general purpose swear now. The schools made it that why by admitting it’s not to be used to describe the mentally challenged (another set of words that will soon be a swear as they are replaced with “differently mentally enabled”) anymore because it’s rude.

            Also, grow a thicker skin. It makes life so much more pleasant for everyone, yourself included. I have far much more fun at work when (outside work, since inside work there’s plenty like yourself who’d run straight to the boss over my use of “cheap Chinese junk” to describe crap that breaks) me and my work buddies are laughing at various insults we throw at each other. You know how hard it is to tell a joke that doesn’t leave someone at the butt of it?

    • Chmeeee says:

      Go to Carmax. You’ll pay more than you would at a traditional dealer with good haggling skills, but less than you would by paying asking at a traditional dealer. They’re also less into dicking with you on a billion extras, and there’s not much of a hard sell.

    • redskull says:

      That’s what I loved about Saturn dealerships, God rest their souls.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      The price of a car doesn’t have to be negotiated. There is a price on the Monroney Label and like someone mentions below, there probably isn’t a dealer in the U.S. that won’t sell you a car for the MSRP.

    • dangermike says:

      carsdirect is good for that kind of buying. Just choose a car, enter your zip code, and they’ll return you an instant quote usually about 5-10% under sticker price. Might not be as good a price as you could haggle for, but usually pretty decent and definitely less than if you were to just walk in to a dealership and point at a car and open your wallet.

    • coffeeculture says:

      I used CarWoo and was pretty impressed by the whole procedure. Downside is you have to pay a small fee up front but the upside is the dealers never get any of your info and compete purely on price. They only get your phone # and info once you commit to a deal. Even then, you can still back out.

  13. mollyflogs says:

    When we were in the market for a new car a few months back, we honestly had no idea what we were doing. We THOUGHT we did, and I strolled into that dealership like I was the hot shit. I was not, and quickly learned that at the negotiation table. I thought I was getting a great deal, and I called my dad, just to check and see what he thought.

    He laughed at me, and told me to just walk out so he could teach me a little. I did so, and my dad spent a few hours explaining things to me via skype that night, and I ended up getting a loan from our bank. I walked into the dealership a week later, check in hand, and negotiated the deal, then watched the salesman’s face fall when I handed over a check for the full amount. Apparently, that means I got an ok deal.

    Basically, I really, really should have done a lot more research before walking onto the lot and falling in love with a car.

  14. Chmeeee says:

    I pretty much only deal in private party sales, both for selling my cars and buying them. Not that I won’t consider a dealer, but you just get a better deal on both ends and don’t have to deal with the hassle of the run around at the dealer.

    I’ve sold three late model used cars and bought three in the last 6 years (yeah, I have car ADD, sue me). All transactions went smoothly, all private sales went for ~$2-3k more than a dealer would give me on trade. All purchases were for $2-3k less than a dealer would charge for a similar car.

    • dakeypoo says:

      This is the easiest way to go, and most cost-efficient way to go. If you’re patient enough, you can find a good deal on Craigslist for a car. The key is to find the deal, and go check the car out with cash in hand. If it’s a good car, BUY IT! Don’t come back tomorrow, because chances are, it’ll get sold. Alot of dealers buy cars from private party so they can sell them at their dealership. Also, there are alot of people who buy and sell cars without changing the title. Slightly illegal. I used to do it 3 or 4 years ago, and it’s a good way to make money. So when that deal is there, jump on it, but always haggle first.

    • Mike says:

      I try to tell all my friends and family that buying used on the private market is the way to go. I tell them I know firsthand since I used to be a car salesman. I tell them that they should never make payments on a depreciable asset because it is a waste of money. So many of them never listen. Then they wonder why I am driving a Mercedes and BMW with no debt and they are continually stuck with crappy cars and debt.

      I honestly cringe when I see people talking about the “good deal” they got on a new car. There literally is no such thing. A brand new car is financial rape. I guess some people are raped a little less than others and they are proud of that, but I refuse to be raped at all.

