10 Car Dealer Tricks to Watch Out For


We’ve all heard the stereotypes about car salespeople, they can’t be trusted and they’ll do anything to make an extra buck. While there have definitely been instances of this in the dealership world, luckily, we have seen this stigma improve. But as a consumer, it's your job to ensure you go to the dealership prepared and with an understanding of how the car buying process works. You may not be so lucky and end up working with a salesperson who has his/her best interests in mind before your best interests. So just in case you do work with an aggressive and sneaky salesperson, it’s important to know about these 10 car salesperson tricks. 

1. The Credit Qualification Trick

One easy way for a dealer to make a few extra dollars on selling you a car is by telling you that you don’t qualify for good rates because of your credit score. While this may be true in certain instances, the dealer may tell you that your credit score is worse than it is in order to get you in with a higher interest loan. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen to you is to come into the dealership with a pre-approval. You can easily do this by taking two minutes to fill out our car loan application.

2. The “Single” Transaction Trick

Most customers see buying a car as a single transaction, the reality is, this is rarely the case. When you break it down, buying a car from a dealership is really three transactions, the car price, the trade-in evaluation and the financing terms. Each of these three transactions dealers will try to leverage to make themselves the most money, so you need to look at each of them separately to try and save the most money. The best way to approach this is to shop your trade-in at multiple dealerships and see what they offer you. You can do the same thing when looking at the vehicle you’re looking to purchase, how much is that vehicle being sold for at other dealerships? Using the numbers you get from other dealers as leverage is a great way to get the best deal on your new car and trade-in. 

3. The Monthly Payment Trick

Ultimately when you’re buying a car, you want to be sure you can afford to make the monthly payment without stress. So what some car salespeople will do is calculate a low monthly payment, but have the loan terms be in excess of 7 years or with a large down payment. In order to avoid falling for this trick, it’s best to look at the overall price of the vehicle. Never mention that you’re looking to pay a certain amount monthly, doing this ensures the salesperson will stretch out your loan term in a way that can accommodate the monthly payments but it doesn’t mean you’re getting the best deal.

4. The Sticker Price Trick

Don’t be fooled by the sticker price on the dash of a vehicle, this is what’s known as the MSRP or Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. This price is not the most important price, what you need to focus on is the invoice price. This is the amount the dealer paid for that vehicle. When your negotiating, it’s much easier to work with the invoice price and negotiate up than working with the MSRP and negotiating down. 

5. The Spot Delivery Financing Trick

While this is a particularly sneaky and unethical trick, dealers have been caught doing this in the past. The trick is a dealer will call you days or weeks after you’ve signed a purchase agreement to tell you that the financing has fallen through. This is a complete scam and an attempt to get you to sign a new loan agreement at a higher interest rate. Dealers can find out what interest rates you qualify for almost instantly so this scam is blatant. 

6. The Long-Term Loan Trick

While there is nothing illegal about having customers sign a long-term car loan, it usually isn’t the best for the customer. A long-term loan can make an expensive car seem more affordable as the monthly payments are being spread thinner. Dealers know this, and will often tempt a longer-term loan to customers who are concerned about the affordability of a vehicle. Because of the slow repayment of the loan, you’re likely to end up in an upside-down loan where you owe more money on the car than the overall value of the car. This is due to the rapid depreciation of the vehicle. 

7. The 0% Financing Trick

At first glance, getting offered 0% financing on a car sounds fantastic. While it can be great with the right terms, usually 0% financing requires you to have great credit and a short loan-term period. Typically, 0% financing is reserved for loan terms between 4-5 years which can make even a reasonably priced car have high monthly payments. The best way to budget for a car loan is by using a car loan calculator

8. The Payment Rollover Trick

When customers are looking to upgrade their vehicle despite still having a remaining balance on their current vehicle, it can be tempting to roll over the payments of your old vehicle into your new loan or lease. While this may seem like a great idea, it’s a very risky move as you’ll immediately be in an upside-down loan the moment you combine both loan payments. 

9. The Bait and Switch Trick

The bait and switch trick is where a customer goes into a dealership looking at a specific vehicle but somehow the salesperson tries to convince them to buy a different, often more expensive vehicle. They may try and get you to the dealership by telling you they have a particular vehicle in stock only to tell you on your arrival that the vehicle is no longer available. They may do this to try and rid their lot of tough-to-sell vehicles or make extra money by selling you a more expensive vehicle than you initially considered. 

10. The Contract Trick

The last dealer trick you may run into has to do with is sneaky contract clauses or last-minute changes. This may mean the salesperson added some extra features that you didn’t agree to or perhaps changed the loan terms. An honest salesperson will go over everything with you carefully and explain each fee. It is important to do a thorough check of the contract before signing to ensure that everything is there that you discussed without any additional or modified clauses. 

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