[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Seven Sneaky Car Sales Strategies

By brass Staff on January 31st, 2005 •

A good car salesman can "sell bubble gum at a lockjaw ward in Bellevue" (yes, we quoted that from Boiler Room). So how do you make sure you're not the one buying the bubble gum? We did some investigating to see if we could learn some of the tricks of the trade that are used to get you to sign on the dotted line when you go looking to buy a car.

  1. Make me an offer: The most classic line in the business--"make me an offer." As the unsuspecting victim, you have just given them an edge to see if you are really serious. The salesperson responds, "I'll need to get that approved by my manager." They leave you to sweat for what seems like forever. Your own thoughts work against you. They often come back with some random counter-offer that they pulled from you know where just to see if you really want the car. Play it cool while they are gone. Act uninterested because they know how people react when they really like the car. Don't make them an offer in the first place. Be willing to walk away.
  2. The one-two punch: If the salesperson can get you to make an offer, the salesperson may bring in the sales manager or another sales person to join in the discussion. Watch out because they are probably thinking that you are sold and want to push the price up or close the deal by going two on one. They may seem nice but they are increasing pressure. Insist on only talking to the person you started with. Stay in control of the situation.
  3. Changing prices: "This price is just good for this week." Do they honestly think you were born yesterday? Each week there is a new deal. Walk away and you usually get a call back with a better offer.
  4. Gift exchange: They get you to write down what you can afford on a piece of paper. The salesperson comes back with a counter offer and slowly slides the offer across the table to make it seem like they are giving you a present. This process may repeat another four times; be firm with what you wrote down.
  5. "Take it home today!": Sales people know that when you take the car home it is very hard to think about returning it, even if you figure out that you are going to have difficulty paying for it.
  6. Show me you're serious: The salesperson asks, "Can I get your driver's license or social security card to show my boss that you're serious?" Meanwhile they now know your grandmother died of heart disease, you have a huge house and money in the bank. Don't give them any advantages of being able to check you out while you are not looking.
  7. Friend or salesperson?: Often people go to someone they know to buy their car because they think they will get "hooked up" with a sweet deal. But just stop a second and think, if a sales person "hooked up" everyone they knew with great deals, the dealers wouldn't be making the money they wanted to make. So the sales manager always wants to know from the sales person two things. First, "Do you know these people?" followed quickly by, "How much can you get them for?"
The Bottom Line

Keep in control of the sales discussion and always be willing to walk away. If you do, you're more likely to come out with better results. Let the salesperson control the flow, and you're bound to be chewing bubble gum on the way home in your new car.


I sell cars for a living. I do not have to do any of this to get a paycheck at the end of the week. I take serious offense to this. Have you sold cars before? Do I tell you how to do your job? Nope. So back off.

by Anonymous on April 3, 2011

 The article isn't meant to offend to sales people. Certainly not all sales people or even dealerships are this sneaky. However, it's our job to help our readers defend agaist those that are. It's absolutely imperative to watch out for these seven things, and perhaps if they're spotted, go to a dealership such as your that won't take advantage of customers. 

by jenniebartlemay on April 5, 2011

Fact is, salesmen are paid min wage (their career choice) + commission. They love the job when taking advantage of people for thousands of dollars, but don't like when it's done to them.

Also. Most dealerships don't make any money on the car itself. They sell you a loan, most often at a interest rate HIGHER than you actually qualify for. This is why you go get your own financing from a credit union before you go to the dealership.

For extra fun... ask a dealer about the holdback or carryover.

by Anonymous on December 20, 2012

 Thanks for sharing your perspective!

by jenniebartlemay on January 4, 2013

They may have their sneaky tricks but they can't get someone who really knows what to buy and how much it should cost. It all depends on how well informed you are about the vehicle you want to buy, so the best thing to do is to look for as much information as possible. I would check out various car dealer websites and compare prices and cars, then make my mind about how much I am willing to spend on a specific model and never cross that sum. It should be quite difficult to fall for their tricks this way...

by damiens on May 24, 2011

 Oh yeah. It's all about the research. The more you know going in, the more you can pinpoint and scuttle any sneakiness the salesmen might try. Thanks for the comment!

by jenniebartlemay on May 25, 2011

The auto business is a for-profit business just like any other. Vehicles sell for what a person is willing to pay. Just like anything else. I look out my window and see a few examples right here. Mcdonalds has a double cheese burger for a dollar. Across the street a double cheese burger is 3.99, Shall I go negotiate across the street for a dollar. How about the gasoline. It is .04 cents cheaper across the street. I think I would like to talk to the manager of this station and let him know what a rip-off he has going here. In the local press laying here on my desk, I see the same products offered for different prices. Guess what? People are buying at each place for the amount offered.weird huh? The house around the corner from mine is much, much nicer than mine, Yet it sold for less. weird huh? So where does your ignorance end? Caskets? Child care?.....Your own website? Why dont we all just pay the same price as the business providing the product, and see how fast America ends up in the toilet. Seriously!!!!!

by Anonymous on June 6, 2011

 I wonder what it would be like if every seller sold based on purchase value plus a reasonabl profit. It would likely make things very different. For example, a friend of mine is a physical therapist and she was looking for a little cart for her office. At a medical supply store, the cart cost $250, but she found basically the same thing at Costco for $40. Unforunately, until we get we get to that point, we're going to negotiate and watch our backs. 

by jenniebartlemay on June 6, 2011

lets not forget the sales person gets paid if he or she sells a car. Not if they talk to a customer that's not serious for a hour. How about people stop wasting sales peoples time and only go in a dealership after you've done your research, have your trade with you and be ready to buy. It will make things go much smother. I will straight up ask if your serious and I sell a ton of cars. Don't listen to this guy who wrote this, he has no idea what he is talking about. Research the car and the price you want to pay go in with an offer. As far as you're trade find out what other dealers in the area are asking for them. don't use kbb, nada or any of them they differ dramatically. find a similar car in your area and take 2 to 3k off the asking price, this depends on the condition of your car.

by Anonymous on December 10, 2013

Car sales people are employed to sell cars. They use different tactics YES to sell people cars. I'm a car sales person and I DO not lie to our customers nor do we use tricks. We inform the customer as much as possible and even disclose all fees up front. Cars sales isn't what it used to be. While some dealers may try some of the above tricks, most don't now. When it comes to pricing being different from one day to the next. That is end of month and YES its true. Every month car companies send out incentives we can offer customers. They are only monthly. So if you come in at the end of that incentive period. We are not lying to you. It's the truth. I believe in customers being informed and not making a hasty decision. That's what keeps customers coming back and happy. When people like yourself post things like this. You are making every car salesperson out to be a bad guy and in turn can hurt our paycheck. We have children and families too. Not cool.

by Carsalesperson on January 7, 2015

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