      • DH405 says:

        I bought a brand new Civic in 09 for about $2k under ask. Last time I checked, my car was valued at just around $1k below what I paid for it. A bad deal?

        • Mike says:

          I bought a used BMW, drove it two years, then sold it for $250 less than I bought it for. THAT is a good deal. When I sold it I had an ad on Craigslist for less than 5 minutes before I had someone out at looking at it. The first person who came out bought it. I bought a Mercedes SUV from an individual. Three years later I sold it for $1k less than what I paid. It actually took me two days to sell that one.

          Now take your case. How long would it take you to sell your Civic? Civics are one of the most common cars on the road, so the supply is huge. Unless you list the car way under the book value odds are it could take you weeks to sell it. Book value does not equate to what you would actually get for it. Also, although the Civic is a fine car, the Si is the only trim to get excited about. If you picked up an Si $2k under book then you did get a pretty good deal for a new car and you might actually be able to sell it quickly. Also, what is your APR? I pay cash so I do not lose any money to interest.

          All that said I do not begrudge you for buying a new car. Some people just like new things, and if it wasn’t for those people I wouldn’t be having such a good time buying used cars.

          I have my eye on this gorgeous Saab convertible right now for $6k. I am pretty close to buying it for my wife any day now.

          • duffman13 says:

            Actually, civics are pretty easy to move. I unlaoded my wife’s old 2000 civic coupe in under 18 hours last year, and I listed it on CL at 5:30PM on a friday

            • Mike says:

              Ahh see. You had the right car. a 2000 would be cheap enough that people could pay cash, also a coupe is more popular. What color was it? If it was black or red you can move those quickly.

              Now if you were trying to sell a 2007 right now, I doubt it would be as easy.

      • exit322 says:

        You can’t rape the willing.

  15. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Decide what you want, then do it all online line if at all possible with pre approved financing. Works with either new or used.

    My brother a couple years back bought a high demand new car (Accord) and I did everything online for him. Got the best deal from a dealer in a high rent, high income area. They basically had an internet sales staff that worked on low commission but high volume.

    I bought a used car from a dealer, and again did it all online. My secret there was that I knew my current car was dieing, but still had a few months of life left at 160K and 12 years old. I was hitting almost daily and when a dealer had a “certified” very low mileage car with some manufacturers warranty left for over $1,000 less than anyone else I snapped it up.

    In and out in an hour at both dealers.

    • pinkbunnyslippers says:

      I have pulled up to my dealer in a brand-new, temporary-tags-and-resale-sticker-still-on-the-back-window kinda new, (let’s say I’m there to pick up an extra set of keys, or to actually pick up my tags after I’ve already bought the car) and I am SWARMED like a piece of carrion on the highway by salesguys who want to help me/make a sale. I’d venture to guess nobody likes feeling like they’re a piece of fresh meat walking into the salesroom. But here’s my question:

      How am I supposed to buy something online if I’ve never test driven it (sorry, but I’m not spending $30k on something I’ve never sat in, much less driven)? And how am I supposed to test drive a car without being hassled by a bunch of vultures, esp. when they know my test drive won’t yield a sale for them?

      • Eyeheartpie says:

        Call in advance, set up an appointment saying something like “I’m really busy, and I have a free lunch break next Wednesday. I’d like to come in and test drive this car.” When you walk in, ask for the person you talked with on the phone, and he should have the car waiting. Drive it, say “thanks, and now I have to get back to the office”, and leave.

  16. spmahn says:

    Honestly, when I bought my car in March, I walked into the dealership with my own financing set up, but the Dealership was still able to get me a lower interest rate than the already very low one AAA had offered me, so I went with the dealer financing. It’s good to come in prepared, but the Dealer isn’t always out to screw you either.

    • tbax929 says:

      That’s what happened with me. I had a 3.9% rate from my credit union and a 5% rate from USAA (what the hell?). The dealership got me a 1.9% rate. I could have gotten 0% if I’d wanted another SUV. Yeah, not gonna happen.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I had the same experience last year. The dealership was able to get me a 1.9% APR on a used car loan, which was significantly better than my CU and bank. It was a promotional deal by a local CU trying to increase its membership.

