If you’re looking to purchase a car, you’ll have to plan accordingly; it’s not as simple as walking into a dealership and walking out with something that matches your needs and budget. At least, it’s not quite that simple if you care about getting duped. It’s no secret that car salespersons have a reputation for being…well, conniving, to put it gently. But the average consumer doesn’t truly realize just how far these sales tactics can go, and the first-time car buyer can be especially vulnerable, which can mean spending far more than necessary.
To find out more about what car salespersons are hiding exactly, we spoke to David Rojas, a former car salesman who now works as a buyer’s advocate. As founder and managing director of The Deal Creator, Rojas assists car buyers through the process from beginning to end to ensure that they get the very best deal possible on their car purchase.
As someone who was once on the inside and has now gone rogue, Rojas shares some of the juiciest car salesman secrets:
They are masters at the game
You may be asking yourself why is it so important to know the inner-workings of a car dealership and how they operate. Obviously they are trying to make money and that’s how they stay in business. But by going in completely unprepared, you could end up getting the short end of the stick.
“You can’t play basketball against LeBron James or Michael Jordan and expect to beat them at their game,” says Rojas. “At the end of the day, it’s their game, and they always win.”
They are creating a story
From the moment you walk into the dealership, a salesperson’s job is to report everything about a potential customer to a manager. The objective is how they plan on convincing that person to drive off the lot with one of the dealership’s cars, and how they’re going to make the most money possible. This often involves a series of what seems like endless questions, including questions that you really don’t have to answer and could potentially cost you.
“They are using this information to write a book and create a plan of attack,” says Rojas. “It’s a way for the salesperson to size up the customer, without the customer realizing it’s happening.”
They’ll try to wear you down
If you’ve ever felt mentally drained after spending an afternoon at the dealership, it’s definitely by design—in fact, Rojas says that for many salespersons, this is part of their sales technique. In an attempt to keep you interested and to get as much information out of you as possible, salespersons are trained to keep asking you question after question so that the conversation never goes stale.
“The customer just ends up signing because they are exhausted and feel bombarded,” says Rojas.
You should almost never pay MSRP
Unless you’re talking an extremely rare vehicle, the MSRP is just that—a suggested retail price. This is by no means the price you should actually pay for the car, unless you’re not interested in saving money. But car salespersons understand that most buyers will try to haggle down the MSRP, and they’ll even pretend that the deal they’re offering you is a terrific one, that they’re losing out on the deal, and that it can’t be beat. But most of the time? It certainly can be. At the end of the day, if you’re unhappy with the final price, don’t be afraid to walk away.
You should always settle on a price first
Rojas suggests that any car-buying transaction be divided into three parts, with the first being a price agreement. You may be asked whether you want to lease or buy, or how much you’re looking to spend each month on your car payments. These questions are all irrelevant to the sale price of the car, and you could end up spending a lot more over the long-term by answering these things prior to settling on your sale price. Before moving forward, settle on a price in writing and get it on a buyer’s order.
After you settle on a price, you can deal with the financing (the second part of the transaction you should focus on), assuming you will be taking out a car loan and you plan on going through the dealership.
Don’t mention your trade-in
If you have a car you want to trade in towards the purchase of your new car, make this the third and final part of your deal—after the sale price and financing (if applicable) have been settled on. Otherwise, you could lose out on the deal by basically getting nothing for your trade-in. Rojas also suggests that car buyers ask to receive a fair amount for their trade-in based on an appraisal, and to walk out on the deal if they won’t comply.
“They won’t be happy about it, because they know they’re losing out on the deal in every way possible,” says Rojas.
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