Let’s face it, buying a car is the worst type of psychological warfare. The back-and-forth between you and the salespeople can be exhausting and excruciating. And while there are a lot of things you should watch out for when negotiating the slippery slope of a car deal, and things you should listen for that the salesman might say, there are also a few things that you, as the buyer, can say to mess with the salesman’s mind and get yourself the best deal possible. These are phrases that will disarm, confuse and put the car salesmen on the defensive. In the psychological battle that takes place in car dealerships, words are often your best weapon. Here are 10 phrases that will help you when buying your next car.
10. “I need to have my trade-in appraised.”
Appraised? Say what?! Car salesmen never want you to have your current vehicle appraised. They certainly don’t want you coming into their dealership with a written appraisal from an outside third party. The salespeople at your local car dealership want to give your current car a quick glance and then low ball you on the trade-in value. Telling them that you’re getting the car professionally appraised will make the salespeople nervous and put pressure on them to get you to trade-in your current car right then and there before its true value becomes known. This is a bit of a role reversal where you put pressure on the sales staff to make a deal before the value of your used car goes up. Smart, as it will put the car salesman off balance.
9. “I like this car. But I don’t love it.”
Car salespeople know that you’re more likely to buy a car if you love it. Really, really love it. When you utter a phrase such as “I like this car. But I don’t love it,” you’re telling the salesman that they need to offer you more to make you commit to a vehicle that you’re fine with but not crazy about. This phrase by you will likely be followed by phrases from the salesman such as “What would make you love it?” and “How about I throw in a year-long subscription to satellite radio?” or “Let me see what I can do on the cost of an extended warranty.” By seeming less interested in the car, you put pressure on the salesman to sweeten the offer and convince you to buy the car you’re looking at. Never seem too enthusiastic about a particular vehicle. Play it cool and you will be rewarded with upgrades, additional options and a better price.
8. “I don’t have a credit card.”
The first thing that most car salesmen do is ask you for your credit card. And there’s a psychological reason for this tactic. It is to make you feel trapped and that you have to make a deal and buy a car to get your credit card back. Don’t fall for it. Better yet, tell the salesman that you don’t own a credit card or that you’ll give him or her your credit card once a deal is reached and you’re ready to put a deposit on your credit card. By not giving the salespeople your credit card right away, you’re forcing them to work harder to reach a deal with you and secure your credit card. Again, put the pressure on the sales staff. Don’t let them put pressure on you by holding your finances ransom. Be subtle but insistent. And if the salesmen asks for your credit card more than once, ignore them.
7. “I know the deal is done. But can you throw this in too?”
Car salesmen love to try and throw in some extra charges after a deal has been reached on the price of a vehicle. But who says they are the only people who can employ this tactic? Nothing is preventing you from asking for some extras or upgrades before the money finally changes hands. Remember, the deposit you put down on a vehicle—typically $500 or $1,000—is refundable. Until you exchange the full agreed upon amount for a car and take possession of it, you can always back out of a car deal. Most dealers also give you 30 or 60 days to return a vehicle if you’re not happy with it. So take full advantage of this time to try and squeeze every last thing you can out of the car dealership. Ask for rubber mats to be thrown in free of charge, or for Bluetooth to be installed. Why not ask for the tow package or an aftermarket DVD player to be added? Trust us, now’s the time to negotiate these extras. Once the salesman feels he has a deal, he’ll be under pressure to placate you and ensure that the sale goes through.
6. “If you sell me the car for this price, I’ll buy it right now.”
Car salesmen work on commission, which means the more vehicles they can sell, and the faster they can sell them, the more money they will make. This means that the words “I’ll buy it right now” are music to the salesperson’s ears. But buying a car immediately is contingent on you getting the price you want. You’ll be surprised at how hard salespeople will work to get you the price you demand if they feel you’re serious about buying a vehicle right then and there. Just be sure to stick to your guns. Always have a top price in mind that you are willing to pay and never go above it. And use the fact that you’re willing to act quickly on a purchase as leverage with the sales staff. This is one of the best ways to get the deal you want on a vehicle—new or used.
5. “I’ll pay cash.”
The conventional wisdom is that car dealerships prefer for customers to finance their car purchase so that they can charge high interest rates and earn additional money over the repayment period. Truth is that it costs money for car dealerships to extend credit to customers, and financing a vehicle purchase is a pain in the ass. Most dealerships prefer for clients to buy cars outright in cash or with their personal line of credit—especially on used vehicles that are discounted and not as expensive as a new car. Having cash in hand is appreciated by car dealerships and salesmen will be more inclined to negotiate with you if they feel you can buy a vehicle outright and stuff their hands with cold, hard cash. It is the bird in hand theory and it works surprisingly well with car salespeople.
4. “Can I take the car for another test drive?”
Ask most car salespeople what they hate more than anything else and they’ll tell you “indecision.” No salesman wants to spend time stuck with a customer who is indecisive and hemming and hawing over a vehicle. They certainly don’t want you to spend time test driving a car multiple times. Again, time is money for these people and they want to get the deal done as quickly as possible. By making it appear that you are lukewarm on a car or unsure, it will put more pressure on the salesman to sell you on the car and close the deal. Plus, when you finally do make an offer on a vehicle, the salesperson will be so happy that they will likely look past the fact that you’ve dramatically low balled the price. Let’s hope that’s the case anyway.
3. “I see the following problems with this car…”
A knowledgeable customer is every car salesman’s worst nightmare. The first thing most salespeople do is feel a client out to see if they can run their game on them. By pointing out problems or issues you see with a vehicle that you’re considering, you are letting the salesman know that you are knowledgeable and experienced. Whether it is pointing out that a used car is no longer under warranty or that the brakes squeak, let the salesman know that you’re no dummy and did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday. This will intimidate the salesman and make him or her less likely to pull a fast one on you, or try to slip unnecessary costs into the sale price. It will also give you power and confidence when negotiating the price down rather than up.
2. “Let me sleep on it.”
The last thing any salesperson wants is to see you walk out the door. They know that a customer who leaves is unlikely to return—ever. You leaving is the sales staff watching money walk out the door. By threatening to leave you are putting pressure on the sales staff to keep you engaged and close the deal immediately. This will make the sales staff more reasonable and more likely to negotiate with you on the price and any extras that you want. If you do leave, the last thing you should do is offer the salesman your rock bottom price and tell him or her to telephone you if they change their minds. Leave and you’ll most likely get a phone call the next day from the dealership—either accepting your offer or countering it with another offer. Congratulations. Victory is yours!
As every toddler learns before the age of two, “no” is the most powerful word in any language. By simply saying “no” to car salesmen, you render them helpless and give yourself all the power in a transaction. And you can say “no” to just about anything at a car dealership. You can say “no” to administrative fees, the current interest rate charged on financing a vehicle purchase, an extended warranty, and fabric protection on the seats of a car—to name only a few items. And the more often you say “no,” the more the sales staff will have to hustle to earn your trust, win your business and get the deal done. Remember, you are under no obligation to buy a particular vehicle at a particular price. If the salespeople want your business, they must meet your demands. And if they don’t, simply tell them “no, thanks.”