    • misterfuss says:

      Several years ago when I financed my car, the dealership offered an interest rate that was better than the credit union. I called the credit union and told them this and they said they would match the rate provided I faxed them proof of what the dealer’s rate. I did this and had the benefit of a better rate and dealing with my credit union.

  17. Blueskylaw says:

    If this car is so bad that I need an extended warranty
    and rustproofing, why would I want to buy it?

    • yankinwaoz says:

      That is my normal reply when ever a merchant tries to hard sell me on buying an additional warranty. It cracks me up that they first tell you how great the product is. Then they tell you how terrible the product is.

      However, I have purchased Apple Care for my Macbook pro. I reasoned that since is a critical tool for my profession and my ability to earn money, I need to insure it for 3 years just incase something fails. I’m not happy about it. But I reckon I can’t afford to take a chance. BTW.. Applecare is not cheap.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        If your computing device is that critical, you really need to be able to swap it out with a “hot spare” and not be any anyone else’s mercy. You need things like on site support or next day shipping of replacements. Taking it into the Genius Bar probably isn’t going to cut it in practice.

  18. trixare4kids says:

    My recent car buying experience. I did great but I never want to do it again. Just bought a new/used 2007 Honda Accord EX L with low miles from a Honda Dealer back in November. Sticker said $17.5K, I ended up getting it for 13K+tax out the door. Period.

    I’m a single female, but with with a friend — so I’m sure the salesman saw easy money as I walked in the door. HAHA! Dude, I read the consumerist, I had done ALL my homework. I was READY to buy this car and not get ripped off.

    So here’s what I did:

    **Pre-financed through my credit union and got a super low rate.

    **Went at the end of the month. Went toward the end of the day.

    **Didn’t let them talk “payments”

    **Did NOT let him take us into the office to sit us down in the little booth where THEY have all the power. He practically insisted that we sat down there and I absolutely refused and said “No.. I’m enjoying the sun.” It made him CRAZY that I wouldn’t go sit in the little cubicle and he kept bringing it up. I just kept refusing. Just remember that YOU, the customer, have the power. Don’t let them bully you. Stay calm. Think before you speak.

    **Every time the salesman had to “Go talk to his boss” we walked ALL the way to the back of the lot and wandered around so he’d have to run around and find us. It was a very warm day for November.

    ** I super low balled right off the bat and brought my price up very, very slowly, he kept complaining that I was “Taking food from his children’s mouth” & that “he had to make a living” etc. I wonder if that fake guilt tactic works on some people? I’m female and I wondered if it’s a tactic that they use specifically on women? I can’t imagine him saying that to a male. Well, it didn’t work with this chick. I said, “Not my problem. Take that price back to your boss.”

    **When I got to my final price of $13K – the price I planned to pay all along. I said Ok, this is your last chance. I’m tired. Go back to you boss and tell him $13K and not a single penny more. Otherwise, I’m not wasting my time, gonna walk.

    My friend and wing-woman, bless her, suddenly got all huffy like she was pissed at me and ready to go NOW, “You know.. I really liked that car over at XYZ dealership, let’s just go get that one. We’re wasting our time and I’m TIRED. I’m hungry. You said this wouldn’t take long. I’m leaving. ” She then marched off toward our car in a fake huff. I told the salesman, “Well.. my friend is upset.. so.. you have until I pull out the lot.” The guy RAN full tilt back into the office and just as I was getting in my car he came out and said, “Fine, fine! $13K, you are killing me here.. but OK.”

    So I go to set up payment and the finance guy was pissed that I already had financing. He was also pissed that I refused gap insurance. I already knew I was covered the second I drove off the lot because I’d already talked to my insurance agent & set it up. Then it comes to the extended warranty and he tried to pressure me saying, “MOST people get it. It’s STUPID not to get it.” He wouldn’t let up and didn’t want to take “NO” for an answer.

