How to Negotiate with a Car Salesman

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How to Negotiate with a Car Salesman

If a list of the most hated professionals was drawn, expect car salesmen to rank up high; used car salesmen to be precise. Right up there alongside lawyers. And the taxman. These guys can be pretty savage. The car salesman apathy stems from the eagerness to dump a defective junk to the first gullible buyer that walks in, for a tidy profit at that, all the while with a smirk that never leaves the face, giving brand new meaning to the phrase “lying through the teeth”. At least that’s the stereotype.

Casting the abhorrence aside though, you got to give it to them: they are pretty darn good at what they do. And considering the car salesman’s brief is not going to change any time soon, why not arm yourself with some tips to survive one of the toughest sales pitches you’ll ever face, right? Here is how to negotiate with a car salesman next time you find yourself as the unfortunate recipient of their tricks and traps right off the Car Salesman 101 playbook.

Have a Strategy


One of the worst mistakes you can do when buying a car is to shop for one without a strategy to deal with the battle hardened salesman. Whenever you hit the dealership, avoid being taken hostage. Ask the salesman for their best price, and if s/he insists on consulting with the manager, by all means, let them. Ask them to text or email you the findings later.

As well, be the one to set the pace by specifying the reason you are there which could be anything, say, a test drive, which will be followed up by negotiations the following day. The trick is to keep things defined because if you blink first, they will have you for breakfast.

Determine the True Cost of the Vehicle

car calculator

Do your research before visiting the dealership to have a ballpark figure of the cost of the car. The Internet is a resourceful place for this, and some great places to look include consumer websites and car enthusiast forums. The latter especially could prove to be an excellent source of valuable information because you’re likely to find individuals who know their stuff.

If you can find favorable price listings, you can print them off and use them as a bargaining chip although, expectedly, this will be refuted at every possible turn. Car prices do differ even if it’s the same vehicle for various reasons like mileage, condition, features installed, location and so on. But what this does is give you a rough figure to work with.

Don’t Show your Hand

girl smiling car

No matter how dearly you want the car, resist the urge to gush over it, begging to drive. Be calculative and avoid showing lots of emotion because this is what salesmen feed off. They are trained in the art of persuasion and psychological profiling which they leverage to accelerate the sales process. Avoid answering common questions like, “How much are you looking to spend?” This is akin to that question in a job interview where they ask you, “Tell us about yourself?” You just know it’s coming. And it’s great to be creative with the answer without revealing your budget.

Avoid Falling for the Gimmicks

fake news

One common tactic employed by car salesmen is called “the impending event”. This is where you have gone through everything, right down to choosing the color. Then the salesman warns that if you don’t buy the car right now, something will come up that will hold you back from the purchase. Just let them know that if it cannot wait until tomorrow, then chances are you will probably find it at another dealership. Their aim is to pressure you into the purchase, but don’t cave in no matter what.

Speaking of which…

Say No

hand reaching out

Car salesmen can be an adamant lot, no question about it. They want you to buy today, not tomorrow; even if you’re not ready. Problem is, they are not prepared to give you a good price and want to milk you clear of every last drop. The best workaround to that is to just serve it straight. Let them know you are not ready to make the buy today. And even if you are, don’t be afraid to walk away if they are not willing to work around your budget (which you haven’t revealed hopefully!). This shows the salesman you are ready to drop the deal. And if they really want to make that sale, you would be surprised how flexible the price suddenly becomes.

A car salesman is extremely adept at the art of separating you from your money, a skill they get to hone every day. Should you walk into that dealership without a proper plan, chances are you will be left bathing in salty tears. These tips can be incredibly powerful in helping tip the deal in your favor. Or at least close to it.

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