The majority of car salespeople are ethical and professional, but there are some tactics that a few may use to take advantage of you as you’re searching for your next motor. Being aware of these tactics can help you avoid being ripped off when buying a car (or any vehicle, for that matter):
- High-pressure sales tactics: Some salespeople might use aggressive and high-pressure tactics to make you feel rushed into making a decision. They might tell you that a deal is only available for a limited time to push you into committing without proper consideration.
- Scarcity tactics: if it’s a popular vehicle, a salesperson might imply that there are many people interested in buying, and you might miss out if you don’t buy it now. They might say things to imply that you don’t find one in this colour very often, or that the last one they got in sold in a day.
- Hiding fees and add-ons: Be wary of hidden fees and add-ons that can significantly increase the total cost of the vehicle such as charges for extended warranties, protection packages, and other unnecessary extras.
- Focusing on monthly payments: Salespeople might emphasize low monthly payments instead of discussing the actual total cost of the car. This could lead you to overlook the fact that you’re paying more in interest over the long term. Look at the whole price of the vehicle, even if you are paying it off gradually.
- Misrepresenting financing terminology and jargon: Some salespeople might manipulate financing terms to make it seem like you’re getting a better deal than you actually are. They could increase the interest rate or extend the loan term without you realising it.
- Trade-in manipulation: If you’re trading in your old car, a salesperson might undervalue your trade-in to their advantage. They could offer you less than your car is worth and make it up by inflating the price of the new car. Make sure you’ve had a look at what your car would realistically sell for in the condition it’s in with the mileage it has done. If you want that price, sell it yourself – the dealer has to make a profit – but that profit shouldn’t be excessive.
- Overpricing the car: Research the fair market value of the car you’re interested in before heading to the dealership. Some salespeople might inflate the price of the car beyond its actual value, hoping that you won’t know better, then they’ll use the inflated price and bargain down meaning you think you’ve got a good deal, but in reality you haven’t. At least the internet makes it easy for you to search hundreds of cars and get an idea of the price.
- Upselling unnecessary products: Salespeople might try to sell you additional products like extended warranties, paint protection, or rustproofing, claiming that they’re essential when they’re often unnecessary and expensive. Some things (like the warranty) might even be included already (to the extent that you need them), or covered by legislated guarantees.
- Playing the waiting game: A salesperson might try to wear you down by making you wait for long periods or involving multiple team members. This tactic can make you more likely to agree to a deal just to end the process. They could make this waiting very pleasant – cups of tea, biscuits and a comfortable lounge for you to wait in, but it’s just a stalling tactic to give a sense of urgency.
- Offering a lowball initial offer: Some salespeople might start negotiations with an unrealistically low offer to make it seem like they’re giving you a great deal when they eventually raise the price.
- Not providing full information about the car: Be cautious if a salesperson avoids giving you complete information about the car’s history, maintenance records, or any potential issues. They might be trying to hide problems that could affect your decision.
- Bait and switch: you’ve come in to look at a specific car you’re interested in, but suddenly the dealer has an even better deal that’s just a few hundred quid more (which can be financed, by the way!) If it is a better vehicle, by all means look at it, but remember why you turned up in the first place.
- FOMO (fear of missing out): Be aware of salespeople that latch onto information you’ve given them (e.g. you need a car for work) in order to pressure you due to fear of missing out on the vehicle. This is similar to a time-pressure tactic, although time-pressure might include a limited time discount (e.g. buy today because tomorrow it will be more expensive).
- Overselling the car: So, you’ve found a pink Mercedes and the salesperson is telling you how unique it is and how it will hold its value, and how Mercedes is the right image for you and they are reliable and so on. People tend to buy on emotion. Try to stick to the facts when you are purchasing a vehicle.
To protect yourself from these tactics, do your research, set a budget, and be prepared to walk away if something doesn’t feel right. Take your time, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from friends, family, or independent experts before making a decision.
A salesperson has to make a living – expect them to have tactics that they use on you. As long as you’re aware of them, you can focus on whether the vehicle is really the right one for you.