    So I told him ONE more word about the extended warranty – I walk. You LOSE this sale for your salesman out there. You want that? Ok then, let’s get this over with.

    Done & done. Got it below blue book for the mileage. It’s a terrific car.

    I think guys know this — but they treat women better: So ladies just remember YOU have the power in this situation. Don’t be afraid to walk. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Don’t give into transparent guilt tactics like “You are taking food from my children” and other sorts of bullshit. Do your homework first so you KNOW how much the car is worth. Don’t give into scare tactics about the extended warranty – especially on a HONDA with low miles.

    • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

      “The guy RAN full tilt back into the office and just as I was getting in my car…”

      Thanks for making me smile. ;-D

    • RobHoliday says:

      That is a good way of doing it. I’m too lazy for all of that though. I just have printed up what I have for a trade and the price I want to be at out-the-door (like you, financed through my credit union) and give it to the salesman. I tell them they only need to say yes or no. I have bought 3 new cars this way and never heard no.

    • rpm773 says:

      he kept complaining that I was “Taking food from his children’s mouth”

      So your the reason why dad yanked that chicken leg out of my mouth one night last November.

      /grumbles, walks away

      • shepd says:

        “Well, it looks like one of us is going to have starving children, because paying sticker just ain’t gonna happen. So, let’s focus on that for a second. As you can see, I’m incredibly cheap. $1,000 means all my children can eat all year. I imagine you’re the opposite. $1,000 might buy your children dinners for a month. Why don’t we go for the option with the least harm? I tell you what, give me the deal for $2,000 off and I’ll donate $1,000 to the food bank and then your children can eat for the whole year like mine.”

    • RickScarf says:

      F & I guys (the one who close your sale up and handle the payment/financing) crack me up. They are the most profitable part of the whole car sale, so you can imagine how long their line of bull is.

  19. Buckus says:

    Trick number 1: Getting you to walk onto the car lot.

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      It’s not a trick if it has benefit for the car buyer. There’s no substitute to seeing a car in person and driving it yourself. You can read all the reviews you want, and look at all the high def pictures and 3D interactive walkthroughs you want, but you just can’t beat sitting in the car and driving it yourself.

  20. pixiegirl says:

    Don’t be afraid to walk out on them. If they are screwing around with you walk out that will get their attention real fast. When I got my first car my dad came with me the salesman did the usual keep them waiting in office for as long as they can while I get the price BS after 5-10 minutes and no sign of him coming back we walked out. The salesman and his manager literally ran outside and chased us down and begged us to come back in my dad told the manager that he was wasting our time and we left. They called us several times afterwords, finally they came to a price I felt was acceptable $500 under invoice and about $2500 better than what edmunds said the average sale was for my car for where I live. When we got there they still tried to screw us with add ons like scotch-guarding the seats for $2000! I told them no and the salesman was like but you’ll ruin your car if the seats aren’t scotch guarded and I said I’m sure they will get ruined one way or another I don’t want to breath in the toxic fumes from scotch-guarding and threatened to walk out again. So basically they still tried to screw with us with the low price and then jack it up when we get there. Eventually they realized I either get it at teh price they quoted or I’m leaving. They ended up giving me the price they quoted and weren’t happy about it. I think when buying a car you really need to mentally prepare yourself for dealing with this kind of BS.

    • Yomiko says:

      Urgh. The Subaru dealer by me etches the VIN into the windows and charges $149 for it as an “option.” I told the guy that I couldn’t care less about the VIN being etched in the window but I DID care about paying for it. He kept giving me the spiel about it being a theft deterrant, but finally aggreed to “scrub” it and remove the charge.

      • J Dig says:

        Not much of a “theft deterrent” if the thief can just replace the window and *poof* deterrent gone.

        • RickScarf says:

          Yup, a heck of a lot easier to replace that window that it was to tamper with/remove the original VIN plates (there are two more VIN locations in addition to the one you’ve seen in the front of the dash, you’d need a full chop shop to be able to get at them all)

  21. kobresia says:

    Just a few points for the “I’ll never buy new, only used/For Sale By Owner” people:

    1) Used cars are used, even if they’re not old, they still may have already experienced a number of difficulties, from defects, poor maintenance, damage, being driven hard, and so forth. You have all of ZERO recourse if your FSBO is a lemon in most cases. Why is someone selling that cherry, low-mileage car that they’re losing a bundle of money on?

    2) Being consumable objects, cars that have 30-40k on the odometer are about 25% “used-up”. Or rather, a number of their moving parts are. Your mileage may vary, but 100k miles is when a good amount of maintenance is going to start being required on average. Maybe you’ll only need simple things like a new battery & milestone maintenance, but needing a new water pump, CV joints, fuel pump, brake work, power steering rack, and a host of other reasonably costly repairs that will each require down-time (especially if you don’t do your own work) is not all that unusual and can result in a breakdown.

    3) The best financing from a credit union is likely going to be right about the same financing you’ll get from a stealership on a used car, around 7% at the best with certain programs, but more commonly around 12-14%. New cars often finance at more like 3% or less on good credit, since manufacturers are making their profit off the car and want to make it easier to buy.

    That’s why I don’t like these sort of generalizations. You might get a good deal on a used car, but there are also good deals to be had on new cars as well. It’s really best to shop around for the best deal, regardless of who it’s from.

    That said, one of the most common predatory tricks to look out for, which should’ve been at the top of the list, is that stealerships often try hard to “steal” your trade. When your purchase price is around dealer invoice, the salesman is going to make a minimum commission on that, but your trade-in could be a better source of revenue for him if he offers you a fraction of what it’s worth. They count on you being stupid, in a hurry, and not wanting to bother with trying to sell your car to random strangers off the street, so they will badmouth trivial things that don’t affect its resale value all that much. If your car is a used-up junky old car, then it’s really not worth anything, but if it’s less than 8 years old, in good condition, and a reasonably high-demand model (and especially the make of new car they sell at the stealership), they’ll try to steal it.

    • MichiganWolverine2011 says:

      One reason I would never ever buy from a private owner is the car has ZERO warranty after you pay for it, unless it is written into the contract, which most private sellers don’t do. A dealership has specific rights and duties regarding warranty and representing the car.

      • RickScarf says:

        Original manufacturer’s warranty still applies, I’m 99% sure, if you’re buyer a newer used car still under the original warranty.
        Also the best financing option is cash :D

    • Buckus says:

      Another point for the “Never buy new, only buy used” crowd: All used cars started as new cars at some point. If no one bought new cars, there wouldn’t be an “Gently-driven” used cars to buy. See: Cuba.

    • Chmeeee says:

      To each their own of course. As another reply to your post points out, if nobody bought new cars, then there wouldn’t be nice used cars for me to buy.

      1) Proper research should minimize your risk in this area. Check the Carfax (no guarantee by any means). Check the car out for signs of problems (or pay a mechanic if you aren’t mechanically inclined). That and a thorough inspection and test drive should vet a car properly.

      2) I would call 40k miles more like 20% used up. Any modern car worth it’s salt should be good for 200k miles. I’ve owned an Oldsmobile, a Chevy, and a Subaru at the 200k mile mark, all still going strong. If you are buying a car with 40k miles, then you should be saving at least 25-30%, perhaps as much as 50%. That difference more than compensates you for the 20% used up factor. If you’re not saving that much, then you’re either getting a crappy deal or it’s a car that holds it’s value so well, you should probably just buy new.

      3) I don’t know what kind of awful banks you are using, but nobody with good credit should ever have to pay anywhere near 7% for a car loan of any sort, nevermind into the double digits. My credit union offers 3.74% for a used car from a dealer, 4.74% for a used car from a private party. Even a regular bank should be able to offer you a rate in the fives. If they can’t, find one that can. I’ve never paid more than 5.5% interest on a car loan, ever.

      • MichiganWolverine2011 says:

        The fact is in today’s market used is not as good of a deal as it once was. The basic law of supply and demand. More people are trying to save and buy used, and drive up the price. As for buying at 40k miles, you also put much more maintenance money into a 40k car than a new one. You will need brakes far sooner than the new car, you will need tires, probably a battery, etc. You did not get the benefit of those items new. The whole Car Fax thing is a joke. You will know title and any major accidents. It won’t tell you the car has been in 20 times to fix specific problems. A mechanic is only going to tell you what he can see immediately, but will not know if the transmission is 10 miles or 10k miles from crapping out. Without a warranty, you pay that bill.

  22. meaniepants says:

    We tell the dealer up front that my father-in-law is also a car dealer, so we know the tricks. It hasn’t been beyond us to call him during negotiations. We also get financing from our credit union, not the dealer.

    • RickScarf says:

      My dad buys a car every couple years (he drives a lot for work) and always calls me when he is in the final negotiation stage. I can check a black book for the price to let him know if his retail price is fair, but more importantly it gives the salesman he is with a bit of a curve to his sales pitch. A couple times I’ve asked my dad a couple vanilla questions like the mileage, trim level, etc and ask him to wait a minute while I “research the price”, and I just put the phone down for 4-5 minutes while my dad gets the price closer to what he wants to pay.
      I haven’t bought a used car myself since working in the wholesale vehicle sales field, and would probably buy private party anyway, but even if just for fun I may go to a dealership and make them squirm while I get a test drive if it’s a vehicle I’m not used to driving.

  23. mebaman says:

    When buying a car, do the following, and while you may not get the best deal, you will not be ripped off:

    – Do your homework beforehand (look at Internet sites – e.g., Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book, Consumer Reports, Autotrader, etc.), and get a good idea of what your desired vehicle’s price really is.

    – If your salesperson wants to play four square – leave and don’t look back. The fact that they tried to involve you in this sordid piece of buffoonery from yesteryear tells you that this is one of “those” dealerships. Even if you opt-out of the four-square, you will not win – there is more than one way to skin a customer.

    – While you should secure financing before your trip to the dealer, sometimes special incentive financing is available through the manufacturer’s finance arm (e.g., 0% APR or other low interest deals for “qualified” buyers). Still, don’t sign the sales contract until you have it in writing that you’ve been approved for whatever special deal the bank’s offering, lest they try to come back and tell you that you didn’t qualify and that you were instead approved for a loan at 11% or something like that (there’ll often be a fine print clause in the sales contract that allows them to do this). Some states have outlawed this bait and switch practice, but not all.

    – Read everything that you have to put a signature on – if crap happens, you’ll be held to what you signed, not what the dealership tells you.

    – If you notice that your car is missing something (e.g., floormats, a luggage guard, etc.), make sure that you get it or are otherwise comfortable not having it before you sign the papers and drive off the lot. Otherwise, you will probably never see those items – regardless of what Joe Sales tells you.

    – Avoid dealerships that pack their inventory cars with “dealer-installed” options (e.g., pinstripes, wheel locks, sung guards, chrome strips, window etching, etc.). Like the four square, it says a certain something about the type of dealership you’re at. This is the equivalent of Best-Buy’s “Geek Squad pre-optimized” program – the options are installed at no one’s request, sold at an uber-markup, make the product look worse, are unnecessary or ineffective, and are used as a tool to artificially inflate the already-artificial MSRP.

    – If you have a trade-in – know its value, and try, if you can, to sell it elsewhere so that it’s off the table in negotiating for the price of their new vehicle. Dealers will attempt to use the trade-in to make a bad deal more palatable by shifting value between the trade-in and sale. It’s a distraction in an already complicated transaction that’s best avoided if at all possible.

    – If you like a particular color, vehicle, etc., don’t let the salesperson know that. As far as he/she’s concerned, all vehicles within a particular price/class range are fungible. This way, they won’t try to gouge you or say they can’t negotiate on the “blue one.”

    Thankfully, I’ve noticed that many dealerships, due in no small part to the internet and now-widespread availability of industry information, are moving away from the old way of doing business in favor of more standardized internet pricing and less gimmickry and trickery (I haven’t seen a four-square since 2001). It’s a step in the right direction, but no reason to let your guard down (dealer’s still gotta eat).

  24. u1itn0w2day says:

    As soon as someone gives you payment per month run because they are trying to disguise the total price. Credit companies have done this with minimum payments for decades. Same for the extended warranty, many sales people try to say things for an extra 10$ per month you have piece of mind.

  25. framitz says:

    Think twice about small independent dealers, the experience ranges widely.

    After returning from overseas many years ago (1976) my ’65 Mustang was forced off the road by another car and I hit a tree. The cosmetic damage was repaired but alignment was bad, then the tranny started slipping so I looked to trade the car in.

    I went to a small dealer and traded for a newer car. I probably got next to nothing for the trade in.

    The very next day a guy came into my place of employment asking about the ’65 Mustang he had seen in the lot previously. He was offering 5k for the car sight unseen. I woke up! I had no idea it was a classic car because I’d been out of country and out of touch!

    I drove by the lot where I traded it in that very day and it was already gone. I always wondered how much they got for it. I know they knew it was valuable even in less than perfect condition.

    I did kind of get even though. When I went in to pick up the license plates the dealer tried to charge me for them, I had already paid for them and had the receipt to prove it. Well the DMV was just three blocks down, so I went there and filed a formal complaint. The DMV rep called the dealer and told them to give me my plates. Then he started a deeper investigation into the dealer.

    I don’t know what happened next, but a month later the dealer was GONE. I really hope I helped with that.

  26. tamstress says:

    While not predatory per se, I (a female) wound up cornered by 3 salesMEN – I was in a chair in the salesman’s cubicle corner, my salesman on my left at his desk, the ‘vice-president’ on my right w/ his arms crossed, leaning against the wall & another salesman who never spoke standing in the doorway of the cubicle. Once they were in place the salesman asked me again what price I was offering for the car & why I thought that was a fair price. I calmly told him this was the figure we’d decided the car was worth to us & it was all we’d ever pay for that car. Then I detailed every issue w/ the car, told him what those would cost them & started to dial my husband’s # to come pick me up. I wound up saving nearly 6K. I might have cut them a little slack if they hadn’t so blatantly tried to intimidate a lone female.

  27. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Nowadays cars are way, WAAAAY too expensive for me to ever consider buying a new one. Someone recently told me that a new Chevy 4×4 truck sells for $50k.

    I take it back: that’s not expensive, that’s insanity.

  28. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    What is wrong with a manufacturer’s extended warranty over the term of the loan? I’ve saved a bundle and don’t have to worry about unexpected repair costs. No way I’d buy a third party warranty but manufacturer’s extended warranties are well priced with great coverage.

  29. freejazz says:

    Here’s the funny thing. The Dealer typically makes a few hundred on a $30k car, a small percentage, and the salesman makes a percentage of THAT, not the selling price, yet everyone thinks car dealers are ripping them off, and they’ll bargain to the last penny, and study up on how to buy one. Yet, the markup on Beds, furniture, clothing is MUCH higher, and nobody bats an eyelash. What about Real Estate Agents, many of whom are sleazier than car dealers, and make a LOT more

  30. TPA says:

    That’s eerie — I recognized the location of the photo immediately. So Ben was prowling around these parts a few years ago.

  31. PortlandBeavers says:

    Ideally, you should go in with money in the bank and no trade. That sort of gets the focus down to one thing, the car on the lot.

  32. OutPastPluto says:

    I’ve got another one:

    4) non-removable dealer upgrades to the base model. These include various “treatments” that are listed on the sticker at inflated prices but can’t be removed like fancy rims.

    Recently experienced this at a car dealer.

    Also add

    5) Not giving you back your keys for your trade in.

    Perpetrated by the same dealer that pulled #4.

    Of course this cured us of any interest in buying a new car. Will let the old one chug along for awhile longer, possibly a LONG while longer.

  33. thomwithanh says:

    I only buy used and pay cash. I refuse to spend thousands on a vehicle that will literally loose half its value the second I drive it off the lot.